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Quantum Leap: Season One

I never thought in a million years that a Quantum Leap sequel would ever grab me. I never thought it would find the magic that the original series had. (Maybe it's appropriate that one of the characters is named Magic.) I was disappointed with the pilot and nearly stopped watching then. It took two or three more episodes before it started working for me, but when it did, I really got into it.

(This review is light on the spoilers!)

Ben Song works. Raymond Lee's Ben is different than Sam Beckett in interesting ways. Both leads are geniuses, both are self-sacrificing, both are genuinely good people, but that's where the similarities end. Ben is more comfortable in other peoples' skins. Leaping into a woman's life was a huge thing in the original series for Sam Beckett. In the reboot, Ben leaping into a woman's life is no big deal. He even rocked a 1970s stewardess uniform.

Addison (Caitlin Bassett) also wasn't a character I warmed to right away; she's so completely different from Al Calavicci. But the important part, the trust and love that the leaper and the holo have to have, it's still there. The fact that they're a romantic couple is core in the reboot. Ben is defined by his love for Addison – she's the reason he leaped in the first place.

I also initially thought that giving so much screen time to the Quantum Project staff back at the base was a mistake. I wasn't sure about the characters or the relationships. But with every episode, those relationships have strengthened. The plotting felt planned and purposeful and everything they did made sense. There was a lot of humor, a lot of connection, like they'd been close coworkers for years, and they grew on me like a fungus.

Nanrisa Lee, Ernie Hudson, Mason Alexander Park, Caitlin Bassett

Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) is tough and dynamic with a strong personality, and Magic (Ernie Hudson) fits the role of boss and mentor quite well. But I totally love Ian (Mason Alexander Park). It was an incredibly brave choice to have a non-binary character played by a non-binary actor front and center in a primary role on an NBC show. You can kind of tell they must have written this character for the actor because they bring something special to it. Ian is always the smartest person in the room and the emotional core of the project staff.

The changes from the original series made the reboot more interesting. Here, the leaps have a purpose, and that purpose remained a mystery for most of the season. I particularly liked the other staff stepping in as holograms to help Ben in specific situations. They also don't have the techno future vibe from Al's reality, which I don't miss. (However, I do miss the bittersweet note in the saga sell that the next leap could be the leap home.)

Bringing in Janis Calavicci (Georgina Reilly), cementing Sam Beckett's choice at the end of the original Quantum Leap, made that bittersweet finale more powerful because Al indeed got the better life that Sam wanted him to have, a lovely sentiment on which to build this new series. It was the reason I wanted to watch new Quantum Leap in the first place. I wanted to meet Al's daughters, and that's what they gave us.

Favorite episodes

There were a few rote outings, enjoyable for watching Ben "put right what once went wrong," but not great. Fortunately, the episodes got better as the season advanced, and the plots started to intertwine instead of standing alone.

I especially liked "The Friendly Skies" (1.17) where Ben had to keep a plane from crashing, "Stand by Ben" (1.8) where the troubled kids ran away from the youth camp, and "Leap. Die. Repeat" (1.11), the requisite Groundhog Day episode where Ben kept reliving the same situation and failing to fix it while leaping into every character in an elevator. "Let Them Play" (1x12) about a high school coach with a trans daughter was a good one, but the message was a bit heavy-handed, something the original series tended to do as well. Points, anyway.

The Leaper X plotline didn't work well in the original series, but here, it was much improved because it was introduced early and made a part of the story, ultimately resolving in "Judgment Day" (1.18), the season finale. The gamer in me also loved that the solution to a problem was a real video game.

Quantum Leap 2.0 was clearly developed with love for the original series, careful not to step on the toes of its fans. It's almost a love letter to the original. But the changes, as I discussed, are what makes it stand on its own two feet. I think this reboot is a home run. Bring on season two.

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.

1 comment:

  1. I am also on board. Didn't like the pilot, but I kept watching and after a few, I was looking forward to each episode. My favorite thing is that they keep doing edgier stuff -- it's not just a leap of the week and a reset button. And I've grown to love the non-leaping characters.

    My favorite was the Groundhog Day episode because it addressed the "what if Ben fails?" issue so well. I also liked Brandon Routh as Addison's grim, rigid dad.


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