Time travel. What a trip.
Quantum Leap 101
» Spoiler Warning: details on this page could spoil any surprise(s) in the story if you have not seen this complete TV series.
Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, brilliant quantum physicist Dr. Sam Beckett constructs a time machine as part of the top secret project Quantum Leap. Despite warnings that the machine isn't ready, Sam steps into the accelerator and is sent back in time. However, he doesn't arrive entirely as himself. Instead he "leaps" into someone else's life, while that someone replaces Sam in his own time, that is, in the year 1995. In the past, everyone else believes that Sam is the person he's leapt into, and even he sees that person when he looks in the mirror. The first leap proves very disconcerting as Sam suffers extensive memory loss and must piece together what is happening. Fortunately he finds a guide when a co-worker, Al, employs another of Project Quantum Leap's features to appear as a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. Sam and Al soon realize that Sam has to set right something that went wrong, in order to leap to another time - hopefully his own.
Quantum Leap: Recap and Review
What makes it so notable? Still cited as one of the best examples of sci-fi, Quantum Leap generated its own model of the time travel theme and played it out in a (mostly) consistent and (very) entertaining way. Plus, the two lead roles couldn't have been better cast.
What are its weak points? While I admit that the idea is logical, I found the Evil Leaper saga a disturbing departure from the show's normally upbeat tone, and I prefer to avoid any episode associated with it. I avoid the series finale for the same reason. In a lesser offense, as hinted at above, the writing occasionally suffered from the - frequently blatant - lack of consistency that seems to plague depictions of time travel.
Verdict: Casual Fan or Big-Time Fangirl? Casual Big-Time Fangirl
Comments: Taking advantage of a premise that allowed a different setting each week, Quantum Leap felt a little bit like getting to know the world, specifically a few of the fine people with whom we share the world. While each portrayal was distinct, they revealed enough heart to make the players familiar and relatable - simply human - giving us along with Sam a chance to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, and perhaps promoting a little more understanding in the process.
- Quotes -
The good, the bad, the sad, the funny: the things we wish we'd thought to say first.
I think we need to take a trip to the little bank robber's room. - Al (Promised Land)
Don't be ridiculous, kids love violence. - Ben Harris, TV writer (Future Boy)
We're in the wrong-righting business. - Al (Goodbye Norma Jean)
You've got to reach for the stars, not for the ceiling. - Sam (Memphis Melody)
If I'd have known I'd have to do this much running, I would have worn my cross training shoes. - Al (Unchained)
Why do we even bother? Because that's what we do. We're professional botherers. - Sam and Al (A Single Drop of Rain)
I'm not a doctor; I just play one on television. - Sam (Moments to Live)
You're the genius, you know. Use your head! - Al, before Sam goes head first through the window (Moments to Live)
With a million gigabyte capacity I'm quite capable of rubbing my tummy, patting my head, and doing a trillion floating point operations at once. - Ziggy (The Leap Back)
* * *
Al: I would love to fix that flat for you. But I can't. I mean--
Lady with car trouble: It's your only tux, and you're late for your wedding.
Al: How could I be late? We've just met.
Gushie (on the phone): He's leaping! Ziggy said no, but Sam's leaping!
Al: He can't leap. We're not ready!
"We did it ... Did what?" Sam, first thoughts during his first leap
Peg: I look awful. Most women bloom when they get pregnant; I shrivel. Tom, I look like a prune!
Sam: My name's not Tom.
Peg: Honey, you're supposed to say, "Peg, I love prunes." What do you mean your name's not Tom?
Sam: As nightmares go, this one is taking a turn for the better.
Sam: Okay, it's not a dream. It's a nightmare. And if it's a nightmare, sooner or later ... there's gonna be a boogieman.
Sam: Given enough time, you can get used to anything. Even a nightmare. All you have to do is relax and trust those around you.
Al: That's a good one, Sam.
Sam: You know my name.
Al: I'm not that wasted.
Sam: Why do you know who I am when no one else does?
Sam: Ziggy. Little guy with bad breath.
Al: No, that's Gushie. He programmed Ziggy.
Sam: What's my last name?
Al: If you can't remember, I can't tell you.
Sam: Can't you just fade in or something?
Al: You tell me how to "fade in" agitated carbon quarks, and I'll make the scientific journals.
Sam: Just don't sneak up on me!
Dr. Berger: Now you're a doctor.
Sam (regaining his memory): Evidently.
"I'm in a real identity crisis here, Al." Sam, during his second leap
Sam: In other words, I could be bouncing around in time forever.
Al: No. Nobody lives forever.
Al: He isn't saying.
Al: He's depressed.
Sam: He's a computer!
Al: He's got a big ego.
Sam: Maybe this quantum leaping isn't such a bad deal after all.
Sam: The trouble with quantum leaping is that just about the time I start to enjoy being a hero, the Big Guy with the remote control switches channels on me.
"Great. Four of my least favorite clichés: headbands, bellbottoms, flower power and English Lit." Sam, upon finding himself to be a college professor in the early 1970s
Al: You're breaking your own insider trading rule.
Al: Quantum leap rule numero uno. The time traveler shall not take advantage of his position to improve or alter his life.
Sam: If I made the rule, I can rescind it. So ordered.
Al: Not without committee approval.
Sam (giving a jock advice about romance): Tell her how beautiful she is, how ... her perfume drives you crazy, how you can't get her eyes out of your mind.
Al: How could she know it was you when she doesn't meet you for twelve years?
Sam: We're star-crossed souls.
Al: Then uncross.
"You know those six doctorates that you hold? Not one of them is in psychiatry." Al, not impressed with one of Sam's ideas
Sister Angela (to Sam): That surprise punch in the last inning? It was inspired.
Trainer Guy: "The last inning." Real good.
Sam: I'm not too good.
Sister Angela: Don't be so modest, Cody. You won your last ten fights, all by a knockdown.
Al (about Sister Angela): Who does she remind you of?
Sam: Ingrid Bergman.
Al: No. You. You and me both, back in the old days, when we were trying to raise funding for the imaging chamber.
Al: Ziggy figures it's just an ... unscheduled stop.
Sam: Well, in case you and Ziggy haven't noticed, they're all unscheduled stops.
"Great. I'm on the take, wearing polyester clothes, and live above a bar in an apartment decorated like a gym. If I've got a roommate, he's probably got cauliflower ears." Sam, just before meeting his roommate - the topless dancer
Sam: What "unknown variables"?
Al: Well, if we knew the unknown, the unknown wouldn't be unknown.
Sister Angela: How did you ever get to be a prize fighter?
Sam: Just ... kinda fell into it.
Sam: You're not a tramp. You're a stripper. That's a profession.
Dixie: So's hooking.
Sister Angela: I thought ... that God sent me a champion. But He sent me a cheat.
Sister Angela: You're telling me that you're going to win tomorrow?
Sam: I'm damn well-- Excuse me. I'm gonna try.
Chance: It's all my fault. I raised you to run this place like a man and now you don't know how to be a woman.
Tess: That's just fine with me. I never did take to sashayin' and swoonin'.
"This is Texas, Son. We don't kid about our land, or women. Or our livestock." Chance, explaining things to Sam
"Couldn't you give 'em nametags?" Sam, looking heavenward after calling a guy he's supposed to know by the wrong name
Sam: Al, that raccoon can see you.
Al: Well, almost all animals can see me. But you know, there must be something weird-looking about me, because I seem to intimidate them.
Sam: Maybe it's your clothes.
"Bonanza was never like this." Sam, learning much about life on a ranch
Sam: Fetch me a pan, wouldja?
[Buddy goes to get one.]
Sam (to himself): "Fetch." I'm talkin' like them.
Sam: Thank you for trusting me.
Tess: I don't trust you, Doc. I trust me.
Sam: It's no sin bein' afraid.
Tess: It is in Texas.
"If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'." Teresa's catchphrase
Sam: Whatever I was here to improve, it wasn't Frankie's looks.
Teresa: Who could I have? Everybody in Brooklyn knows you'll hit any man over fourteen who says hello to me.
Don Geno: Why don't I believe you?
Teresa: Why start now? You didn't believe me when I said we were through, either.
Al: Just sing the song, we'll go somewhere private, and these people won't see you talkin' to yourself like a lunatic.
Al: Make a noise with your voice.
Sam: I can sing?
Al: Trust me.
Al: I'm sweatin' off pounds here I can't afford to lose.
[Sam gets Frankie's gun.]
Sam: What if I'm supposed to use this?
Al: Make sure you take the safety off.
"I had the sudden feeling that in sixty-five, men weren't having their hair styled by women. At least, not in South Brooklyn." Sam's thoughts as everyone in the salon looks at him when he enters.
"Maybe I'm here to start the unisex revolution." Sam, not even close to determining his goal for the leap
Al: My old man was Italian. From Abruzzi. Regular Hopalong Casadice.
Teresa: I didn't know you knew the stars.
Sam (after a brief pause): Neither did I.
Sam (thinking out loud about his current predicament): The trouble is, as soon as I put you two together, I'm out of here, and the old Geno is back, and you end up like Jimmy Hoffa.
Frankie (confused, but pleased): I'm in the Teamsters?
Sam: Stepping into someone else's shoes can be a lot of fun.
[He arrives at a leap.]
Sam: Now all I have to figure out is whose shoes I'm wearing and the path I'm walking.
"I don't want to spend the afternoon cleaning up blood, do I, Jesse?" Miss Patty, at the lunch counter
Sam: I didn't know exactly where I was, but it was obviously too far South to be a black man.
"Why do I get the feeling this isn't going to be a good day?" Sam's thoughts as he see the keys apparently locked in the car
Al: Well what?
Sam: What do you think?
Al: What do I think about what?
Sam: I'm black.
Al: You're black. So?
Sam: Dangerous? Why dangerous?
Al: You're a black man in the South in 1955. Trust me, that is dangerous.
Clayton: I swear, you got ears like a hawk.
Miss Melanie: I'm old, not dead.
Miss Melanie: Since when did you get a medical degree?
Sam: Well, I've... done some doctoring in my time.
Nell: You promised to cook chitlins for the church picnic.
Sam (thinking): I'd heard of chitlins, of course. Thought they were one of those rare Southern delicacies that taste as good as they sound? I never realized they were pig intestines. The smell was like something that had been kept around too long in autopsy class.
Sam: I sat at that counter because I was hungry, and everybody went nuts because they saw me as a black man instead of as a hungry man. Now, that's wrong!
Sam: You're gettin' a little paranoid.
Al: How do you think I've lived this long?
Sam: Is sex all you ever think about?
Al: Well, except when I'm pulling you out of the fire, yes.
Sheriff: They didn't mean to hurt her none...
Sam: Well, what did they mean to do, Sheriff?
"Sometimes I think they switched babies on me." Miss Melanie, about her jerky son
Sam: Once you've seen the light, you cannot go back into the darkness.
- Lessons Learned -
What can we learn from this TV series?
* People die.
* Sometimes underneath all the booze and anger is a pretty terrific person.
* It's never too late. Not if you want something bad enough.
* A terrifying prospect? The first alien contact on Earth and it's a lawyer.
* As Al would say, "Timing is everything."
* Old women get old because they're smart.
* Zippers were a brilliant invention.
* It's bad luck to kill someone before your wedding, except in Brooklyn.
* It may have four letters, but love is not a dirty word.
* Sayin' ain't doin'.
* Never track a psychotic killer without a bullet proof vest.
* On some people morals are the only thing that sag.
* Don't do anything that I wouldn't do, but if you do - take pictures.
* Sometimes you feel like a scientist in the middle of an experiment that no one else believes in.
* As for anyone who would disturb the tomb of King Ptah Hotep, death will swallow him.
* If someone sings like an angel, that doesn't mean she is one.
* When you're a triple A, superduper, overachiever type personality, you're not happy unless you're reinventing the wheel every 33 seconds.
* Springtime is wonderful. Sunsets are wonderful. Babies are wonderful.
* Nehru jackets are so sexy!
* Things are not always as they appear.
* When you're a kid, nobody listens to you.
* If I want to see violence, I'll watch the news.
* Honesty would be the best policy - for boy scouts, not bigamists.
* Between love and the noblest cause, there should be no contest.
* Love is life's only true satisfaction.
* Bunsen burners are the common denominator that make all science departments equal.
* Maybe all winning is is having the right person believe in you.
* Don't believe everything a bad guy tells you.
- Favorite Scenes -
Also known as "moments"
In the episode "Genesis," the scene of Sam "arriving" in his first leap really does a good job of showing how disorienting it would be to suddenly find yourself living someone else's life.
Also in "Genesis," after tragedy is averted the drunken Peg (long story) sings "que sera sera, whatever will be, will be." That's a clever choice of song. On one hand, you could argue that whatever will be doesn't have to be, since Sam changed what originally happened. Or you could say that now that Sam is in action, leaping around in time to right wrongs, what was truly supposed to be will finally be.
In "The Right Hand of God," Sam arrives at the home of the guy he's leapt into, and the guy's girlfriend tells him that she made his favorite for dinner. Of course, Sam has no idea what food that would be, but he tries to play along, thanking her and saying, "I really like my favorite. It's my fav-- It's one of my favorites."
In that same episode, Sam is at a bar. As boxer Kid Cody, Sam is trying to convince Cody's former trainer to train him again. Believing that Cody will take a dive in the fight, the trainer refuses. Sam insists that he won't take a dive, but the trainer dismisses that, saying, "It's the booze talking." With a comically stern look at the nasty drink he had just been served, Sam turns back to the trainer and says confidently that it isn't the booze.
In "How The Tess Was Won," Al talks of his own liaison, but in the same breath complains that he suspects his girlfriend of cheating on him. Sam asks, "Tina's cheating on you?" Not seeing the irony, Al sulks, "Can you believe it?" With sarcastically exaggerated sympathy, Sam continues, "Boggles the mind."
In "Double Identity," at the wedding, Don Geno talks with his bodyguard about Teresa cheating on him. The minute Geno says that he wants the cheating man "singin' soprano," Sam (who is the cheating guy) hits and holds a high note as he's on stage performing "Volare."
Also in "Double Identity," holding a razor to Sam's throat, Don Geno demands to know why Sam is getting a haircut from Don Geno's lovely ex-girlfriend. Unfortunately, Don Geno asks his questions in Italian, leaving Sam with no idea what he's saying. To reply in Italian, the nervous Sam decides to try a word from the song he'd sang earlier. "Volare," he says. Having just arrived, Al explains that Sam just told the don to fly away.
In "Nuclear Family," Sam leaps into south Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he finds the residents extremely concerned about the situation. Being from the future, Sam knows that everything turns out alright, but he can't seem to convince the others. Finally, while trying to console a little boy, Sam asks if the boy has ever worried about something that didn't happen. Of course, the boy has. Sam continues by suggesting that they pretend they're in the future, looking back at the missile scare and seeing that everything turned out fine. (Maybe we should all try this tactic when we're tempted to fret over something!)
In "A Portrait for Troian," Al is on a small pier, and Troian - who can't swim - is in the lake and needs help. "Center me on Sam!" Al barks in his communicator to headquarters. Having been threatened by Al earlier, the unseen Ziggy complies, taking Al out and popping him back in approximately ten feet away to where Sam comes running up.
Sam was telling a child a bedtime story about "Future Boy" and about "Al, Future Boy's best friend." At that part, Al - who was there but couldn't be seen by the child - said, "Best friend? Sam, I'm touched."
In "Stand Up," Sam was onstage trying to tell a joke as a stand-up comic. The scene opens with him telling the punchline to his attempt at humor: "It's sheep season." The audience doesn't react at all, so he tries to tell the punch line again. Again, no reaction from the audience. Scott does a great job of conveying the awkwardness of the situation.
In "Moments to Leap," Sam was a soap opera star who'd been taken hostage by a crazed fan. She had him chained to a bed; he'd just regained consciousness from being knocked out. She was casually trying to serve him tea. Tactfully trying to explain why it was wrong for her to keep him there he ventured, "Don't you think this is all a bit ... unusual?" She smiled and replied, "I like unusual." He muttered, "This is crazy." She flung the tea tray against the wall shrieking, "DON'T SAY THAT! DON'T YOU EVER SAY THAT!" He stared in horror, but the next instant she was calm again and went to go fix more tea.
- Afterthoughts -
* Trivia: In 2008, Quantum Leap was listed at #22 on SciFi's top 25 of the past 25 years.
* Trivia: During its run, the show won five Emmys.
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