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If you're a fan of ambitious new TV shows based on genre classics you know and love, then the fading days of summer are turning out to be an especially sweet time to tune in. HBO is rekindling that Game of Thrones smolder with House of the Dragon, Amazon is tapping J.R.R. Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and even as we speak, NBC is putting the final touches on an all-new Imaging Chamber for the hugely hyped series launch of the freshly-revived Quantum Leap.
By the time Quantum Leap skips back to the airwaves with its Sept. 19 debut, all the above-mentioned awesomeness will have arrived in the span of just a single month — which is pretty mind-boggling, when you think about it. But before the excitement fades our brain, it’s probably a good idea to take a deep breath and break down just what we really do know about NBC’s new adventures in time travel.
Is it a reboot? A sequel? A prequel?
This one’s easy: NBC describes the new Quantum Leap as a “sequel series” that’s set 30 years after the original show. Expect a mix of new storylines, as well as a tug or two at threads that the original left dangling: “Fans of the original Quantum Leap are in for a few surprises, including the return of some original characters and the continuation of the most popular plot points,” the network teases.
What’s it about?
If you’re a fan of the original series, feel free to skip ahead: This section covers the basics of the old-school Quantum Leap — you know, the big-picture stuff about the show’s premise and setting that should still apply in its new 2022 incarnation.
Both the original Quantum Leap and NBC’s new series are sci-fi shows set in their respective present-day, real-world trappings. They’re based on the idea that technology’s just a little farther ahead than we think it is…especially if you’ve got the government’s super-secret science resources at your disposal.
In both series, the key hero is an accomplished physicist who “leaps” through spacetime into different eras from humanity’s past, courtesy of Project Quantum Leap — an insanely sophisticated (and expensive) R&D program tucked away in a remote, hush-hush lab. Scott Bakula played the now-iconic role of Dr. Sam Beckett in the original series as the hero who gets himself stuck in an unending sequence of time leaps. In the new show, the stranded-hero honors fall to new star Raymond Lee in the role of physicist Dr. Ben Song.
Time travel isn’t the only big twist, though: For one thing, the “leaper” in each series, well…they sort of, kind of go rogue to make their initial jump in the first place. That’s a polite way of saying that the government in no way, shape, or form gave them permission to take its fancy particle machine for a free spin, and losing a star scientist to the invisible ether of spacetime leaves the project’s suit-wearing overseers with plenty of stern questions (and probably a touch of high blood pressure).
For another thing, there’s no way to control (or even predict) where in humanity’s past Project Quantum Leap will spit our hero out, as original series scientist Dr. Sam Beckett learned the hard way in the show’s very first 1989 episode. If that’s not enough, our hero doesn’t even get to inhabit their own flesh and blood once they’ve made the jump: Instead, they emerge in the body of a completely different person native to the particular time and place where their latest leap has taken them.
Most importantly, there’s no known escape — at least, not one that Project Quantum Leap has the advanced technology to devise. Taking that first-episode time dive sets off an endless cycle of leap after leap, with the only real reprieve coming not by going “home” to the present — but to another place (and another body) where the entire process resets while our hero waits…you guessed it, for the next leap.
In order to even do that, they’ve got to identify and solve some kind of pivotal problem unique to their temporary human host — one that typically changes the course of that person’s life for the better. When that key quandary has finally been fixed, the mysteries of physics kick in and it’s off to another new time… and another new host.
Thankfully, Quantum Leap offers its stranded, time-drifting scientist one emotional lifeline that preserves their ties to the home they know and love. Thanks to a sweet piece of lab tech known as the Imaging Chamber, a human back in our own time is able to see and talk to the leaper via holographic image. In the original series, that honor went to Sam Beckett’s friend Al Calavicci (the late Dean Stockwell), a colorful character whom only Sam could see and hear (a twist that served up endless opportunities for cool plot twists and tons of comic relief). NBC’s new Quantum Leap similarly features a new holographic companion character…but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Who’s in it - and who’s making it?
Though the cast and characters are new, the upcoming Quantum Leap bears a lot of the same creative DNA that made the original such a 1990s sci-fi favorite. Original show creator Donald P. Bellisario is on board as an executive producer alongside Quantum Leap veteran Deborah Pratt, both of whom were producers on the earlier series (Pratt also voiced the old-school supercomputer Ziggy.)
Here’s a quick look at the show’s main characters, as well as the actors who’ll be playing them:
Raymond Lee as Dr. Ben Song — Raymond Lee (Kevin Can F**k Himself) takes center stage as the new series’ time-leaping scientist Dr. Ben Song, “a highly-intelligent quantum physicist who jumps through time to explore the mysteries of the original Quantum Leap experiment,” via NBC. “While Ben will have the help of the Quantum Leap team, it is up to Ben to finally put things in order after the chaotic events of the original experiment.”
Ernie Hudson as Herbert “Magic” Williams — Those poking, prodding government types we mentioned earlier? They’ll be represented in the person of Herbert “Magic” Williams, played in the new show by Ghostbusters alum Ernie Hudson. “Every science fiction story needs an authoritarian figurehead,” explains NBC, describing Magic as “the leader of the Quantum Leap project, torn between the responsibility of answering to his bosses in the Pentagon or taking care of the Quantum Leap team.” Old school fans might also remember the character from one of Sam's leaps during the original series.
Nanrisa Lee as Jenn Chou — Working closely alongside Magic will be Jenn Choi (Bosch and Star Trek: Picard alum Nanrisa Lee). Jenn is the head of digital security for the Quantum Leap project, and she’s “focused on discovering why Ben decided to leap” in the first place, according to the network…all in “the hope of eventually bringing Ben home.”
Mason Alexander Park as Ian Wright — As Ian Wright, Mason Alexander Park (The Sandman, Cowboy Bebop) isn’t just your typical research project egghead, but the computer whiz responsible for bringing Ziggy out of the 20th Century and into the present day. The project’s lead programmer, Ian rebuilds the originals show’s Pratt-voiced AI, a ‘bot “that provides crucial information about Ben's leaps through time,” NBC teases.
Caitlin Bassett as Addison Augustine — Last but definitely not least is the character who’ll serve as Dr. Song’s holographic pal — the same position held by Al (Dean Stockwell) in the original series. Addison Augustine (TV newcomer Caitlin Bassett) “is an ex-Army intelligence officer who has an important role in the Quantum Leap project,” NBC explains, showing up amid Ben’s travels as a hologram that only he can can see. Like Al before her, Addison will dish up “valuable insight into the past that Ben uses as a guide throughout his adventures.”
Rounding out the rest of the creative team, the new series is written and executive produced by Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, with Bellisario, Pratt, and Martin Gero (Stargate Atlantis, Blindspot) teaming up with Dean Georgaris (Life of Pi, The Meg) as executive producers. Gero will also reportedly serve as showrunner, via Deadline.
Do I need to know my Quantum Leap history first?
The short answer? No, but it always helps! This article outlines the show’s premise in strokes broad enough to get any viewer started, though the new Quantum Leap, like its predecessor, will have you oriented in no time — even if the dog happened to eat your TV-history homework. But if you really want to go into the new show fully prepared, hit up Peacock, where all five seasons of the original series are streaming ‘round the clock. Pressed for time? It’s okay to cheat! Here’s our handy crash-course lineup of the five most essential Quantum Leap episodes.
Where (and when) do I watch?
NBC is the place to be to catch all new Quantum Leap episodes as they air. The series premiere is set for 10 p.m. ET on Monday, Sept. 19 (immediately following The Voice), with new episodes arriving weekly through the fall season. If you miss one, there’s no need to get your feathers in a ruffle: Peacock has your back with day-after streaming on demand for every episode.