Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 11 Review: Leap, Die, RepeatDiana Keng at .
While the whole premise of the Quantum Leap Project is that wrongs in the past can be set right, Quantum Leap Season 1 Episode 11 takes that to eleven when it takes not one but five leaps to figure out the solution.
Why Ben gets caught in a loop on this specific leap is some pretty bulky plot armor, but it doesn't take away from the brilliance of the execution as he plays detective through multiple perspectives.
It's not a new narrative concept. Ben references Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, while I immediately thought of Wilkie Collins's novel The Moonstone. In more recent times, Stuart Turton's The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle takes a similar tack.
Of course, the reset to the elevator means Ben isn't able to leave clues for himself to follow. Addison has to be both his sounding board and research device.
It would help if Ben could access his host's memories or knowledge in some way, but that would defuse any comedic opportunities that arise from his displacement confusion.
Although along that line of thinking, it's interesting that when he remembers Colonel Parker doesn't know anything about the science of nuclear reactors, his cover response -- "Sounds complicated" -- is the same thing the real Parker says to Yang when Ben is her on a subsequent leap about the project.
The order of leaping is elegantly planned. From Colonel Parker to Murphy, Ben moves from the most high-profile but uninvolved individual down to the person with the lowest clearance but the most access, although it isn't a linear decline in status.
Addison: Well, it looks like you finally leaped into your element.
Ben: No kidding. Bunch of nerds gathered together for the common good? Kind of reminds me of…
That they are all gathered for the singular purpose of seeing the reactor come online is a perfect context for Ben himself.
Furthermore, the parallel they draw between nuclear power and quantum leap technology as science that could be weaponized in the wrong hands is a profound question of humanity's innate goodness, as posited in Kurosawa's Rashomon.
To take the parallel even further, Dr. Woolsey refers to the reactor as his baby. The baby at Rashomon's conclusion convinces the priest that people are not the base beings the commoner believes them to be.
If someone from the future leaped into 2023 to judge us, I hope we turn out to be the heroes of our story.Ben
People are fallible. They can be steered by fear, motivated by revenge, and coerced by power.
With the possible exception of Murphy, each of Ben's leaps reveals a deception.
Yang is there under false pretenses. The Colonel knows the reactor could be sabotaged.
Great technology always falls in the wrong hands. One day, it’ll be the end of us all.Wagner
Woolsey is selling out the good the reactor could do in order to keep control of the project, and Wagner's willing to die (and murder) to prevent the reactor's use as a weapon of mass destruction.
Likewise, at Quantum Leap headquarters, suspicion and secrets abound.
Janis's presence there, just as an expert on time loops is needed, understandably sets off Jenn's alarm bells.
Jenn: It’s kind of weird, right? Janis is a step ahead of us every single time, and then when we finally catch her, Ben gets stuck in a time loop? What if this is a part of her plan?
Magic: You think she intentionally trapped Ben in a time loop? Why?
Jenn: I don’t know. Gain access to our headquarters, plant a virus, steal government secrets?
Magic: Well, she’s already done all that.
And although I'd like to think (hope!) that Magic is above reproach, I'm with Jenn on wondering about his motivations.
His reasoning that siding with Janis rights the past wrong of barring her involvement in the Quantum Leap project at its revival is, at best, flimsy and questionable.
Just as Colonel Parker and Dr. Woolsey were in on the military's plans for the reactor, Magic would be the key player if the quantum accelerator were to be deployed for nefarious government purposes.
That's not to say he doesn't care for the team members and that his advice isn't heartfelt and genuine.
Dr. Woolsey is authentically devoted to the science of nuclear technology. That doesn't stop him from agreeing to use it to foster potentially horrific destruction.
Ladies and gentlemen, what an extraordinary time to be alive. Today, we take a step toward the future. This decade, we’ll go to the moon. By the year 2000, we’ll have flying cars.Woolsey
If Magic parallels Woolsey, Jenn or Ian could be Wagner, with Janis or Addison as our Yang.
As with earlier forays into the past, there are elements of racial and societal discord that are largely ignored in Quantum Leap-verse.
With Colonel Parker's concern about Communist interference, it's unrealistic to think he'd be okay with Mallory Yang's inclusion on the reactor tour.
When Parker finds Ben as Murphy rifling through Woolsey's office trash, it's somewhat naive to think he would stop to discuss the anonymous letters he'd been receiving before shooting the janitor.
Of course, there's a simple explanation for the most glaring cultural inaccuracies.
With the US historically using nuclear power plants for civilian populations since the mid-50s, how experimental this reactor would be in 1962 depends on how much credence you give to the idea of Quantum Leap happening in an alternate timeline from ours.
As all previous leaps have included particular and obvious continuity glitches (pointed out by eagle-eyed fans on various forums), there is a theory that we are watching a Quantum Leap project in a parallel dimension, and perhaps Ben's destination point is one where the dimensions intersect.
Now wouldn't that be something?
Interdimensional narrative is almost as outlandish as the idea of time travel that doesn't cause a butterfly-effect paradox.
We should also discuss the implications of Jenn suggesting they pull the plug on the accelerator to save Ben's life.
Is there a Waiting Room here after all? Is Ben's body in stasis while his consciousness jumps? How else would shutting Ziggy down save him from dying?
See if you can puzzle that out as you watch Quantum Leap online.
If you hit on the answer, be sure to share it in the comments below!
Janis: It’s not personal. I just know I can’t trust you.
Ian: No offense, but do you trust anyone? I mean you literally poisoned your own mother’s tea.
Janis: I didn’t poison her. Okay, it was a sedative. She deserved it.
While you're at it, hit us with your theories on who Janis is about to spill the tea on!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.