Written by Angela Rairden
As a child growing up in the 90’s, I absolutely loved the original Quantum Leap, which ran from 1989-93 but aired on tv for much longer. The hope that each leap would be Dr. Sam Beckett’s eventual leap home was a huge appeal, and watching him “put right the things that went wrong” in each episode was always intriguing.
When I learned that NBC had created a sequel to the beloved classic, I was a little on the fence about watching it at first. This was mostly because, to be honest, most of the special effects in the previews looked pretty terrible. In fact, I don’t feel that any of the previews did a very good job of making the show look appealing. They felt sporadic and disconnected to me and it seemed pretty clear that whoever created them was really just relying on the show’s name to be its biggest draw.
Which I suppose is fair enough. Now that those of us born in the 80’s are bona-fied adults, everything cool about our childhood has been coming back bigger and flashier than the originals. Sometimes these reboots/callbacks don’t work out. However, when NBC rebooted one of my all-time favorite 80’s tv shows, MacGyver, I was surprised by how much I loved it. In fact, I even wrote a blog about how upsetting it was when the show was abruptly cancelled after only five seasons.
So, with MacGyver in mind, I DVR’ed and the new Quantum Leap and watched it with an open, even excited, mind.
The timeline of this series is set 30 years after the disappearance of Sam Beckett. The US government has taken over the project known as Quantum Leap and a team of specialists has been working towards fine tuning it so that leaps into the past can be controlled and the “leaper” doesn’t get stuck in the past the way Sam did.
L-R: Nanrisa Lee, Ernie Hudson, Mason Alexander Park, & Caitlin Bassett
The first thing that I really want to talk about here is the casting. In a move that feels supremely purposeful (and wonderful), the entirety of the main cast is made up of women, BIPOC, and nonbinary actors. The part of the “leaper” (Dr. Ben Song) is played by Raymond Lee, an Asian-American actor who has really only had small roles in a few other tv shows and most recently played the character Sam on 2021’s Kevin Can F**k Himself (which I have not seen). His “hologram” (Addison Augustine) is portrayed by Caitlin Bassett in what appears to be her first starring role. The rest of the Quantum Leap team is made up of veteran actor Ernie Hudson (likely best known as for his role as Winston Zeddemore in the Ghostbusters franchise), Asian-American actress Nanrisa Lee who portrays the department’s Head of Security, and non-binary actor Mason Alexander Park (who portrayed Desire in The Sandman series).
Despite the relative newness of most of the cast, its diversity cannot be denied, and I think it’s a point to celebrate.
Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song
As for the pilot episode itself. It’s fair to say that my attention drifted during a few scenes. Still, the overall feel of the show seems on point with its predecessor. To that end, it’s also tied a larger mystery in the plot beyond just leaping to fix past wrongs. It’s revealed that Addison was meant to be the program’s “leaper” and Ben her hologram; however, for unknown reasons, Ben leaps into the past before all of the kinks have been worked out of the computer (still called Ziggy, just like in the original). As a side effect of leaping is memory loss, Ben is unable to explain why he leaped when he did when holograph Addison tracks him down in 1985. In fact, Ben is unable to remember Addison or the Quantum Leap program or anything else for that matter and is reliant upon Addison to fill him in on not only the details of his own life, but also that of the person whose life he has leaped into. Like the hologram Al in the original series, Addison uses a handheld device to communicate with Ziggy and help direct Ben on the most reliable course of action to set things right and thereby trigger another leap.
Dean Stockwell as Al in the original series
The new series does play a little homage to Dean Stockwell, who portrayed Al in the original. When it’s revealed that Ben’s premature leap is somehow mysteriously tied to Al, Ernie Hudson’s character mentions that Al had passed away “last year”, which I thought was notable as Stockwell passed away in 2021 at the age of 85. The episode is also appropriately dedicated to Stockwell at the end.
By the end of the pilot, we are left with the mystery of not only whether or not Ben will be able to leap home, but also the secondary quandary of why he jumped when he did and how it ties into the original Quantum Leap. Although arguably not the most action-packed pilot ever, the show seems likely to appeal to fans of the original and the diverse casting is a bonus in my book. Also, I love that this isn't a "re do" but, rather, an addition to the story that so many of us loved as kids, but with a modern twist to it. Personally, I'm excited to see where Ben leaps to next!
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.