Time travel can be an intriguing series concept — see Outlander and La Brea — but NBC’s Quantum Leap reboot doesn’t quite capture the spirit of its predecessor.
This series aired for five seasons (1989-93) on NBC with stars Scott Bakula as a time-jumping Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as Al, the hologram cigar-chomping sage tasked with guiding Sam through his mind-bending missions after assuming someone else’s identity – and saving the day – while lost in time and… hopped over.
This new version of Quantum Leap references the original show – both Bakula and Stockwell are seen, albeit not as characters in person, and the series opener is dedicated to Stockwell, who died last November. So it’s not a lack of effort. But in a way, the references to Sam and Al only underscore the difficulties of reviving a once-popular series. Expectations are high and are rarely met or exceeded – and after all, Quantum Leap must make great strides to succeed as a weekly TV goal.
The setup here is similar to the original, with a few extra folds and a diverse cast. dr Ben Song (Raymond Lee, “Kevin Can F*** Himself”) is a brilliant quantum physicist working for the government in 2022 to revive the Quantum Leap program, which was abandoned in 1995 when Sam Beckett “never came home”. a time skip. Addison Augustine (freshman Caitlin Bassett), Ben’s true love, is a former Army Intelligence officer who works alongside him. Ben has secretly written new code for Ziggy – the AI mechanism that triggers time jumps – and in the series premiere suddenly decides he needs to test his theory for reasons only he knows without telling anyone. It materializes in the body of Nick, the getaway driver for a Philadelphia bank robbery crew in July 1985, just as the Live Aid concert is in full swing (the “Ziggy” parallels to David Bowie appearing on a television screen at the concert are duly noted here).
Viewers who may not have seen the original Quantum Leap and enjoyed the chemistry between Bakula and Stockwell won’t find much of a spark between Strong and Bassett here – although we don’t really know their full backstories just yet – and the writing could use some help pep (A few one-liners interspersed here and there). The supporting cast, Park in particular, add a fresh element to the show that must soon take off — or face a fate that Ben can only save if he “jumps” into the body of an NBC program executive desperate to save them new autumn series from extinction.
Ben has no memory of his past life, but Addison suddenly appears as his hologram spirit guide to (try) to explain what’s going on – and to help Ben discover the real reason he’s in Philadelphia and why he’s now is in Nick’s body to find out. (We learn their roles were supposed to be reversed.) Addison is the only one who can communicate with Ben/Nick, while Quantum Leap’s support team – technicians Ian (Mason Alexander Park) and Jenn (Nanrisa Lee) – are in the headquarters are. and her boss, Herbert “Magic” Williams (the ever-reliable Ernie Hudson) — work feverishly to help Ben complete his mission and return home… but there’s a mishap and a surprise that kickstarts the season arc .