First, what is “R3: Re-launch, Reboot, or Re-imagine”?
No matter how much people claim that they want movies and TV shows based on original ideas, consumers have consistently shown that they are more willing to spend money on old ideas made new.
As such, ScifiPulse is starting Re-launch, Reboot, or Re-imagine – a series in which we discuss which unused entertainment property should be given another shot at life and how this property should be brought back.
For this series, a Re-launch will be defined as a new series that is in continuity with what came before. So if a new series of Quantum Leap is built on the stories of the original series and the same character(s) return(s) in some fashion, then this is a re-launch. This is also exemplified by the “renewals” given to shows such as Heroes: Reborn, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks.
Reboot is when a show has a cast and narratives completely disconnected from the original property but remains in tone with the original.
And finally, a Re-imagining is a show that has a tone substantially different from the original. An example of a re-imagined show is Battlestar Galactica (2004). The 2004 version may have had characters that appeared in the original 1978 series, but the stories, character arcs, and the overall tone of the 2004 version were so different that it has no in-continuity connection to the original.
With that out of the way, our first show to be discussed in this series is…Quantum Leap
NOW…TO THE SHOW
“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”
If the above quote is unfamiliar to you, then you missed out on some great television. Those words were used at the beginning of Quantum Leap for several seasons. Airing from March 1989 to May 1993 for five seasons, Quantum Leap followed Dr. Sam Beckett (played by Scott Bakula) as he traveled through time by “leaping” into people from the past and hoping to get back home. The series ended with Beckett realizing that he was always in control over his leaps, and decides to never return home.
There have been some discussions in the past about bringing the show back. Even the creator of the show, Donald Bellisario, announced that he had written script that could bring Quantum Leap to the movies. Whether these plans turn into something, they are a sign of Quantum Leap still having a sizable fan following. And with this renewed interested in the property, we are going to break down the various ways that Quantum Leap could return.
I’m advocating for a continuation of the series, and here is how I think the story should be picked up 25 years later. When the series first started, Dr. Beckett had no wife and no child. He was engaged to a woman, but she left him at the altar. Due to the effects of Beckett changing history, the series ends with Beckett having a wife and a daughter (who isn’t related to his wife).
Sam’s wife, Dr. Donna Eleese Beckett was born in 1957 and he is able to spend one last night with her in the fourth season episode, “The Leap Back” – which is set 1999. Sam’s daughter, Samantha Josephine Fuller, is the result of him sleeping with a woman during Quantum Leap’s three-episode story, “Trilogy.” Samantha is born in 1967 and is so smart that she goes on to work at Project Quantum Leap, and is part of the team of scientists trying to bring Sam Beckett home. Samantha also has no idea that she is really Sam Beckett’s daughter. This means that Beckett’s wife and daughter are only ten-years apart in age, and have been working together for years.
This is how my re-launch would begin. Sam Beckett’s last night with his wife left her pregnant with a son. Donna names him John Thomas Beckett after Sam’s father and brother; everyone calls him J.T. Like his father, J.T. is brilliant and earns multiple doctorates in various fields by the time he is in his twenties. Upon publishing a paper on time travel, J.T. is brought into Project Quantum Leap by his mother. She wants to finally tell him everything about his father and is hoping that J.T. can bring Sam home.
After a routine medical examination, Samantha Josephine Fuller sees J.T.’s genetic workup and immediately knows that he is related to her. Samantha Josephine confronts Donna about this, and she decides to take Samantha and J.T. to the time travel room. The Quantum Leap Accelerator mysteriously shut down years ago, and the project stayed afloat by developing new weapons for the military. Donna explains to Samantha and J.T. that Sam is their father and that they lost track of him once Ziggy, the computer system, shut down unexpectedly.
For some reason, Samantha and J.T. being near the Accelerator causes it to turn on for the first time in over a decade. Samantha and Donna try to figure out what is happening, but J.T. is drawn to the Accelerator. Before the women can stop him, J.T. is zapped by the Accelerator and finds himself in the past.
J.T. has now ‘leaped’ into another person in the middle of a hostage situation. Ziggy will only allow Samantha to interact with J.T. – similar to how Al guided Sam in the original series – and she informs him that all the hostages die in the original timeline.
J.T. is able to save the day with the help of another hostage. After putting right what would have gone wrong, J.T. shakes the hand of the other hostage who helped him. The skin contact with this other person causes J.T. to see that they are not only another leaper, but this person is really his father, Dr. Sam Beckett. Sam Beckett is at first shocked to see another leaper, but he begins to smile once J.T. says, “Dad?” Before anything else can be said, Sam and J.T. find themselves leaping away from each other.
This start would give the series a clear direction – to bring J.T. and Sam home – and set up a dynamic between J.T. and Samantha Josephine that will mirror Sam’s relationship with Al. Thematically, I think the show would work in today’s television landscape. Like the original, this continuation can touch upon issues of race, gender, and class. And more importantly, I think Quantum Leap’s message that everyday acts of kindness can have larger positive impacts would be well received by today’s audiences.
A Quantum Leap reboot has been a possibility for a few years now, but like Nicholas Yanes and the show’s many fans, I’d much rather see the original show revived. But if there was a reboot it would be a great opportunity to shake things up a little and make things more current, while retaining the hopeful, adventurous and fun tone of the original show.
Obviously, as a reboot Sam would be a 30-something from the present day, which would mean most his time travel adventures would take place anywhere between 1980 and 2017, which gives writers 37 years worth of time travel stories to work with.
I think one thing that might work would be to have Al changed to Alison. A former international star athlete who decided he was in the wrong body – hence changing the name Al to Alison. We could keep all the lecherous jibes and such and aim them at both sexes due to Alison liking a wide spectrum of fun. A big part of the fun was the fact that only Sam could hear and see Al. So we’ll keep that. To make things more interesting, we’d introduce Alison to the viewers as Al. Show some of what Sam’s life was like before he jumped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator and then once Sam is Leaping and Alison first appears she is not recognized by Sam because he’d known her as Al. This would play really well with LBGT viewers and would be fun as we’d see Sam reacting to the physical change that his friend has gone through.
In this reboot, I’d make the A.I of Ziggy more of a character. He or She would have a holographic avatar that Alison can communicate with while talking to Sam. We’d also show a little more of what is going on at Quantum Leap Headquarters in regards to efforts being made to get Sam home. The fact that Ziggy has a holographic presence would allow for some fun scenes where Alison, Sam, and Ziggy have to hash things out. It would also be a fun touch to have Ziggy comment on history, which is something that never happened in the original.
Something the original show barely touched on was what happened to the people that Sam leaped into. We did see one episode where we met one of the people that Sam leaped into in some sort of waiting room. It might be an idea to give them some input into Sam’s mission so you use that point of view and Ziggy’s number crunching in order to come to a more satisfying outcome. This could add more drama in that the individual may not agree with the course of action that Ziggy decides upon.
I’d also bring the Grim Leaper back into the series but make that a more prominent recurring character on the show. We could also add a few other Leapers to the show. Maybe parallel versions of Sam Beckett perhaps.
The pilot episode would be a three-part story arc, which centers on the buildup to 9/11, the day itself and what happened afterward. Sam’s first leap would be a conspiracy theorist, his second leap would be into a Fireman working at ground zero and his final Leap would be a family member of one of the survivors.
Tonally, this reboot idea would be pretty much the same as the original show, but I’d go with mini two and three episode story arcs so we could tell bigger stories.
Re-imagine it – Peter Rauch (@WordBeast)
The central world-building conceit of Quantum Leap is the idea that, at a cosmic level, there is a way history ought to have gone. The universe, as interpreted by Ziggy, prefers some outcomes to others; it replaces tragic outcomes with heroic triumphs, and it seems to have affinities for human rights and moral order. In the original series, Sam tends to accept Ziggy’s advice at face value, and the audience along with them. The godlike artificial intelligence gives us no good reason to doubt its beneficence.
For the reimagining, I would undermine this conceit, a little at a time. Dr. Sam Beckett, we are told, is a genius who has suffered extensive memory loss and possible brain damage. He had modeled Ziggy after his own mind, but, because of his amnesia, he knows little about how or why Ziggy was created, or what kind of man its author had been. Keeping in place those constants–a “leaper” protagonist, an artificial intelligence that facilitates time travel, and one or more holographic companions–I would invert the moral certainty that underlies the original series.
What if the outcomes Ziggy says the universe prefers run counter to the dictates of Sam’s conscience? What if Ziggy calls upon him to do bad things for good reasons? Is the hologram who calls himself “Al” the colleague he claims to be, a fiction created by Ziggy to control him, or simply a fractured piece of Sam’s own shattered mind? And if other time-traveling entities exist, as the original series strongly implies they do, can Sam possibly trust them?
By introducing elements of paranoia and uncertainty to the fairly straightforward moral conflicts of the original series, the re-imagined Quantum Leap could handle a deeper, meta-ethical look at what constitutes moral decision making amid irreducible uncertainty.
Also, what are some other shows you’d like to see us discuss?
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