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The series premiere of NBC’s new Quantum Leap made its connections to the original 1990s series no secret, frequently name-dropping fan favorites Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) along the way.
So how does the show’s big kickoff mystery connect back to the original series? Turns out it really is all about Sam and Al.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers ahead for “July 13, 1985,” the series premiere for NBC’s new Quantum Leap series**
The entire adventure starts with Ben (Raymond Lee) taking an unauthorized leap long before the program has been approved for testing, with the project back underway following Sam’s first test leap 30 years before. We don’t learn why he made this leap, and he doesn’t seem to know either, thanks to the memory loss caused by the infamous Swiss cheese effect. What we do learn thanks to a message left behind by Ben for his fiancee Addison (Caitlin Bassett) is that the reason is incredibly important, and he’ll explain more when he can.
By episode’s end we learn Ben had been working with a mysterious figure to pull off his secret leap, which involved a massive code update to the Quantum Leap operating system the rest of the team is still trying to figure out. So who was his partner in crime? Janis, the daughter of Al Calavicci. She’s identified by a snippet of security footage that catches her father’s Navy ring on her finger, which they track back to a unit Al served in decades ago. Stockwell sadly passed away last year, and it seems Al has also died in the Quantum Leap continuity (the pilot itself is dedicated to his memory).
Sam and Al were the key stars of the original Quantum Leap series, with Sam leaping from person to person while Al provided support from the Imaging Chamber in hologram form. We don’t know much about Janis yet, though Quantum Leap project leader Herbert “Magic” Williams (Ernie Hudson) drops a bit of background. It seems Janis wanted to work in the revived Quantum Leap project, but was blocked by the DOD due to her emotional entanglement to the original mission (since, y’know, it featured her father and his best friend, who is still lost to time).
Judging by the set up, this seems to be the central mystery that’ll drive the series for at least a while. Considering the involvement of Al’s daughter, it stands to reason Ben’s rogue mission could have something to do with recovering Sam and completing Al’s mission of rescuing his friend. Or at least figuring out what went wrong and why Sam was never able to leap home (though the original series finale seemed to imply Sam could choose to leap home, but has made the decision to keep helping people across time instead).
Regardless, this twist makes it clear we’ll be going deeper into the missing years of Sam and Al between the old series and the new one, and we can’t wait to find out what we’ve missed and what was so important that Ben had no choice but to leap.
New episodes of Quantum Leap air Mondays on NBC and stream next-day on Peacock.