Before traveling in space and exploring new worlds in the Enterprise, Scott Bakula was traveling through time as Dr. Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. The series debuted on NBC on March 26, 1989 and lasted five seasons. Created by Donald P. Bellsario, the man behind Magnum PI and Airwolf, devoted fans (“Leapers”) have follow Sam, who leaps from one lifetime to the next in the past. Aided by Al (Dean Stockwell), an observer from his own time, he sets out “to put right what once went wrong” and hopes that the next leap will be the one that will him take home.
Quantum Leap had guest stars such as Bob Saget (Full House), Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D., How I Met Your Mother), future Melrose Place resident Josie Bissett, and future 90210 heartthrob Jason Priestley. The series even paved the way for shows such as NBC’s 2007 short-lived Journeyman, about a San Franciso reporter (Kevin McKidd) with the uncontrollable ability to go back in time and to change history in the lives of people he’s being sent to help.
Though the series ended in 1993 with Sam not returning home, the show is still popular now thanks to reruns in syndication (it is currently seen on ION Television everyday at 5pm) and Leap conventions over the years since 1992, such as the one being held in Los Angeles on the weekend of March 27-29 to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary. Attending will be Bellasario, Bakula, Deborah Pratt, Chas. Floyd Johnson, and several guest stars of the show; both Harris and Priestley attended one in 1993. If interested and wanting to know more, it can be found at www.leapback2009.com.
Quantum Leap wasn’t your basic time-travel series in the sci-fi fantasy genre, and Bellasario made sure of that. Both he, then-wife Pratt, and the writers used the time travel concept to explore topical issues every week such as racism, prejudice, discrimination, and rape. What made Quantum Leap so unique and groundbreaking is that viewers watched Sam experienced these issues from his own eyes through the person he leapt every week. For instance, in the season two episode “What Price Gloria?” Sam is in 1961 as a woman trying to save his female friend from suicide and in the process avoiding the amorous advances of his boss — and Al. Another episode, season three’s “Black on White on Fire”, finds Sam in the 1965 Watts riots as a black medical student torn between his love for his white fiancee and his loyalty to his brother and community. Season four’s “Raped” finds Sam in 1980 as a young rape victim seeking justice against her attacker.
Religion also played an integral part in the show’s legacy. A Halloween-themed episode from season three finds Sam face-to-face with the Devil himself, who’s angered of Sam going through time making the wrong things right. The final season finds Sam also facing Alia, an evil Leaper set to do the opposite such as breaking up relationships. Throughout five seasons, Sam was “driven by an unknown force” to change lives for the better. Viewers never knew if time or even God himself was the higher power yet the purpose of Quantum Leap remains the same: one person can make a difference — one life at a time.