Everything you'll ever need to know, and more
When the government threatens to scrap the top-secret time-travelling initiative, Project: Quantum Leap, Dr Sam Beckett steps into the untested Accelerator Chamber and embarks on an incredible journey through the past four decades. Temporarily adopting the appearance of various people in the past, Sam attempts to "change history for the better", while always hoping that his next leap will take him back to the future. Sam is aided on his journey by Al, an observer from his own Time who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.
Created by writer/producer Donald P Bellisario, Quantum Leap was sold to NBC television as a time-travelling anthology show, with two characters providing the link between a series of diverse stories. The show was largely set in the recent past and rarely concerned cataclysmic historical events; instead, the series focused on ordinary tales about ordinary people. A unique blend of drama, action, adventure, SF and nostalgia, Quantum Leap won solid ratings, widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including Golden Globes for each of its leading men.
March 26th, 1989, to April 23rd, 1993.
Number of episodes:
97 one-hour instalments.
The Good Guys:
Dr Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), Admiral Albert 'Al' Calavicci (Dean Stockwell).
The Bad Guys:
Well, most of the villains in Quantum Leap aren't really bad; they're simply misguided or misunderstood. However, Season Five did introduce a recurring threat for Sam and Al in the shape of evil leaper Zoe (Renee Coleman) and her campy holographic helper Alia (Carolyn Seymour).
And isn't that...
Quantum Leap guest stars-turned-household names include Reservoir Dog's Michael Madson (who features in Jimmy), Beverly Hills 90210's Jason Priestly (Camikazi Kid), Friends sensation Jennifer Anniston (Nowhere to Run) and Wayne's World's Tia Carrere (Tom Beckett's killer in The Leap Home, Part II!). Brooke Shields serves as Sam's love interest in Leaping of the Shrew and former Herman's Hermits singer Peter Noone turns nasty in Glitter Rock, while Chubby Checker and Dr Ruth Westheimer play themselves in Good Morning, Peoria and Dr Ruth respectively. A host of genre stars can also be seen in the series, including Lois & Clark's Teri Hatcher (in Starcrossed), Babylon 5's Claudia Christian (Play it Again, Seymour) and Andrea Thompson (The Leap Home, Part II), Deep Space Nine's Terry Farrell (A Leap for Lisa) and Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Duncan McNeill (Goodnight, Dear Heart), to name but a few.
Best of the Bunch:
MIA (Dean Stockwell shines as Sam attempts to save Al's first marriage), the two-part The Leap Home (Sam rushes to the aid of his own family in probably the series' finest 90 minutes), Last Dance Before An Execution (Sam has 48 hours to prove the innocence of a murderer sentenced to the electric chair), Shock Theater (Sam suffers the ultimate identity crisis in a thrilling showcase for Scott Bakula), A Leap for Lisa (Sam leaps into a young Al), Killing Time (Sam swaps places with a dangerous serial killer - who promptly goes on the rampage in the future).
Bottom of the Barrel:
Although most episodes are saved from the scrapheap by Bakula and Stockwell, the ones to avoid are The Boogieman (a shockingly bad Halloween episode), The Play's the Thing (a tedious romance), The Beast Within (a serious case of the Bigfoot blues) and Thou Shalt Not (a yawn-a-minute melodrama). Dr Ruth, meanwhile, escapes this list by falling into the 'so bad it's good' category.
Plot twists are relatively few and far between in Quantum Leap - the outcome of most episodes can be predicted as soon as Al outlines Sam's mission. Sam's all-American moralizing and his often-simplistic solutions to dilemmas can become rather tiresome.
From the Fifties to the Eighties, Quantum Leap offers an affectionate tour of four decades of fashion, jam-packed with flares, kaftans and Mood Rings. 'Future' fashions are represented by Al, who can be seen in a variety of garish costumes - presumably, that's what everyone's wearing in Nevada today!
Read more about your favourite programmes in Cult Times
The Best Monthly Guide to Cult Television
Issue 30 (March 1998) available now