My Top 10 Quantum Leap Episodes.
Quantum Leap is one of my all time favourite TV programmes, I’m a sucker for anything with time travel. I love the fact that generally you can watch any episode from any point in any series and completely understand what’s going on. Following the time travelling Sam as he leaps from one person’s body to another, anywhere within his own lifetime, driven by an unknown force to change history for the better, his only guide being his best friend from his own time, Al, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam (and children under five and animals) can see and hear. I’ve decided to pick out my favourite episodes and just about managed to narrow it down to a top ten. Here they are in reverse order.
10. Animal Frat
Sam leaps into ‘Wild Thing’, for one of the more fun episodes, but in amongst the fraternity pranks, the parties and the mocking of the new pledges, the serious side to the episode is the protests against the Vietnam War and the show deals with it in its trademark historical awareness.
9. The Color of Truth.
An episode from the first series, and the first one to show us that the programme wasn’t going to be afraid to deal with big historical issues. Sam leaps into the black chauffeur of an old, widow of a former Alabama Governor. The purpose of the leap is to make sure she doesn’t die in an accident, of course Sam succeeds at that but he also goes a long way to changing her views on segregation. Not the only episode to highlight the lunacy of racism.
8. Killing Time.
Sam leaps into the body of a serial killer, who is holding a mother and child hostage in their own home. What should’ve been a quick, straight forward leap is complicated when the real serial killer escapes from the chamber in 1999 and Al has to track him down. It’s a race against time for Al to get the killer back to the chamber, before the police storm the house and kill Sam. The scenes where Sam is trying to convince the mother that he’s not the killer, whilst also making it clear that he can’t let her go, is when the episode is at its best. An added complication is that the Sheriff, who has the house surrounded with his men, has had his daughter murdered by the killer Sam leapt into.
7. Lee Harvey Oswald.
Dealing with one of the biggest historical stories of the 20thcentury, Sam leaps into one of the people most Americans would least like to be. Putting a new perspective on the assassination, by showing us clips from Oswald’s life up to that famous day in 1963. Oswald’s mind takes over Sam’s a little bit more each time Sam leaps to another point in Oswald’s life. When it gets to November 22nd 1963, Oswald has taken over completely and it looks like Sam will be pulling the trigger, but just before the fateful moment he leaps into the body of one of the security guards and saves Jackie Kennedy’s life.
6. The Leap Home part 1
It only takes Sam a few moments to recognise he’s home in one of the cornfields of Elk Ridge Indiana. He’s delighted to jump into himself as a teenager, just before his older brother ships off to Vietnam, believing he’s been given a chance to save his brother from dying in the war and his younger sister from an abusive relationship and subsequent downward spiral. His interfering has no effect on their future, as Al points out, he’s not making their futures better, he’s just making their present more miserable. When Sam starts complaining about the unfairness of it all, Al does an excellent job of making him realise how lucky he is to get another chance to spend some time with his family altogether. Sam takes on Al’s advice, and gets on with the purpose of the Leap, to make sure his high school basketball team win the State Championship this time around. Of course the game comes down to the last few ticks of the clock and of course Sam nails the winning shot.
5. Honeymoon Express
An episode that really shows the difference Sam can make. In future Al is pleading with congress for more funding for project Quantum Leap, otherwise the project will be shut down. Meanwhile back in 1960 Sam is on a train with the stunningly gorgeous new bride of the man he’s leapt into, on their honeymoon. He’s there to help her pass her bar exam, but of course it’s not that straight forward, her psychotic ex-husband is also on the train and is intent on killing at least one of them. Sam saves the girl and in pointing out an error in her thoughts on the constitution he also helps her pass her exam, the nice little twist being that by passing that exam she becomes the congress member in charge of deciding the fate of project quantum leap. She loves the ambition of the project and grants Al his funding.
4. ‘Abigail’ Trilogy.
I might be cheating a little bit by classing this as one episode, but it’s definitely one story. The leaps are spread out over the course of 23years, all linked to the death of a young girl and her father. The mother of that young girl blames another young girl called Abigail, claiming this girl is cursed and is evil. In the first leap Sam is Abigail’s father, and saves her from a house fire, that was started by the revenge seeking mother. Eleven years later Sam leaps into Abigail’s fiancée, and when a young girl, that Abigail was babysitting, goes missing Sam has to convince and angry mob not to hang Abigail. Twelve years on and Sam leaps into Abigail’s defence lawyer, as the accusations have turned into a murder trial. Sam uncovers the truth and also finds out that Abigail has a daughter that was conceived around the time of his previous leap, a daughter that shares a few traits with Sam.
In the penultimate episode, Sam leaps into the legendary Elvis Pressley, just before he becomes famous. It’s Sam’s job to make sure that ‘The King’ gets to that audition and sings well enough to impress the music manager that signed Elvis the first time around. Sam is distracted by a female friend, who also has a fantastic singing voice, but doesn’t share Elvis’s desire to be a mega star. She’s engaged to a man who wants her to be nothing more than his housewife, eventually Sam convinces her to chase after her own singing dreams, whilst making sure ‘The Pelvis’ makes the right impression.
The last episode I think is a brilliant finale, with a lot of characters from previous leaps appearing in the mysterious bar that Sam leaps into and finds himself looking at his own reflection. Bruce Mcgill plays a brilliant role as the enigmatic barman, who knows all about Sam’s leaping exploits, he knows so much that Sam wonders if he is God. When Sam tells the barman that he just wants to go home, the barman correctly guesses that there is one thing that Sam wants to do before he stops leaping, and that is what is keeping him leaping around. Sam had a chance to keep Al married to his first wife in an earlier episode, Sam didn’t do it because it clashed with the reason for that particular leap. All those times Al has helped Sam and the one time Al needed his help the most, he couldn’t do it. So Sam is granted his second chance, he leaps into Beth’s house during the time Al is missing in action and presumed dead in Vietnam. In the original history Beth remarries, because she thinks Al is dead, Sam tells her that he’s a great friend of Al’s and that he is alive. Beth never remarries and she remains ecstatically married to Al. Throughout the series Al is portrayed as a ‘bit of a lad’, a serial womaniser, with his several mixed up references to his many wives. It turns out that he’s really a tragic romantic, who’s lost out on the love of his life and hasn’t been able to come close to finding anything similar with anyone else. Fortunately in the end Sam is able to help and romance wins out.
1.The Leap Home part 2
Following straight on from his leap into his teenage self back home in Elk Ridge, Sam leaps into one of the troops under his brother’s command in Vietnam. This time Sam is there to save his brother. As in the original history they go on a mission to rescue some POWs. Sam insists that they take along an extremely ambitious female journalist, hoping that her reports will help Al in the future to find out things about the mission. After uncovering the Vietcong’s insider, Sam manages to save his brother and the rest of the troop. Upon Al’s insistence they abort the rescue mission, to save the troops, tragically the female journalist dies just before reaching the helicopter. It’s the last few moments of this episode that establishes itself as my favourite. Sam is delighted to have saved his brother but worried about trading his life for that of the journalist. Her desire to win a Pulitzer had impressed them all. When Al tells Sam that she did win a Pulitzer for the last picture she ever took, Sam flicks through the photographs they had developed from her camera. The last one is taken from behind some POWs being taken for a run, the POW at the back has turned round to face the camera at the moment the picture was taken, the POW is Al. Sam can’t believe that Al had insisted that the mission to rescue him should be aborted. When Sam says that he could have been free, Al tells him he was always free, then taps his temple and adds ‘Up here, I was always free.’