Quantum Leap: Where Could Sam Beckett Go Next?
With a movie script written, we speculate as to what could lie ahead in Quantum Leap's future...
This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Networks are rebooting properties left, right and center lately. This is good news for fans of Donald P. Bellisario, who has two creations being revived in the near future. If you don’t know the name, you know the work. Bellisario is responsible for so many hit TV shows: Airwolf, Magnum P.I. (the other franchise being rebooted) and the focus of this feature, Quantum Leap. On October the 28th last year, it emerged that he’d completed a draft of a feature script intended to reboot the show: “I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I did write it.”
Need to know what Quantum Leap is? No problem, Dee from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has you covered. It is “…a great show from the coke-fuelled era of eighties television, where Scott Bakula [playing Dr. Sam Beckett] would leap into other people’s bodies, but he didn’t know it unless he saw his reflection”. In the show, a genius scientist played by Scott Bakula leaps through different eras in his own lifetime, trapped in other peoples’ bodies, only able to move on to the next mission when he’s changed their lives for the better. Assisting him is his friend Al, a holographic observer from his own time. Played by Dean Stockwell, the friendship between the two characters (and the actors) was partially what drove Bellisario to complete the script. “I’m entertained the same way the audience is. So I just put Scott and Dean [Stockwell] in my head, kind of rebooted them, and went from there.”
The show ran for five seasons, its anthology style meaning that Bakula and Stockwell were really the only two recurring cast members week to week. Sam Beckett’s leaps were usually confined to American soil and he could only leap within his own lifetime. Many of his jumps were into ordinary people who had next to no impact on history.
The last episode, Mirror Image, aired on May 5 1993. It wasn’t originally intended as a series finale, but the network pulled the plug, forcing an infamous title card to be pulled together which even misspelled Beckett’s surname. For the show’s fans, “Dr. Sam Becket never returned home” was the only form of closure they got.
Bellisario’s new script is a step in the right direction but it’s possible that like many of the previous revivals this script will never be produced. To give you an idea of how long fans have been waiting for a film, the Sci Fi Channel were interested in doing one as far back as 2002. Bonnie Hammer, then the president of the Sci Fi network, said “SCI FI will develop a two-hour movie based on the TV series Quantum Leap, which will also serve as a backdoor pilot for a possible series.”
Details are light on the ground about the actual plot of Bellisario’s new script, so let’s chuck a few ideas into the ring. It’s important to note that some or all of these ideas could be incorporated into the final script, or none at all.
The natural place to reboot it may be from the season 6 that never was, jumping off from an ending to Mirror Image that was never screened. The negatives from this ending were recently rediscovered by a YouTuber and prove that it was partially filmed. In this ending the events of Mirror Image play out as normal, but there’s an extra coda where Al and his first wife Beth are shown living happily together in the future. Al is anxious about the missing Sam and wants to get him back. Beth suggests that since he can’t reach the bar where Sam was last seen if Sam is not there, one way to reach it may be to leap.
He does, and he ends up at the bar. He speaks to the same ambiguous figure who guided Sam. This figure explains that to pursue Sam, Al would have to leap into the future and lose all of the protection that came from being a hologram. Al takes the challenge and ends up leaping into the body of a woman. In a neat reversal of Al’s usual attitudes, he ends up being ogled by a bar patron. The last words of the original script were Al’s plaintive “oh boy”.
Given that Sam never returned home, retrieving him seems to be the focus of most previous reboot attempts. A script written by Trey Callaway in 2003, called A Bold Leap Forward, was a promising start. It dealt with the idea of Beckett’s biological daughter, Sammy Jo Fuller, going on her own leaping quest to find him. There’s the bonus that the thread of trying to find her father would allow Bakula to guest star every once in a while without committing to a full-time role, which would be difficult to juggle with his work on NCIS: New Orleans. To exec producer Deborah Pratt, the character has always been the logical place to take any new film or series. “I hope someday to do my Sammy Jo movie”, she said at the Leap Back convention in 2009. Callaway’s script dealt with multiple leaps – one into a stuntman in 1992, into Live Aid in 1985, one into the events of 9/11, and finally one where she leaps in as a hockey player.
One leap jumped out at you there, didn’t it? While the events of 9/11 would certainly be a big enough leap for the big screen, and though the abandoned script handled the premise quite well, it just doesn’t sit right. It’s a huge historical event that’s very easy to mishandle. One way that they could do it is that he could be involved with reuniting (let’s say) a mother with her estranged son before one or both die in the attack.
Of the ideas considered here, this is the one with the most potential to develop into a film, especially one which is being developed with view to a new series.
There’s the feeling that to justify a feature film, it has to have a great antagonist. One way to do it would be to bring back the Evil Leaper (I know, I know). The showrunners introduced this concept in the fifth season, and a force working in direct opposition to Sam would make for some great obstacles. But it might be a mistake to bring in more pieces of continuity before it’s an established property again.
One element that it should bring back is its capacity for dealing with social issues. The show was famous for doing this throughout its run – the first season episode The Color Of Truth showed the unfair treatment that Sam received when he leaped into a black man’s body. The format was good for dealing with many controversial stories, and didn’t shy away from depicting the trauma suffered by rape victims or the shocking sexual injustices committed during living memory. Now these issues are in the spotlight more than ever, and multiple industries are finally being held to account, these will likely at least be referenced in some way, even if it’s not the main storyline.
The main storyline may be inspired by something that’s always front and centre in our news. On Wednesday the 16th of June 2016, a seismic thing happened, an event perfect for him to leap into and change hundreds of lives. Nah, just kidding.
What actually happened was that Scott Bakula appeared on an episode of Late Night With Stephen Colbert as Sam Beckett, where Colbert joined him in performing a take on Quantum Leap. It was a reference to one of the series’ more famous “kisses with history,” where Sam ends up advising a young Donald Trump to get into New York real estate. Beyond The Mirror Image – a recent Quantum Leap book, the most comprehensive you will ever read – goes to great lengths to fit this sketch into the series canon (admittedly with a wink and a smile). The sketch suggests that a lot of dark things could come to pass if Trump got the presidency, so why not take care of it before it becomes a problem? It’s certainly possible that the new film’s main story could be about Trump’s presidency. The ongoing talks of collusion suggest that there may be a wrong which Sam could put right. But how could anyone change the course of an election?
This could be overthinking things. The key might be in something that Bakula said on that same stage on October the 28th. “Not everybody loved [Mirror Image]”, he recalled. “My 11 year old son, when he watched it, he was in tears and wouldn’t speak to me because ‘I don’t believe you didn’t get to go home’”. Maybe that’s all we need: closure. If the film is intended as Sam’s last outing, why not bring him home? It’s a lovely thought that after 25 years, Sam Beckett could finally find his way back, putting right what once went wrong.