Quantum Leap zapped onto television in 1989 and sent viewers bouncing around time on a weekly basis. It was a groundbreaking premise, because other than The Time Tunnel (a 1966 show that aired for only one season) nothing quite like it had been viewed before.
The protagonist, Dr. Sam Beckett (played to perfection by American stage and screen actor Scott Bakula) is an impossibly moralistic scientist who discovered that time-travel was possible within his own lifetime. Dr. Beckett’s duty from the offset is to leap into men or women and ‘put right what once went wrong.’ (Bellisario, 1989). If that wasn’t enough of a brain drain for a family friendly show, audiences were also asked to accept that Dr. Beckett’s true time is many years in the future! Whenever Dr. Beckett leaps, the target (so to speak) swaps places and assumes Dr. Beckett’s body in a distant sterile waiting room. Therefore, when Dr. Beckett looks into a mirror in the past, all mirror images are not his own. Nevertheless, the audience is offered glimpses of Dr. Beckett’s time via ‘a hologram that only Sam can see and hear.’ (Bellisario, 1989). Indeed, Dr. Beckett’s holographic guide (and best friend) is a rogue Admiral named Al Calavicci (portrayed by child actor turned star, Dean Stockwell).
As the programme progressed, Dr. Beckett’s experiences sent him home at the start of season three, albeit within a sixteen year-old incarnation of himself. The two-part episode entitled The Leap Home, provided Dr. Beckett with another chance to stop his older brother (Tom) from being killed in Vietnam. The story was particularly moving as the audience is introduced to the real Sam Beckett and what made him mature into the man capable of initiating project Quantum Leap.
Season three finale provided the audience with a harrowing episode entitled Shock Theater (sic) in which Dr. Beckett is given electric shock treatment and quite literally loses his mind. Dr. Beckett is then replaced by personalities of the people he leaped into previously. The episode concluded with Al’s disturbing revelation that Dr. Beckett must receive shock treatment again to help him leap. The plan was successful and created perhaps one of the greatest twists in television history. Not only do Dr. Beckett and Al leap together, they also swap places, allowing Dr. Beckett to physically go home for the first time in almost four years.
Although Quantum Leap could be described as a convoluted show, heartfelt performances of the lead actors evolved Dr Beckett’s adventures into a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, the final episode entitled Mirror Image actually reflected Dr. Beckett for the first and last time, just before he sacrificed himself to save Al’s lost love. Dr. Beckett’s selfless act broke the heart of every enthusiast because he never returned home and it is believed that he died or merely floated through the universe indefinitely. However, as with all good DVD box sets, repeated viewing should ensure that Dr Beckett must leap until the end of time.