Quantum Leap Survives Judgement Day

So many Leapers. So many holograms. So many story threads to tie up.

And this, according to the brains at the Project, including Janis Calavicci who helped Ben program the leap sequence that started in the very first episode, is Ben’s final leap.

Of course, what they don’t know…

When the revival first launched, it was announced that the project had been revived to bring back Sam. The original script that Lillian and Wynbrandt wrote for the pilot episode even had a cameo from Scott Bakula baked in – he had leaped into someone at the project in 2022 – and presumably, their intent was for the original leaper to start the sequence that would bring him home.

Which, honestly, is all most of the fans of the OG show wanted – Sam to come home. It’s what the team said they wanted too, Magic most of all.

That’s not what we got.

And thank God, the universe or time itself. Cause the new Quantum Leap isn’t just different – in many ways, it’s better.

Laying the Blame

Don Bellissario, the co-creator of Quantum Leap, along with JAG, NCIS & Magnum, PI, isn’t vocal on social media, nor has he appeared in any interviews or joined the team at last weekend’s WonderCon. So I can’t speak for him. There are rumors he’s in the writer’s room. We know his ex-wife and co-creator of the original show, Deborah Pratt (also the voice of Ziggy) is on set more often than not. She even directed the episode “Family Style.”

But how much influence Don has – I’m not sure. So with that caveat, I’m going to give credit to showrunner Martin Gero and EP Dean Georgaris for coming up with a way to make a show that respected and reflected the values and touchstones of the old Quantum Leap, while transforming it for the modern day audience who expects a deeper narrative throughline.

AND they managed to lay the groundwork while we were enjoying the episodic leap of the week’s, stretching out the storytelling to perfectly dovetail in the first season. What will season 2 hold? We’ll discuss that in a few. But despite all of my and other fan’s complaints, the first 18 episodes of Quantum Leap tell a complete and complicated story that could just as easily live on Netflix as NBC & Peacock.

Back to the Future

Warning: the following contains spoilers for Quantum Leap season 1 and the episode Judgement Day

Moments in every episode, seen as apparently random or possibly even betraying the core values of the original Quantum Leap, are clear now as essential, hidden exposition for the endgame. All of the rules we thought they’d broken, all the complaints about leaning too much into season 5 storytelling – we were wrong. They knew what they were doing all along.

The first payoff we got at the end of last episode – Ben leaps 30+ years into his own future – to meet Ian, the last survivor of the Quantum Leap Project. It’s dystopian, the accelerator is destroyed; Ian comments that they had a gargantuan effort just to find a body for Ben to leap into. And it’s only temporary. Because it’s impossible in the rules of the show (or is it? I’m pretty sure Sam asked the bartender if he might someday leap into the future too, as leaps got harder) the accelerator that still exists in our time keeps trying to pull Ben back.

Ian gives Ben a complicated formula that he memorizes – itself a cheat code, what with the whole swiss cheese memory thing that we’ll be reminded of later in this episode – and Ben is off to 2018. He leaps into himself, at the Project. Ian’s final words are for Ben to tell past Ian that we need each other – a nod to the speech Ben made in the pilot at his engagement party, although the characters don’t seem to realize this at first.

Before the Beginning

In 2018, Ben is about to go on his first date with Addison. He promised Janis that he would not change a single thing about the day, except to save Addison from the threat of Leaper X/Martinez. Which is why he leaped in the first place.

Of course, that was before he forgot about her and the reason for his leap, fell in love with her again, in a truly classic long distance relationship, and became the Ben we know now. Confident, emotive – remember, one of the things Ben has been putting right is his own social anxiety and emotional shielding. In 2018, he even asked Ziggy the odds before he asked Addison out. Leaper Ben is not the same man – as he proves in a spectacularly physical way at the end of the episode.

If you watched WandaVision or are familiar with Plutarch’s philosophy – Leaper Ben has undergone a quantum mechanical Ship of Theseus. Inhabiting others bodies and working to assist them in reconciling relationships and bridging emotional divides has replaced the 2018 – and 2022 Ben with a new, better Ben.

So what happens? Less than 10 minutes into the date – with 2023 Addison looking over his shoulder and correcting him, Ben does exactly what he promised not to do. He tells 2018 Addison that he’s a time traveler from the future, sent to save her from another future assassin. And as she rightly points out, (hence the episode title), it’s the plot to The Terminator.

Leapee Times Two

Of course, she thinks he’s crazy. Especially when Martinez shows up – having leaped into Magic. And given how the old series addressed the evil leapers, it probably wasn’t the gentle nudge/knock he got when Sam leaped in.

Meanwhile, Ian is going over the code – Ben wrote it into a journal in 2018 so Addison could scan it with the handlink. Now, while Ben is locked away, 2018 Ian checks the security footage and also grabs the journal, likening the complicated enigma to a video game cheat code. 2023 Ian, watching 2018 Ian slaps themselves in the head (proverbially) – why didn’t they think of that? Pretty sure far future Ian knew that their two past selves would accidentally work together to figure it out.

Meanwhile, 2023 Magic enters the imaging chamber, guiding Ben in providing his own cheat code, and how to get the means of transmission. The code, ‘Turtle Time,’ is both a reference to Real Housewives – which Addison and Jenn watched together after Ben leaped – and Jenn’s secret “I’ve been replaced by a time traveler” safe word.  I mean, it makes sense.

With the 2018 team on his side, Ben is set free from the Hannibal Lecter-esque cell, and goes to stop Martinez. By this time, Addison has also deduced that Magic isn’t himself – leading to a showdown. Martinez is attempting to blow up the 2023 accelerator – insisting to Ben that he believes too much in the machine. Really, Ben believes in the force behind the machine, but that would be splitting hairs with Martinez.

I Melt With You

In a moment of desperation, Ben and Martinez end up in the quantum accelerator as it spins up – in 2018 – and find themselves co-leaping (another nod to the OG Evil Leapers storyline) into the different timelines where they encountered each other – like the machine is trying to reboot itself.

By now, Ian has figured out that the cipher from the future is a way to reset the leap – throwing Ben back to the beginning of his last full leap for a “do-over,” similar to what happened in “Leap, Die Repeat.” But if Martinez is still in the mix, he’ll likely reset too. It’s worth taking the chance. Only one problem…

Ian realizes they needs to engage the code simultaneously in two accelerators – or rather one accelerator in two times.

The Law of Quantum Entanglement

They’re worried. Until they realize the key that their future self gave them – we need each other – also a damn good theme for this season.

Because of quantum entanglement. Remember that?

“Some people assume that because I’m a physicist, I can’t be romantic. What they don’t realize is science is romance… Take the law of entanglement. Once two particles experience a shared state, they’re no longer separate entities. They exist as one, even when separated by great distances.”

Ian is Ian is Ian. Even taking into account the Ship of Theseus, on a quantum level, Ian from 2018, 2023, and 2056 all share a quantum connection. 2023 Ian decides to take it on faith, and executes the code – simultaneously with 2018 Ian.

And it pays off, in no small part thanks to Frankie, our friend in Salvation. Moments before the reset, Ben and Martinez are struggling for the gun, which Ben will likely not use anyway. Martinez gets the upper hand and – BOOM. Frankie shoots him to save her friend Diego de la Cruz.

Martinez falls off a roof, dead. And Ben leaps.

Ben is back in 2018. 2023 Addison looks at him and asks him who he is. After a tension filled, drawn out moment, she breaks – it was a joke. After Ben scolds her, he asks permission to make right what once went wrong.  She agrees and he goes – not to a first date, but sweeps Addison off her feet and plants a kiss on her – what he and we have been waiting months to do/see. And leaps.

The team gathers, looking into the quantum accelerator, waiting expectantly. After all, this was the last leap of the sequence. It’s time for Ben to come home. And the credits roll.

The Future’s Not Written

Okay, in truth, the Quantum Leap writers’ room is probably already deep into episodes for season 2, thanks to their early renewal by NBC. The possibilities are endless – sort of. Sure, they could bring Ben back and we have a season of Addison leaping. And maybe they will.

My bet is that, like Sam, ‘God or the Universe or Time Itself' handpicked Ben. We are not as in control of our fate as we’d like to think – and that, I’m guessing, will be a theme of season 2. It wasn’t that Ben chose to leap because Ian leaped to tell him to stop Addison from leaping. As much as Ziggy was the “mole” in the future, the AI, along with the grand designer, sees and knows more than we do.

Ben might have leaped to save Addison. The plan may have been for Addison to leap to try and retrieve Sam. But there’s much more to put right what once went wrong – and a much wider canvas to paint with now.

At WonderCon, Deborah Pratt and Dean Georgaris made a point of saying that the Quantum Leap shows exist in tandem. One doesn’t have to be just like the other. They can and do exist in the same world, as different variations on a theme – there could be many Quantum Leaps, like there are many Star Treks.

But then there’s that pesky law of quantum entanglement, and the force that created it. As a man of faith, I choose to call that force YHVH – God. You don’t have to believe that or anything. We will get a second season of Quantum Leap (and many more associated productions in the future, if Pratt has her way), and I agree with her – this world needs Quantum Leap.

All episodes of Quantum Leap will be available to stream on Peacock tomorrow morning.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Editor in Chief at Wealth of Geeks | + posts

Paul Rose Jr is the Editor in Chief of Wealth of Geeks & manages the Associated Press program for The Insiders network. He has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for InfuzeMag and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing or editing on Wealth of Geeks, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.