Quantum Leap: The Mythology Is Undercutting The Leaping

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Whatever your feelings are about Quantum Leap (2022) -- love, hate, or indifference -- you can't deny this.

The show is aware of the baggage it's carrying as a sequel series to a beloved original.

Take this exchange between Ben and Addison on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 6:

Ben and Addison Lead Image - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 6

Addison reveals the possibility of another leaper, and Ben wonders how he can concentrate on the leap of the week with all the intrigue happening back at Quantum Leap headquarters. 

Good question, Ben.

The Lightbulb Moment - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8

So far, the leap of the week has been the least exciting part of the revived Quantum Leap.

It's partially because of the changes to television since the original aired back in the late 80s and early 90s.

One TV shows are willing to provide answers to series arc questions a lot sooner now. Secondly, shows are far more serialized now, which, in turn, has downplayed the importance of the case of the week portion. 

Incorporating the original series into the current series was a good choice for several reasons.

Really? - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8

It reeled in fans of the original and reassured them the current series would treat the original respectfully.

It provided a built-in myth arc and justified expanding the scope to show what's happening at Quantum Leap headquarters on a regular basis.

The downside, though, is the leap of the week tends to feel like one of those storylines where a member of the cast is separated from the rest of the cast, and it goes on for too long, and the whole ordeal ends so pointlessly, you wonder why the show bothered with it in the first place.

Why are the leaps so lackluster?

Janis Calavicci - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 2

For one, the stakes don't feel high enough.

Since we know Ben has to make a certain amount of leaps before getting to his planned destination, there's no real life-or-death tension to the jump. Instead, it feels like we're watching him complete a video game level. 

In contrast, the problems on the homefront, such as the Janis manhunt and the investigation into the other leaper, seem far more consequential and could result in a body count.

You also have to hand it to the original for covering a lot of ground during its run.  

A Discovery - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 7

Storylines about leaping beyond your timeline, leaping into someone of a different gender, and encountering another leaper had already been done on Quantum Leap.

Plus, many time travel shows have come and gone during the interim between Quantum Leaps, so the leap plotlines are not breaking any new ground.

Since the original Quantum Leap infrequently showed the happenings at Quantum Leap headquarters, those storylines feel more novel.  

And it's the non-leaping, myth arc storylines that provide answers to what happened to Al, the original project, and hopefully Dr. Sam Beckett.

Seeing Each Other - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 5

Those are stronger attention-grabbing hooks than something along the lines of whether Ben will find his host's son in time to prevent something terrible from happening.  

Of course, this wouldn't be the case if Ben was allowed to forge deeper connections with the people whose lives he was trying to change. 

Compare the early episodes of the original series -- Sam's experiences felt more immersive than Ben's.

Some of it is because the show doesn't devote every minute to the leap the way the original could. It's also because Ben isn't interacting as much with the people in the leap as Sam did. 

Hoping for a Response - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 2

Then why is it not surprising that the most successful leap of the week, storywise, occurred on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 7, when Ben spent most of the jump out of contact with Addison?  

His interactions with Daisy, the doctor, and even himself were deeper than usual, making the audience care more about what was happening on the leap.

Following it up with extended interactions between Ben and the teens he was trying to help on Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8 and allowing Ben a moment to act like a teen, too, gives hope the show is starting to figure out how to make the leaps more interesting.

Perhaps the leaps in early installments feeling like slogs were merely a symptom of a new show still figuring out what works and what does not.

With Quantum Leap starting to make the "set right what once went wrong" part more engaging and finding ways to incorporate the myth arc -- Janis' attempts to contact Ben and the appearance of another leaper -- into the leap of the week, the leaping is feeling worthwhile again.

Connecting - Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 8

If Quantum Leap continues on this trajectory, it might just step out of the shadow of its predecessor.    

Over to you, TV Fanatics!

How do you feel about balancing the myth arc and the leap of the week?

Do you think the leap of the week portion is starting to improve? You can watch Quantum Leap online to compile your theories if you need more data.

An article like this is only as good as the conversation it inspires, so please hit the comments below and share your thoughts on leaping and time travel and getting it right for the good of the show.     

Becca Newton is a staff writer for TV Fanatic.

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Quantum Leap Quotes

Time goes by / I live my life / Traveling down the road / Open my eyes to clear blue skies / But I’m feeling all alone / A one-way ticket / That’s the price you pay / Another day / Another song / Traveling on / But I’m making my way back home

Carly and Jamie

Ben: Some people assume that because I’m a physicist, I can’t be romantic. What they don’t realize is science is romance.
Jenn: Yeah, I’m sorry I asked for that speech now.
Ben: I’m serious. Take the law of entanglement. Once two particles experience a shared state, they’re no longer separate entities. They exist as one, even when separated by great distances.