Quantum Leap (2022-)

Can an old early 90s sci-fi show make the leap into the 21st century?

What’s The Show? Quantum Leap, the unexpected return.

What’s It All About, JG? Well, pretty much the same as the original series, unsurprisingly. But for the sake of completeness, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), Our Hero, is a physicist working on the Quantum Leap time-travel project thirty years after when the original show was set. Ben “leaps” for reasons which remain murky throughout much of the first season, jumping into various different people across time as he “tries to put right what once went wrong”. You know, saving a restaurant, helping a family get over a tragedy, defeating prejudice, giving Brandon Routh some guest-star work, that kind of thing. He’s aided in his missions by his fiancee, Addison (Caitlin Bassett), who appears to him in the form of an insubstantial hologram, and the rest of the Quantum Leap team. In the present they’re trying to figure out how to get Ben back while also trying to understand what it was that drove him to leap in the first place and what he’s really trying to achieve. In the end, he did it to save Addison’s life, which he successfully does despite the machinations of “Leaper X”, another time-traveller hell-bent on stopping him.

Why Did You Give It A Go? The original Quantum Leap, starring Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell was decent enough, but also a little frustrating. Bakula was great – perfect casting, in fact – but the show itself often veered a little too hard into schmaltzy territory. When it was good it could be great, but often it wore its heart just a little too deliberately on its sleeve. But the core idea remains compelling, so a 21st-century take on it could certainly be interesting.

Is It Any Good? A little surprisingly, yes it is! So, so many IPs get rebooted, restarted, extended, or otherwise brought back from the dead these days that it’s easy to be cynical about yet another one which really did sound like it was mostly there to tickle the nostalgia of Gen X’ers (like myself) and do little else. After all, the original show is remembered fondly enough but it’s not quite down as one of the great classics of 80s/90s sci-fi, and its flaws are as easily recalled as its virtues. So this did have a bit of the air of a quickie cash-in.

What’s so surprising is that’s not really what it is. I mean, it’s not not that – nostalgia definitely does play a part in it – but real thought, care, and attention has been put into ensuring that this isn’t just a quick follow-the-bucks cash-in. And it makes a huge difference to the quality of the end product.

Significantly, this isn’t a reboot, or at least not in the classic sense. This is, functionally, a continuation of the original series, thirty years on. Sam Beckett is still lost out there somewhere and nobody knows what happened to him. Al is frequently referred to, and “off-screen” but present for the season finale, with his daughter playing a major secondary character throughout the season. Rather than simply ignoring the original show, proper effort has been put into respecting it without simply being hidebound to it.

That last point is important as well. The 21st-century Quantum Leap has expanded the rules of time travel just a bit. That means that Ben, unlike Sam in the original series, can travel beyond the course of his own lifetime. Not too far – the Wild West is about as far back in time as he goes in the first season – but far enough. It also means he’s able to visit a potential future, as he does in the season finale. These open up significantly more storytelling opportunities and it’s refreshing to see the show tweak the original formula without simply ignoring what came before.

The original leap-of-the-week structure is maintained too, so each episode consists of whoever it is Ben needs to help out as per the original series. But some serialization has been added on top of that, so we have the mystery of why Ben leaped (as with the OG series, his brain is “Swiss cheesed” by the process of time travel, so he can’t remember everything himself), we have the mystery of Leaper X, and we have storylines and drama around the Quantum Leap team in the present as well. All this helps give the show some more drive and dynamism – the leaps of the week, as can be the case with any serialized story, can be good or bad but having the running plot threads means that even when you do reach a less-than-stellar episode the chances are you’ll be able to find something to keep your interest engaged.

So overall, this turned out to be much better than expected. Going in, those expectations were that it might be a mildly diverting watch for a few episodes. But the strength of the writing, the performances, and the expanded premise all help ensure that the 2022 version of the show is much more than that.

How Many Of These Did You Watch? The entire first season, which is what has been broadcast at the time of writing. I expected to make it through about half a dozen episodes before moving on with my life so the fact it was able to hold my attention for that whole season definitely says something. Season Two is already filming and I’m very pleased about that fact.

Would You Recommend It? I would indeed! And I can honestly say I didn’t expect to be typing out that answer in response to a 21st-century reboot of Quantum Leap. One of the main weapons the show has in its arsenal is Raymond Lee as Ben Song, who is a very appealing on-screen presence. He’s got a touch of the Randall Park it’s-just-so-easy-to-like-him thing going on and as with Scott Bakula in the original, it’s important the character is likable enough to follow his adventures week-to-week while also having enough dramatic range to be able to cover the absurd number of characters he’s going to be asked to play. Lee manages this with great aplomb and manages to remain both relatable and entertaining.

The rest of the Quantum Leap team is mostly pretty great too. Playing Herbert “Magic” Williams we have the redoubtable Ernie Hudson (Ernie Hudson!). He’s a character carried over from the original series (“The Leap Home, Pt 2”), and his interest in the project is simple – he’s someone Sam leaped into and he wants to know what’s going on with that. We also have Mason Alexander Park as Ian Wright, a character who’s pleasingly non-binary and the show simply gets on with the fact that they are, rather than labouring the point early on. There is an episode about it – because the liberalism of the original show is also carried over here, of course – but for the most part they’re just one of the gang. The rest of the cast are all fine too, though Caitlin Bassett is maybe a slight weak link – not bad but not, perhaps, just quite as good as everyone else.

And throughout eighteen episodes there are, of course, a few duds. That’s inevitable, though the fact that there are eighteen episodes also feels like a bit of a throwback to another era, which is appropriate. Still, there are certainly a few that don’t quite land, even while the consistency of the ones that do is another of the show’s wins.

So yes. This turned out rather well! It’s not perfect or flawless but as an entertaining, week-to-week throwback sort of a show with a winning cast and a great premise, you can’t really go wrong. While it’s not essential viewing it is just straightforwardly entertaining and that’ll do just fine. I’m looking forward to Season Two.

Scores on the Doors? 7.5 / 10

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