Quantum Leap: Season 5
For most television series there is a guidebook of sorts. This may be an actual physical book or perhaps just an understanding between the writers and creators as to what can happen to the characters. For science fiction this may also extend to setting the parameters for the physical laws and understanding of the universe. Without these guidelines and parameters there would be no consistency and if there is one thing a science fiction fan wants is a consistent universe. For the series ‘Quantum Leap’ it has been reported that such a set of guidelines as provided by the series creator, Donald P. Bellisario. For the physics Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) could only leap within his own lifetime. His holographic companion Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell ) could only be seen by Sam and could not affect Sam’s environment in any way. As the series went on there were some exceptions that could be worked into the script such as some freak accidents that allowed Sam to leap into someone before his own life time started. It was also explained that small children and animals could perceive Al and see the real Sam. These are forgivable as slight variations. In season five, the last season of the series, most of the rules where thrown out and the series did, unfortunately, suffer for it. Another rule made for budgetary reasons was Sam would only leap into locations in the United States. This precluded the need for location shooting and more expensive sets.
While not part of the ‘scientific’ rules it was generally known that Sam would not jump into any well known or historical person. Sure, he would often brush against them in his travels and provide a little nudge to them be he always jumped into regular people. This rule was broken in the very first episode (actual a two part episode) of the season. Sam jumps into Lee Harvey Oswald. Instead of a single jump with a specific purpose to accomplish Sam begins to leap back and forth in Oswald’s life. With each jump Oswald’s personality becomes more dominant. This was a major departure from what made Quantum Leap a great show. It was too involved with a part of his still under a lot of controversy and there was no satisfying conclusion. The next episode up is more back on line. Sam leaps into the body of a Greek sailor and is marooned with a bratty heiress played by Brooke Shields. For the few out there that follows Madonna’s film career this is just about the screen treatment for the flick she did with her husband, Swept Away. During the rest of the season Sam jumps into even more famous people including Dr. Ruth and Elvis. Sam manages to get the future King his first recording contract. With Dr. Ruth when she shows up in the imaging chamber she helps Sam with is legendary problems with women. Sam even falls in love with Marilyn Monroe when he jumps into her driver. The whole point of the series is that regular people have an effect on history. Making right a wrong that affected some average person is important and who ever or what ever is driving Sam’s leaps cares about them. Another twist added that is somewhat controversial with the hard core fans was the introduction of the evil leaper Alia (Renee Coleman) and her holographic companion Zoey (Carolyn Seymour). When Sam leaps back into the life of a man with Down ’s syndrome, he discovers that Alia has been leaping through time trying to break what he has fixed. This becomes a recurring theme when Alia and Zoey show up later in the season for a two part episode. There is nothing wrong with a good old fashion fight between good and evil but this change happened so close to other really bad changes that its effect is much less than it should have been. The final episode was also very unsatisfying to fans. Sam leaps into a bar in a small mining town. The date is August 8, 1953, the day he was born. The bartender is the same as someone he met on his very first leap. As the shift in the mine ends and the place fills up Sam realizes that many of the bar’s patrons are people he met or became during his leaps. Al is unable to find Sam leaving him to figure things out on his own. The series ends not with a bang but with an unresolved whimper.
This series deserved much better than this final season provided. This was not the legacy that Quantum should have had. It appears that the producers wanted to boast ratings with these changes but instead they just pushed it over the old proverbial shark. Even the episodes that tried to stay within the format fell short. In one episode Sam thinks he may be a vampire. This is just too much for the audience to connect with and the episode fails. While there where some episodes that remained true to the premise most just tried to push things too far. One time breaking from the usual format actual worked was in ‘Killin’ Time’ where Sam jumps into a killer holding a woman and her daughter hostage. While Sam tries to figure a way out without getting anyone, including himself killed the real killer escapes the waiting room in the future. This not only gave a little glimpse into the world Sam came from but it added a nice touch of drama.
Despite the flaws in writing and plot lines here the main cast still delivered the best they could. Scott Bakula is a talented actor with a dream job here. He has to remain consistent with his presentation of Sam while trying to act as the people he jumps into. It just looks as this season was not as much fun for him as the previous ones. This season did help expand some of the back story for Al so Dean Stockwell had a little more to play with. As always he is a consummate professional and never boring to watch.
This season DVD set is just about the same in technical quality as the previous ones. The full screen video is nothing special but it comes across as better than the reruns on the Sci-Fi channel. The colors are muted at times but overall its good. The stereo audio is clear and does the job. If you are a fan of the series you need this set if for no other reason that completeness. If you are interested in the series and never really watched it before it would be best to watch one of the earlier sets to get started.