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‘Quantum Leap’ connects straight to original series canon in premiere for new NBC series
The series premiere of Quantum Leap picks up the action three decades later.
It’s been 30 years, but the Quantum Leap project is back online — but even after all that time it seems it’s still plenty haunted by the ghosts of the first experiment with Sam and Al all those decades ago.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for “July 13, 1985,” the series premiere for NBC’s new Quantum Leap series**
If you’ve ever seen the original Quantum Leap, which ran from 1989-1993, you know the basics: a scientist leaps through time setting right the wrongs of history and leaving the timeline better off than he found it. NBC’s revival of Quantum Leap picks up pretty much where the first series famously left off. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is still lost to the time stream after he “never returned home” following the original series finale, and this new Quantum Leap team has revived the project to try and figure out exactly what happened the first time around.
The new team is led by Herbert “Magic” Williams, as played by Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson, who brings all his sci-fi credibility to a character that connects back to the original series. If you’re a bit fuzzy on your Quantum Leap canon, Sam leaps into Magic in the classic original series episode "The Leap Home, Part II,” which found Sam dropping into the Vietnam War and serving alongside his older brother.
We meet our new leaper, Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee), at his engagement party to Addison Augustine (Caitlin Bassett), though he sneaks away early to use the Project Accelerator far ahead of any scheduled test, and is working with a mystery woman to make it happen. Sam walks in, the machine ramps up, and he opens his eyes in the body of a man in 1985 … sitting in a van where it turns out he’s a getaway driver for a heist, and doesn’t actually know how to drive stick. Oops.
Thankfully Addison shows up in hologram form after tracking him down, though Ben has lost his memory (the Swiss cheese effect on memories after a leap is well-documented on the original show), so he doesn’t remember his own fiancee, or why he leaped in the first place. She gives him a crash course, shows him how to drive stick, and Ben loses the cops and makes it out clean with his team. In classic Quantum Leap fashion, Ben has dropped into the era of the Walkman to help a man who has gotten in over his head with this heist. He’s trying to score enough money to help his family with a medical emergency and to save his shuttered restaurant. The only problem? He won’t make it out of the heist alive, as the history books show he doesn’t survive the night.
To get the point across, Addison pops up a hologram of Sam and gives Ben the short version of his mission and how his experiment went, grounding the show right smack in the canon of the original series. But that’s just the beginning of the connections... more on that later.
Back in the present day, the Quantum Leap team is scrambling to figure out what kind of mess Ben left behind with his unscheduled leap. To make it happen, he uploaded a ton of untested new code into the computer system, which the team is still trying to decipher and dissect. Ziggy, the supercomputer that helps pinpoint why the leaper is in a time period and what they need to fix, is also down — so they’re flying blind as they try to help Ben on his first leap. Thankfully, they get Ziggy back online, and they figure out Ben needs to save the life of the restaurant owner to set the timeline straight.
He could just call the cops and report the heist (they’re aiming to steal and replace the Hope diamond at a museum gala) to complete his mission, but that would land the poor guy in jail and leave his family abandoned. So Ben decides to stop the heist himself by donning a tux and hitting the gala, tossing a bomb into the sewer to save innocent bystanders, and pulling his new friend out in the process, which both saves his life and sets his life on a positive path to where he rescues his restaurant and his family.
Back in 2022, the Quantum Leap head of security makes a startling discovery: Ben wasn’t working alone, and his mystery partner in making this unapproved leap is none other than Janis, the daughter of Al Calavicci (the late Dean Stockwell), Sam’s original partner on the first Quantum Leap mission. Al held down the same role as Addison, helping Sam on his mission via hologram form. Magic informs us that Janis had wanted to join the Quantum Leap project, but was blocked by the Department of Defense because of her emotional ties to Sam and Al.
When Addison returns home, she finds a video message Ben left before his leap, telling her this secret is “bigger than anything [she] can imagine,” and he knows it’s confusing but it’s worth it. So why were Ben and Janis working together? What was so important that Ben had to leap now? That’s the big question.
Of course, this being Quantum Leap, the final scene shows us Ben’s second leap and sets up what’s to come next week. So where’d he land? On a space shuttle mission just as the engines fire up.
Sooooo Quantum Leap in space? Bring. It. On.
New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays on NBC and stream next-day on Peacock.