Doctor Who may be a long running time travel series, but science fiction fans in the US have a special spot in their heart for Quantum Leap. While it only lasted five short seasons; the adventures of Dr. Sam Beckett have endured the years and the show has become a beloved classic. If there could be one show I would bring back for more seasons, it wouldn’t be any of the Star Treks, it wouldn’t be Firefly; it’d be Quantum Leap. Below are just ten of the best Leaps that Dr. Beckett made in the five years when he was travelling through time fixing what once went wrong.
“Lee Harvey Oswald”
Opening up the fifth (and final) season was a special two part episode to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the JFK assassination. Sam leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald in different parts of his life, and their minds begin to merge. The memorable moment of the episode comes at the end. Right as Sam/Oswald is about to pull the trigger, Sam leaps into one of the Secret Service agents with the motorcade and is the one who leaps on Jackie; saving her. While in the hospital at the end, Sam is devastated that he couldn’t save Kennedy and Al explains to him that his mission wasn’t to save him…it was to save Jackie who in Sam’s history also was killed that day.
The series finale has a love/hate relationship with fans. On one hand it’s depressing and disappointing that Sam never returned home. On the other, the finale reminds us of why we watched Quantum Leap for five seasons. Towards the end of the episode, Al the Bartender tells Sam that his leaping through time did change things for the better and not just in the lives of the people he leaped into. That’s a big reminder of the core philosophy of the show. And at the end Al the Bartender compares Sam’s “quest” to that of the life of a priest, and right after Sam leaps (as himself) to right the one big wrong in Al’s life. I would kill for just one more season, even knowing that Sam never returned home.
When Sam leaped into Jimmy LaMotta, we knew something special happened. Jimmy became one of the most popular leaps in all five years. Jimmy was a guy with a developmental disability, and Sam would return to Jimmy again in the fifth season and both Jimmy and his brother would appear in the series finale. And how can you not geek out at the ending when Sam/Jimmy tells his nephew the story of Star Wars as a bedtime story.
“The Leap Back”
While Sam never permanently returned home, he did get to visit. In this episode Sam and Al swap places with Sam as the hologram and Al the leaper. Sam gets to spend some time at home, while Al’s in the past. There’s also some great humor as Sam takes one some of Al’s lecherous personality traits and Al gains some of Sam’s morality.
“Goodbye Norma Jean”
Sam had multiple brushes with history throughout the series, and for the most part they resisted having him leap into famous people. That really changed in the fifth season, especially with the Lee Harvey Oswald episode. Later in that same season, Sam leaps into Marilyn Monroe’s chauffeur. He and Al’s immediate thought is that he is there to prevent her death. It’s a great episode with sincerity between Al and Sam about Marilyn and what she meant to people, and some classic Al moments as well. In the end, Sam’s mission was to ensure that she made one last movie.
“The Wrong Stuff”
How is a monkey using a gun not the most awesome thing ever? Sam leaps into Bobo; a chimp he has to get into the space program. This is the only episode where Sam doesn’t leap into a human, and ends up saving a couple of chimps and changing things for the better as usual.
Another brush with history, although not quite as blatant as other examples in the fifth season. Sam helps an aspiring writer named Stevie. This young writer has a car named Christine,a dog named Cujo, and thinks that kitchen knives flying across the room sounds like such a cool idea. That’s right, Sam helps inspire a young Steven King.
“The Leap Between The States”
The only time that Sam himself leaped out of his lifetime sent him to the Civil War. Sam leaps into his great-grandfather and in Back to the Future-style twist must win the heart of his great-grandmother or risk never being born. Also, while helping the Underground Railroad Sam meets an ancestor of Martin Luther King Jr.
Another big brush with history came right at the end of the series when Sam leaped into Elvis. While helping a young musician; Sam has to ensure that Elvis gets discovered. This episode aired right before the series finale, and while they resisted doing “famous” leaps earlier in the series maybe if it happened in an earlier season ratings would have improved a bit.
“Deliver Us From Evil”
The Evil Leaper saga was stupid, but I have to include this episode here because it’s when Sam leaped back into Jimmy. This was the introduction of the Evil Leaper, but it was just so awesome to see Sam as Jimmy again and have a sequel to one of the most popular episodes of the series’ run. If you’re a fan of the whole series, it’s hard not to smile along with Sam when he discovers that he’s Jimmy again.