As a Y2K teen, I often channel surfed after school or when the ‘rents were out, searching for sci-fi. And every time the remote landed on a rerun of the original Quantum Leap (1989-1993), I’d stop and watch. Sometimes, I’d be lucky enough to stumble into a marathon. The show’s unique-yet-simple premise and adventure-of-the-week format made it easy for a casual viewer to drop in, and fortunately for those who, like me, weren’t quite old enough to follow the original as it aired, NBC’s new Quantum Leap revival follows the same template.
Taking place in 2022, about 30 years after the original, Quantum Leap sets up a new series of time-traveling/history-fixing escapades with a new main character, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee). After acknowledging that the original leaper, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) never returned, the show introduces us to Ben and his fiancee, Addison (Caitlin Bassett).
Ben has been working on a new Quantum Leap project for the government and one day, gets an urgent yet vague text. The next thing we know, he’s stepping into the machine and into the body of a man in “July 13, 1985” (also the title of the pilot episode). With no personal memories and no idea what he’s doing there, other than that he’s the getaway driver for a heist in progress, Ben gets to do the classic Quantum Leap opening of looking into a mirror to see what he looks like to the outside world (We, the viewers, get to see Ben, but the other characters in the past see the person whose body he’s borrowing. As for Ben’s original body? Why, it’s still in the future…).
Thankfully, Addison then appears as a hologram only Ben can see to give a brief explanation of what’s going on and help guide him through the past. She can’t explain why he stepped into the machine either, as Ben told no one of what he was doing before he left.
The show appears to be setting up a season or series arc, hinted at in the teaser, where Ben’s actions are about more than altering history and finding a way home. In this and the emotional connection with Addison, the new show ups the stakes.
Like in the original, Ben must take action to save someone in the past before the machine will allow him to leap out. As for who and how? Well, that’s what the episode is about. Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say it’s a heist adventure with some fun action sequences and a few classic heist-movie moments.
Despite the many hours I’ve spent watching the original Quantum Leap, I can’t begin to tell you a single plot point beyond the basic premise (thanks, Swiss cheese memory). What I remember vividly, though, was the strength of the characters and the emotional heart at the core of each episode – the emphasis on human connection, on the value of people and relationships.
Thanks to a script that never forgets the characters driving its story and some earnest performances by the cast, the new show successfully captures that same heart. In other words, it feels like Quantum Leap. And that’s ultimately the most important thing, beyond the updated special effects and new plots.
For new viewers, there’s no need to worry about catching up on a show old enough to count as an Elder Millennial. While it references the original, the new Quantum Leap’s pilot is the beginning of its own journey. I, for one, am super excited to see where it goes from here.