Quantum Leap: An Episode Roadmap for Beginners


“The Beast Within”

While much of season five played with the format in new ways, the show’s social conscience was not forgotten, with “Liberation” rather broadly discussing feminism, and both “Nowhere to Run” and “The Beast Within” focusing on traumatised Vietnam veterans.

Route 4: Science Fiction and Fantasy

This may sound like a strange category for a Route – Quantum Leap is a science fiction show about time travel and body swapping. However, while the basic premise of the show is science fiction, many of the stories told in individual episodes had no science fiction elements present beyond Sam’s presence and Al’s information from the future.

read more: Quantum Leap — 10 Greatest Guest Performances

If the story were told from the point of view of a character unaware of Al’s presence, there would appear to be nothing odd about it at all. However, the show did sometimes dip its toe into the pool of more mainstream science fiction or, more often, fantasy, and include other elements of speculative fiction that had a more or less significant impact on the plot.

Season One

There are no overt science fiction or fantasy episodes in Season One beyond the set-up of the show in the pilot (“Genesis”). However, season one did establish an ongoing theme of the show, in the small, inexplicable moments and miracles that sometimes occurred – in this case, Ms Melny briefly hears Al in “The Color of Truth” and it saves her life. Considering Sam believed it was God, Fate, Time, or Whatever – some kind of omnipotent, omnipresent force – that was ‘leaping’ him around, such small miracles fit neatly into the series’ universe.

Season Two

“A Portrait for Troian”

“A Portrait for Troian” was the first of several episodes to embrace a classic story-telling technique – an apparently fantastical story is introduced, the hero is able to provide a scientific explanation that solves the mystery, but at the end, there’s an element that remains mysterious and scientifically inexplicable… Add “Her Charm” for references to time travel and possibly the instigation of a stable time loop.

Season Three

“The Boogieman”

“A Little Miracle”

“Shock Theater”

Season three’s Halloween episode. “The Boogieman” builds on the spooky vibe of “A Portrait for Troian” to produce the show’s first overtly fantastical story – something writers can always get away with more easily on Halloween. “A Little Miracle,” by contrast, does not feature any science fiction or fantasy elements beyond the usual mechanics of the show, but sees Sam and Al making more inventive use of leaping and time travel than they usually do.

Add “Future Boy” for some more references to time travel. “Shock Theater” is the first episode to change things up a bit in the mechanics of “leaping” and put Sam in a new situation – add “8 ½ Months” for an earlier instance of Sam experiencing strange levels of connection with the leapee.

Season Four

“The Leap Back”

“Temptation Eyes”

“Ghost Ship”

“It’s a Wonderful Leap”

“The Curse of Ptah-Hotep”

Season four started to incorporate fantastical elements more often, with episodes featuring an angel (“It’s a Wonderful Leap”), a mummy (“The Curse of Ptah-Hotep”), strange goings-on in the Bermuda Triangle (“Ghost Ship”) and a pretty decent psychic (“Temptation Eyes”).

This increased willingness to play around with science fiction and fantasy tropes was perhaps evident from the season opener, “The Leap Back,” in which the dynamics of the show are temporarily switched up and we get our first real glimpse of the world in the far-off future year of 1999 since the pilot. Add “Dreams” for more blending between Sam and the leapee and “A Single Drop of Rain” for perhaps the series’ most satisfying miracle.

Add “A Leap for Lisa” for some alterations to the personal timeline of one of our heroes. Add “The Wrong Stuff” for an episode which doesn’t feature additional speculative fiction elements, but is notable for having Sam leap into a non-human.

Season Five

“Killin’ Time”

“Star Light, Star Bright”

“Deliver Us from Evil”

“Blood Moon”

“Return of the Evil Leaper”

“Revenge of The Evil Leaper”

“The Leap Between the States”

“Mirror Image”

Season five continued the trend set by season four of experimenting more and more with the series’ format and with added science fiction elements. The most notable of these is the introduction of Sam’s dark counterpart Alia, the Evil Leaper, featured in “Deliver Us from Evil,” “Return of the Evil Leaper,” and “Revenge of the Evil Leaper.” Sam also jumped outside his own lifetime for only the second time in the only leap to leave the twentieth century in “The Leap Between the States” and we saw a little bit more of the neon world of 1999 in “Killin’ Time.”

Meanwhile, the series continued to pay homage to classic speculative fiction tropes in “Blood Moon” (vampires) and “Star Light, Star Bright” (alien abductions). Finally, the series finale, “Mirror Image” may not have answered our questions exactly, but you can’t deny it was focused on the process and consequences of leaping. Add “Trilogy Parts 2 & 3” for some more unexpected consequences of some of Sam’s leaps.

Route 5: Famous names

The aim of Quantum Leap was to show Sam making a difference in people’s lives, because every life matters. In early seasons, he would often briefly brush past someone historically famous, but rarely interact with them at length. As time went on the show started to play around with famous figures a bit more, culminating in Sam actually leaping into someone very famous indeed.

Many episodes featured references to historical events, movements and so on in one way or another, as that was part of the nature of the show – the episodes collected here are more specifically those featuring fictional representations of famous people on screen.

Season One

“How the Tess Was Won”

“Camikazi Kid”

Season one sets up the series’ standard attitude towards cameos from famous names – a character would appear identified only by a first name or nickname, Sam would tell them something interesting from the future, and it would turn out the person themselves was the originator, implying that Dr. Sam Beckett was ultimately responsible for quite a significant chunk of late twentieth century popular culture.

Here, he teaches Michael Jackson the Moonwalk in “Camikazi Kid,” and suggests the title “Peggy Sue” to Buddy Holly in “How the Tess Was Won.” Add “Star-Crossed” to see him inadvertently help to cause the Watergate scandal.

Season Two

“Good Morning, Peoria”

“Thou Shalt Not…”

Season two took the same approach – in Good Morning, Vietnam homage “Good Morning, Peoria,” Sam teaches Chubby Checker to do the Twist, while in “Thou Shalt Not…” he demonstrates the Heimlich maneuver on Dr. Henry Heimlich. Add “Blind Faith” for a story that takes place during the Beatles’ visit to New York City.

Season Three

“Leap of Faith”

“The Boogieman”

“Rebel Without a Clue”

Sam continues to shape popular culture, meeting Jack Kerouac in “Rebel Without a Clue,” Sylvester Stallone in “Leap of Faith,” and in famously creepy episode “The Boogieman,” he inspires a young Stephen King.

Season Four

In Season Four, Sam decided to have a rest from actually meeting famous people and stick to homages like “Unchained”’s play on The Defiant Ones.

Season Five

“Lee Harvey Oswald Parts 1 & 2”

“Dr. Ruth”

“Goodbye Norma Jean”

“Memphis Melody”

As part of the general shake-up and expansion of the format in season five, Sam started actually to leap into famous people, or those close to them. The most effective was the first, offering a very different view of “Lee Harvey Oswald” and the Kennedy assassination than that provided by Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK. “Dr. Ruth” was a rare highlight for the leapee as Sam leaped into the well-known celebrity, and we also see her (guest starring as herself) talking with Al in the imaging room, while “Goodbye Norma Jean” and “Memphis Melody” offer stories about American legends Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

One nice element to these stories was that they really highlighted the way Sam had been changing history throughout the show. By the end of the episode, whatever Sam had done would have created the history we know, but it was often revealed that this had not been the case beforehand, giving the audience a relatable sense of the difference Sam had been making in people’s lives all this time.

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