If there’s one question that dominates discussion around the new Quantum Leap, especially with those who aren’t die-hard fans, it’s a simple one. “Is Scott Bakula gonna show up?” Even two seasons in there’s still a hope among original series fans that original series star Bakula will somehow make a return appearance as Dr. Sam Beckett.
It’s not as if Bakula has avoided more modern throwbacks to the original series. He made a comedic return as Sam in a sketch on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2016 and a self-deprecating appearance on a Quantum Leap-referencing episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in 2017. Bakula clearly has affection for the role, so why hasn’t he appeared in the new series?
It’s not for lack of trying. In 2022 the script for the original version of the pilot of the new Quantum Leap leaked online, its legitimacy confirmed by the experts at the Quantum Leap Podcast, and it contains the holy grail for classic series fans. Sam is in it!
The script, which was later reworked into episode 6 of the new series, features a scene towards the end of the story with Janis Calavicci, daughter of original series character Al Calavicci, secretly watching events at Project headquarters. In a reflection of a monitor a young man stands next to her and says, “Your father would be proud.”
In the script’s description it states the voice “sounds vaguely familiar” and indicates that the camera would turn around to reveal that the young man is actually Sam! After the script takes a moment to actually write out in the description, “Holy shit!” it goes on to describe that the young man in the reflection is someone Sam has leaped into in 2022. Sam goes on to say,
“I just wish he was here to see through to the end.”
And there the scene ends.
This confirms that Sam was not only planned to cameo in the pilot of the new Quantum Leap but more than likely was set to be a recurring character. The script, after explaining that Sam has leaped into 2022, states that, “Don’t worry, we’ll explain it all in episode two.” Maybe they could have done that without having Sam appear again but it’s doubtful.
It excites the mind of any Quantum Leap fan. How would Sam have played into the mythology of the new series? How would this have tied back to the original series? We’ll more than likely never know.
But was this actually shot? No. Did Scott Bakula ever read it? It looks like it.
Just before the new series premiered, Bakula took to social media to address rumors after his lack of involvement in the new series. He stated, “I have no connection with the new show” and that, before the first pilot was shot, “a script was sent to me because the character of Sam Beckett was in it.”
He diplomatically doesn’t state what his reaction to the script was, only that, “It was a very difficult decision to pass on the project.” Bakula did wish the new series well however, saying, “I am crossing my fingers that this new cast and crew are lucky enough to tap into the magic that propelled the original Quantum Leap into the hearts and minds of generations past and present.”
Knowing that Bakula had read a script for the new series, it’s easy enough to piece together that he had read the scene that we detailed above. While we don’t know for sure why he said no to it, there are a few distinct possibilities.
The first and easiest to believe is that the then recent passing of co-star Dean Stockwell made Bakula not feel right about returning to the series without him.
The second is that, in March of 2022, two months after the Quantum Leap pilot script had been sent to him, he signed up to star in and executive produce a pilot for an NBC series that was later not picked up. He may have just not had the bandwidth to handle also being on Quantum Leap at that time.
The third? He may have read the small cameo and decided it just wasn’t for him. Maybe it’s not how he would have wanted to officially return to the role of Sam.
Or perhaps he just wasn’t offered enough money.
Whatever the case, there’s still no sign that Bakula has any plans to return to Quantum Leap. The team behind the new series would love to have him, of course, but there’s nothing on the horizon. At least we know that Sam is still out there leaping and helping people.
Special thanks to the Quantum Leap Podcast for their research into the original pilot script of the new series.
New episodes of Quantum Leap season 2 premiere Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.