Quantum Leap: Season Four

Since season three was mostly leaps of the week, they made an attempt to shake things up with season four by playing with the formula a bit.

But as always, Quantum Leap is at its best when it does arc episodes about Sam and Al, as they again did in the premiere and the finale. There were a few other strong episodes as well.

4.1 "The Leap Back" (June 15, 1945)": In the fourth season premiere, Sam got to play a brand new character: Dr. Sam Beckett. For the past three seasons, we've been leaping with a Sam who had partial amnesia and was completely disconnected from his real life. Here, he was finally dynamic, brilliant scientist Sam, and surprisingly, married Sam.

Mimi Kuzyk did a terrific job as Sam's wife Donna, another brilliant scientist who kept her existence a secret from leaping Sam because she knew that it would make it harder for him to complete his missions. That was darned selfless of her, and that made her feel worthy of him in short order, since our Sam is quite a guy. I also thought Donna waiting for Sam gave us an obvious parallel to Beth, who waited years for prisoner of war Al to come back from Vietnam.

We finally got a lengthy visit to the actual Quantum Leap Project, with interior decoration that made it look as if Al's handlink exploded. We finally met Gooshie, Dr. Beeks and Ziggy, who changed gender in this episode. As Sam became reacquainted with his life and his wife, he and Al reversed roles and Al got to be the leaper who had to fix what once went wrong (and in Al's lifetime, 1945), while Sam's glee as he got to be the hologram was adorably funny. "Revenge is mine. Thus sayeth the hologram!"


Of course, Sam had to re-leap to save Al, so the status quo was too quickly re-attained. Honestly, I would have loved seeing Sam at home and observing and Al leaping for a few episodes.

4.6 "Raped (June 20, 1980)": You'd think an episode about a man occupying the body of a young woman who'd been raped would be uncomfortable, awkward, preachy, and/or cliched — but no. Instead, it was one of the best episodes of the series, because they did it right.

Sam leaped in because Katie, the victim, was having difficulty testifying against her attacker. Scott Bakula's performance as Sam in Katie's body was terrific; calm and matter of fact, Sam fought on Katie's behalf, refusing to accept the way the townspeople and police kept blaming the victim.


Although I always dislike the way trials on television seem to happen instantly after a crime, the strongest scene was Sam testifying on the stand by simply repeating Katie's own words, as Al held her hand. Even though the reason Al did that was so that Sam could see her, it was also a physical way of showing Al and Sam showing their support of Katie. Excellent episode.

4.7 "The Wrong Stuff (January 24, 1961)": Quantum Leap took on animal experimentation as Sam leaped into a test chimp, and they did a good job acknowledging all aspects of a difficult topic. This is the only episode in which Sam leaps into a non-human. I really liked the little nod to Planet of the Apes when Sam tried to write a note.

4.22 "A Leap for Lisa (June 25, 1957)": The lesson of "A Leap for Lisa" is that whenever they go back to the well and do an episode about Al's past, it's a winner. I'd mostly forgotten this one and it was such a pleasant surprise, the best episode in the season, with the possible exception of "Raped."

Sam leaped into 23-year-old Al and it appeared that he was supposed to save Al's married girlfriend Lisa from dying in a car crash, but Al was so bemused by encountering his younger self in the waiting room that he arrived late, in time to watch Lisa die. Sam's interference changed history so that Al would be convicted of the murder of his commander's wife, Marci, and at one point, when probability went up to 100% that Al would die in the gas chamber, the hologram of Al vanished and was replaced by another observer named St. John (Roddy McDowall, and I loved that they brought in an A-list actor to play the part). When Sam solved the murder, young Al had to leap into his earlier self in order to save himself, Lisa and Marci.


It was so much fun to see Al talking to "Bingo," his younger self, in the waiting room. It was also fascinating that Sam initially leaped into Al in the middle of a From Here to Eternity erotic dream on the beach, too. Has Sam ever leaped into someone dreaming before? Did that happen because his mind is linked to Al's?

What's also fun is how this episode inadvertently relates to Star Trek. Charles Rocket's character was called "Commander Riker," a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation; Terry Farrell, who played Lisa, would join the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the following year (1993), and of course, Scott Bakula went on to star in Star Trek: Enterprise in 2001.

Honorable mention

4.11 "The Play's the Thing (September 9, 1969)": A nice episode about ageism. I liked how Sam saw nothing wrong with being a younger man in love with an older woman, and how he immediately and passionately defended Jane's choices and helped her achieve her dreams. Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad had a nice supporting role as Jane's daughter in law.

4.15 "A Song for the Soul (April 7, 1963)": Scott Bakula in an African American girl group, as he backed up the daughter of a preacher who wanted to break into the big time. (The daughter, not the preacher.) This one was sweet. Plus I think it was the first time Sam leaped into a black woman. I particularly liked the sedate gray outfit Al wore in church. (Well, "sedate" for Al.)


4.16 "Ghost Ship (August 13, 1956)": Despite an occasional uncomfortable resemblance to Airplane!, this was a good one about a plane stuck in the Bermuda Triangle. It also featured a very young Carla Gugino.

4.19 "Moments to Live (May 4, 1985)": Sam leaped into a star of daytime drama, and Kathleen Wilhoite and Pruitt Taylor Vince kidnapped him for embarrassing reasons. Well written with good acting, and I'm glad that they (mostly) didn't play kidnapping and mental illness for laughs.

What didn't work

There were a few episodes that I thought were poor, and a couple that made me outright uncomfortable. Starting with...

4.12 "Running for Honor (June 11, 1964)": Al as a homophobe? Yes, I get that even somewhat recently, a majority of people were against gays in the military, but I'd like to think that anyone who dressed the way Al did would be a bit more open-minded. At least Sam was understandably disgusted by his attitude and what happened in the episode changed Al's mind, and I doubt anyone would do an episode like this today. We've come a long way in 25 years.

4.13 "Temptation Eyes (February 1, 1985)": Another attempt to do something new, although I don't think it worked. Tamlyn Tomita played a genuine psychic who fell in love with the real Sam, he fell for her, and they actually got to spend a few weeks together. But the acting and writing were poor and cliched, making it more of a miss than a hit. And that's too bad, because I'd always thought it would be nice if Sam got a vacation in the middle of all that leaping.

4.14 "The Last Gunfighter (November 28, 1957)": My word, this one was terrible. It was like they wanted to do an old west shoot-out but couldn't, so they did it anyway. What town in 1957, even one with a corrupt sheriff, would allow two old men to have a gunfight in the center of town? Innocent bystanders, anyone?

4.18 "It's a Wonderful Leap (May 10, 1958)": Another unsuccessful attempt at something new, this time with Liz Torres from Gilmore Girls as a genuine guardian angel. What bothered me more than I can say was Al doing fat jokes along with even worse Latino jokes. Liz Torres deserved better than this.


4.20 "The Curse of Ptah-Hotep (March 2, 1957)": Intended to be a rip-off of King Tut's tomb and Howard Carter with mysterious deaths, but with the budget of a one-hour TV show, anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of archaeology would find this episode painfully bad. I mean, the mummy comes to life and everything. And John Kapelos, who is usually pretty good, played an Egyptian archaeologist (the John Rhys-Davies role in Indiana Jones) with an accent that sounded like a cross between Russian and Spanish. I haven't finished rewatching the series yet, but this might be my least favorite Quantum Leap episode ever. Certainly my least favorite in season four.

Bits and pieces:

-- Notable actors (other than the ones already mentioned): Neal McDonough, James Morrison, Glenn Morshower, Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the age of ten, Harry Groener, Eriq LaSalle, Bob Saget and Amy Yasbeck.

-- Famous people: There was a little boy named Donald Trump in a New York City cab with his father in "It's a Wonderful Leap." I saw it coming and said out loud, "No, no, please don't."

-- As usual, there were a number of homages to movies, including The Rainmaker, The Defiant Ones, the Indiana Jones movies, and A Few Good Men.

To conclude

Although there were still many strong episodes in season four, I think seasons two and three were a bit stronger. Am I wrong?

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

Juliette said...

*That's* where I know Miss Patti from! Thank you Billie!

I actually really like It's a Wonderful Leap. Some of the concept episodes work better than others - for me, the horror ones tend to be a bit iffy (including Ptah-Hotep). But angels (the good kind, not the d*ck kind) seem like a good fit for Supernatural, considering its set-up, and it was a sweet episode.

I'm less keen on Raped than you are, but not because I think it's a bad episode - I think it's very well done. It's just rather downbeat, and a man occupying a girl's body in a story all about the violation of that body is still a bit odd, as wonderfully well intentioned as Quantum Leap is.

Totally agree on A Leap for Lisa though! I like season 4 a lot. I like a bit of a sprinkling of concept episodes, to shake things up a bit.

Juliette said...

I said Supernatural when I meant Quantum Leap. Doh!