When good TV proceeds bad: how Quantum Leap reached one change very far

The time-travel show used its man-in-another-mans-body implement to show that empathy trumps prejudice. Then Dr Sam turned up as Lee Harvey Oswald

Keep your salacious, scowling, morally endangered antiheroes. Doctor Sam Beckett– Quantum Leap’s time-hopping samaritan- was dependably the opposite, a sort of uncle hero. As played by the square-jawed Scott Bakula, Sam may have seemed rocky but he was also relatable, a goofy but indefatigable do-gooder with six different doctorates, some sick kickboxing moves and a core propriety so unshakeable it could apparently subsist the existential damage of frequent temporal displacement.

For five memorable seasons between 1989 and 1993, Sam didn’t precisely parrot the old axiom about walking a mile in another man’s shoes( or combat boots or high heels ); he lived it. After a berserk physic experimentation in 1999 transmits him ping-ponging within the encompas of his own lifetime, Sam sees himself zapped hurriedly into strangers like a one-sided Freaky Friday. With the aid of horndog hologram Al( Dean Stockwell ), Sam must intuit how to alter each current sliver of record for the better, clearing the planetary runway for his next compassion mission.

Sporadic sci-fi signifiers such as Al’s eye-searing future-zoot suits disguised Quantum Leap’s old-fashioned nerve. With the only repetition ingredients being the two main personas and Bakula’s bewildered catchphrase (” Oh son !”), Quantum Leap was basically an collection line built around vivid, ever-revolving age trappings. These were standalone moral plays- literal era vessels- that interrogated what it meant to live, production and affection in the US during the course of its instability of the late 20 th century. Sam did a lot of preventing collisions and foiling assassinates but Quantum Leap broiled in social issues to reinforce its thesis: that pity is possible and should trump prejudice.

Even below-par occurrences were stimulated by the daisy-chaining preview of the next undertaking, a moreish cliffhanger that they are able to disclose Sam was suddenly a trapeze master in mid-air, or a felon in the electric chair, or a cheesy magician is set to shish-kebabbed by a sword. By sweeping the members of the commission clear each week, Quantum Leap could claim to be essentially shark-proof.

Yet when it veered toward originality, such as Sam leaping into a chimp, Quantum Leap certainly began to inch over the fin. There was the ghostly third-season escapade where it was implied the very best physician had tangled with the actual devil, a shocker in all sorts of ways. Increasingly, instead of normal beings with vaguely relatable problems, Sam received himself hijacking famed celebrities such as fornication healer Dr Ruth and a pre-fame Elvis. These stunt leaps cumulatively chipped away at the show’s original foundations.

But Quantum Leap definitively hopped the shark during the premiere of its fifth and final season, when Sam realized his notorious change into Lee Harvey Oswald. This divisive two-parter neglected the bait of conspiracies to present JFK’s assassin as a lone gunman. That was an unpopular artistic choice but a defendable one. The real unforgivable sin was season five, taking Mike Post’s deft original topic- a warm, greeting bubblebath of relieving concoction jazz- and remixing it into hateful, artificially energised absurdity. If simply there was some course going to go and specify that …

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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