Quantum Leap came along at a formative time in my pop culture fandom, hitting all the right notes for five seasons.
So, when news came along that NBC was restarting the project, I was both intrigued and hesitant. Intrigued to see what the show might look like in the age of “premium television” and hesitant because a big part of me was worried they might not be able to capture the lighting in the bottle from the original.
One episode into the new Quantum Leap and I feel like a lot of my fears haven’t really been addressed yet, but that the show is still staying true enough to the fundamental premise that it could (eventually) be as good as the show I remember.
Starting off by acknowledging that Sam Beckett still hasn’t returned home after leaping into time thirty years ago and that the original project was abandoned, the new Leap introduces us to Dr. Ben Song and his fiancee, Madison. At an engagement party, Ben receives a mysterious text, prompting him to step into the accelerator and vanish into time. Ben finds himself in the year 1985, participating in a robbery that will kill one of the participants and send his family down a negative path.
Madison serves as Ben’s Al in the show, trying to guide him in the past and determine what Ben is there to do.
The first mission Ben faces feels like the kind of low-stakes in history, high-stakes to the character’s mission that Sam faced on a regular basis in the original. A lot of stories felt like Sam was there to stop someone from dying, which he usually did by the end of the hour. The original was also a bit of a copycat, paying homage to popular movies and shows of its era with various episodes. So it is here with the first episode feeling like a Quantum Leap spin on Baby Driver.
For the most part, the elements set in 1985 work well enough and do a nice job of establishing Ben and Madison as the new team.
However, while the original rarely glanced into the future, a lot of things are unfolding there for this new Quantum Leap. We meet the team behind Madison and it appears this is where the show wants to set up its procedural arc. In the course of the hour, we meet the team and learn that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Ben had a reason for lying to everyone about leaping into time, there is someone else involved in his leaps who could be one of Al’s daughters and we still don’t know exactly how to bring Ben home.
I assume we’re going to have a bit of a bigger conspiracy/arc story unfold over the season as we determine what the forces are that sent Ben back in time and what his goal is. The original QL really leaned heavily into a higher power being behind Sam’s leaps (especially in season one), but I’m going to assume we won’t get as much of that here. And since it appears that one of Al’s daughters is behind this, I can’t help but think that Ben’s mission is to somehow find Sam, who is lost in time.
Scott Bakula has denied he will be part of the new QL, but then again Andrew Garfield and Toby McGuire denied they were part of the last Spider-Man movie. In the day and age of SPOILERS and having to work harder to surprise audiences, I feel like Bakula is coming but just not yet.
The chemistry between Ben and Madison works. The nature of the missions in the past works.
The new team in the current timeline – I will have to wait and see where this goes. Again, we only got hints of it the future Sam left behind in hints from Al and a few episodes that showed us the future. The original wasn’t the most continuity-heavy show (the debate over is it actually Sam in the past or just his soul as well as did Al see Sam or whoever he replaced was one that varied from episode to episode based on the script’s requirements). It will be interesting to see how QL works in today’s more continuity-heavy era of TV storytelling.
And yes, I understand that the amount of time available to tell a story is shorter than it was thirty years ago. But man, part of me wishes they’d found a way to include the original theme tune in there somewhere….