Rules are made to be broken, and in the case of Quantum Leap, the show has now thrown any pretense of staying within the leaper’s lifetime out the window. The show has broken the lifetime rule before, of course, both in the original and the reboot. But it’s never gone quite this far before.
Episode 207, “A Kind of Magic” takes place a whopping three centuries before Ben was born. It’s 1692, and Ben’s host is a Puritan servant girl named Elizabeth in Colonial Massachusetts. You know where this is going… yup, the witch trials.
The ginormous leap throws off the team back home because lack of historical records makes it hard for them to do their thing — you know, using articles and databases and whatnot to dig up info to help Ben on his leap. But other than that, they’re oddly nonchalant about the magnitude of the leap (other than a moment when Ian resorts to a seance to try to find out what went on back then). It’s just a brief moment of “whoa, that’s a long time,” rather than anyone fussing over how it’s even possible. Which I’m not too mad about because drawing out that conversation and getting into the nitty-gritty of the sci-fi tech wouldn’t be very fun. I’d rather focus on the leap anyway.
But before we get into that, another plot point that feels kind of swept under the rug is the whole thing with Rachel’s mysterious, unnamed “boss” spying on the project. Thanks to Rachel, that’s fixed now. I’ll bet it’ll pop up again in future episodes, but the team, again, feels a little to casual about the whole situation, which kind of kills the tension of that whole arc.
Anyway, onto the leap! Massachusetts 1692, witch trials, Ben in the mix… without having watched a single trailer, I knew immediately where this episode was going. Of course some poor innocent lady was going to be accused of being a witch by fire-and-brimstone Puritans — it’s a young woman called Bridget Smith, aka Goody Smith. Brief aside: “Goody” is an honorific, not a nickname. It was short for “Goodwife” and the equivalent of “Mrs.” for civilian women back in the day (whereas “Mistress”, which would later be abbreviated to “Mrs.” was for ultra-high-class women who were the heads of households).
Anyway, of course Bridget was being blamed for the town’s mysterious misfortunes, and of course Ben was going to try to science his way out of it and end up being accused of being a witch as well. The one wrinkle is when the local apothecary, an unconventional woman called Morgan, tries to stick up for the other two and ends up being the third accused witch.
Ben is here to save Bridget, and later himself and Morgan too. I wanted to be more invested in the story, but I just felt like I’ve seen it before. The ignorant Puritans, the impassioned but ultimately useless pleas for rationality, the historical misogyny… there wasn’t anything to set the episode apart from all the other tales about the witch trials out there.
It also stuck out to me that Ben didn’t even try to blend in, and didn’t seem too concerned about what kind of state he’d be leaving his host Elizabeth in when she returned to her body. I mean, he gives CPR, techno-babbles about the science behind the town’s misfortunes, and uses future knowledge to appear to summon divine intervention. What’s poor Elizabeth to do when she returns with no memory of any of this (as the current Quantum Leap has established that hosts black out during leaps)?
Ian and Jenn take turns being the hologram before Addison finally steps back into the imaging chamber… turns out, being the hologram takes skills that Ian and Jenn aren’t quite up for (they’re better off nerding it up behind the computers). I’m glad to see her back in her previous role — even the character acknowledges that she’s been sidelined, and I was starting to worry that she’d all but disappear from the show. That said, I do hope they keep rotating in Ian, Jenn, and Magic as circumstances require. Letting Ben interact with different members of the team provides more storytelling opportunities (the Ben/Addison romance-then-break-up thing feels played out at this point).
All in all, “A Kind of Magic” was decently executed, if a bit underwhelming. More than anything, the writing felt a bit careless. Which is a shame because this episode will be remembered as significant due to the magnitude of the time travel and really deserved better.