Quantum Leap

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For the event related to subatomic physics, see Atomic electron transition. For the sculpture, see The Quantum Leap.
Quantum Leap
Quantum Leap (TV series) titlecard.jpg
Genre Science fiction
Created by Donald P. Bellisario
Starring Scott Bakula
Dean Stockwell
Narrated by Deborah Pratt
Theme music composer Mike Post
Composer(s) Velton Ray Bunch
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 97 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Donald P. Bellisario
Deborah Pratt
Harker Wade
Location(s) California, USA
Running time 45 minutes
Production company(s) Belisarius Productions
Universal Television
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
Original network NBC
Original release March 26, 1989 (1989-03-26) – May 5, 1993 (1993-05-05)
External links
Website (NBC)

Quantum Leap is an American science fiction television series that originally aired on NBC for five seasons, from March 1989 through May 1993. Created by Donald P. Bellisario, it starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who leaps through spacetime during an experiment in time travel, by temporarily taking the place of other people in order to correct historical mistakes. Dean Stockwell co-stars as Admiral Al Calavicci, Sam's womanizing, cigar-smoking companion and best friend, who appears to him as a hologram.

The series features a mix of humor, drama, romance, social commentary, and science fiction, and was named one of TV Guide's "Top Cult Shows Ever."[1]


The first episode introduces Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), a scientist working on an experiment called "Project Quantum Leap" in a concealed laboratory in the southwestern desert of the United States, near the end of the 20th century. Beckett, with his team, theorize that time travel is possible within the traveler's own lifespan. With no successful results thus far, Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), Sam's long-time friend and senior officer on the program, is told by the government that they are looking to shut down the project's funding. Sam refuses to allow this, and before he can be stopped, enters the Quantum Leap Accelerator and leaps through spacetime.[2]

When Sam recovers from his "leap", he finds his memories to be incomplete, particularly about himself and the project; Al would later refer to this as his "Swiss-cheesed memory"; while Sam appears to others (with the exception of animals, young children, and "abnormal" people) and himself in a mirror as another person (which in the first episode, when he finds himself in the past as a supersonic-jet test-pilot, Sam initially attributes to his partial amnesia). Al eventually finds Sam in the past and makes contact with him, appearing as a hologram[3][4] tuned to Sam's brainwaves, so only Sam (as well as animals, young children, and "abnormal" people) can see and hear him. Throughout the series, Al reveals the current situation to Sam, explaining how he can correct something that is wrong in order for him to leap again, with the help of the project's artificial intelligence "parallel hybrid computer with an ego", named Ziggy (voiced by Deborah Pratt), who can access significant historical data through government networks. Guided by Al with Ziggy's knowledge, as well as Al's own experiences and Sam's high intelligence, Sam continually changes history for the better. As he does so, he finds himself leaping again, ending up assuming the identity of another person at a different point in spacetime. Later in the first episode, Al tells Sam that while they had tried to bring him back home during this leap, they were unable to do so, leaving Sam leaping (seemingly randomly) until the project's team can figure out how to do it.[5]

In contrast to other science fiction premises, which often stress protecting the timeline at all costs, the concept of time paradoxes is seldom mentioned in Quantum Leap with Sam shown to be deliberately changing the course of time in order to "set right what once went wrong"[6] Even so, there do appear to be some rules and limitations as to what Sam may change in the past. In the first season episode "Star Crossed", a set of "time travel rules" is mentioned, specifically that Project Quantum Leap could not be used for financial gain nor could the project be a means to influence the personal destiny of Sam or other project members. The Season 3 episode "The Leap Home" - which portrays Sam as leaping into himself at a young age - demonstrates that when Sam attempts to change his own destiny by telling his family about the future, the effort backfires causing only emotional distress in his family with the future remaining unchanged. Part II of the episode indicates that time has a means to "balance itself", specifically that when Sam saves the life of his brother who was meant to die in Vietnam, a combat journalist is killed instead. In the episode "A Leap for Lisa", Sam does drastically change the future leading to the death of Al - yet Project Quantum Leap continues, with a new guide, "Edward St. John V" (played by Roddy McDowall) taking Al's place.

Sam in one of his leaps where he solves a young woman's murder.

Subsequent episodes generally follow the course of such leaps; after initially struggling with the displacement (often concluding with saying "Oh, boy!" once he becomes aware of the situation), Sam learns from Al what originally transpired in the timeframe of the person he leaped into, as well as what change for the better is most likely going to allow him to leap again by Ziggy's predictions (which are sometimes proven to be incorrect). Al helps Sam not only with historical knowledge, but also by monitoring events that Sam cannot see himself. The series depicted Sam as only leaping into English speaking persons (except for once when Sam leaps into a chimpanzee), and in only rare exceptions does he ever leap outside of the United States. Sam is also never shown failing to put right the wrong in a leap mission. In earlier episodes the series implied that Sam could not leap out of a time unless he succeeded, yet in the episode "Catch a Falling Star", Al clearly tells Sam that success does not determine whether or not he leaps.

Over the course of the series, the nature of the leaping process becomes clearer, in that the person who Sam leaps into is brought to the future at Project Quantum Leap's "Waiting Room", where the replaced person appears to everyone as Sam (in one episode, one such person who is a killer, escapes the Waiting Room, preventing Sam from leaping again until the criminal is returned without incident). In the past that he leaps into, Sam keeps his own body, while also keeping the appearance of the original person he leaped into, and thus being able to do things that the other person may normally not be able to do (in one case, while leaping into a legless Vietnam veteran, Sam is able to walk around, though appearing to observers to be floating). Conversely, Sam's mind can also be influenced by the person he leaps into; a few times, Sam leaps into a mentally challenged person, and exhibits such signs himself; while in another case, he assumes the identity of a pregnant woman, and (despite Al's protests that it shouldn't be possible because he has a man's body) Sam feels the pains of late pregnancy until he leaps out of her; in another episode, when Sam leaps into the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, he is overwhelmed with Oswald's intent to assassinate President Kennedy, and is compelled to attempt the act himself (Oswald leaps back into his own life the moment before this act occurs); while another time, Sam acquires the replaced person's repressed traumatic memory of witnessing his mother's autopsy as a child.

Because of the time travel aspect, many episodes allude to famous people or incidents indirectly, such as Sam suggesting to young Donald Trump that New York real estate would be valuable in the future, suggesting the lyrics of "Peggy Sue" to a teenaged Buddy Holly, showing young Michael Jackson his signature moonwalk dance for the first time, giving Dr. Henry Heimlich the idea for his namesake maneuver by saving him from choking,[4] and setting in place actions that lead to the discovery of the Watergate scandal. Two notable episodes place Sam directly at the center of significant historical events; in "Goodbye Norma Jean", Sam appears as Marilyn Monroe's bodyguard, who once saves her life and convinces Marilyn to remain alive for her starring role in The Misfits; while in "Lee Harvey Oswald" episode, Sam struggles with retaining his identity and control after leaping into Oswald, and while being unable to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Sam is still able to save the life of JFK's wife, Jackie Kennedy (who was also killed in the original fictional-timeline). Other episodes explore the past of the main characters, like Sam saving his brother from being killed in the Vietnam War, and saving Al's marriage to Beth.

The reasons for the specific destinations of each of Sam's leaps remain unknown to the Project Quantum Leap's team, who often attribute them to God or fate, but generally to "put right what once went wrong" (as per the narration of the opening theme). Most times, Sam leaps within the time of his own lifespan, with a few leaps ranging from times before he was born, to other leaps into times just a few years before the start of his leaps in 1995.[N 1] In a trilogy of fifth season episodes, Sam meets "the evil leaper", who is another time-traveler named Alia (Renée Coleman) who is forced to leap through time into different people in order to counter Sam's own efforts, by trying to turn good things bad; Sam later convinces Alia of the goodness of humankind, and thus enables her to set herself free. In the final episode, "Mirror Image", Sam leaps through spacetime as himself (without replacing another person), arriving at the exact time of his birth, where he meets a mysterious barkeep (Bruce McGill, who also appeared in the first episode in a different role), who assures him that Sam himself controls the very nature and destinations of his leaps by his own choice ("to make the world a better place"), and that Sam is always able to return home at any time he truly wants to. In the final episode's epilogue, Sam is shown to leap back again to visit Al's wife Beth as himself again, assuring her that her husband (who was a prisoner of war at the time) will return home to her; this results in Al and Beth remaining happily married in the future,[4] while Sam, instead of ever returning home, continues leaping.

Cast and characters[edit]

Dean Stockwell (left) and Scott Bakula (right), as Al Calavicci and Sam Beckett.

In each episode, a different cast of guest characters appears, mostly the ones that Sam replaces with his leaps. Several other additional characters are referred to regularly throughout the series, but are mostly unseen.

Development and production[edit]

The main premise for Quantum Leap was inspired by such movies as Heaven Can Wait, and Here Comes Mr. Jordan.[citation needed] Series creator Donald P. Bellisario[4][7] saw its concept as a way of developing an original anthology series, as anthologies were unpopular with the networks.[4]

The series ran on NBC[8] for five seasons, from March 1989 through May 1993.


The theme for the series was written by Mike Post.[4] It was later re-arranged for the fifth season, except for the series finale episode, which featured the original theme music. Scores for the episodes were composed by Post and Velton Ray Bunch.

A soundtrack album was first released in 1993, titled "Music from the Television Series Quantum Leap", dedicated to John Anderson, who played Pat Knight in "The Last Gunfighter." It was released by GNP Crescendo on CD and cassette tape.

No. Track[9] Composer(s) Length Episode
1 Prologue (Saga Sell) Mike Post, Velton Ray Bunch
Deborah Pratt (voice over)
2 Quantum Leap (Main Title) Mike Post 1:15
3 Somewhere in the Night Scott Bakula 3:32 Piano Man
4 Suite from the Leap Home Velton Ray Bunch 3:37 The Leap Home, part 1
5 Imagine Scott Bakula 3:05 The Leap Home, Part 1
6 Sam's Prayer Velton Ray Bunch 1:52 A Single Drop of Rain
7 Blue Moon of Kentucky Scott Bakula 1:41 Memphis Melody
8 Baby, Let's Play House Scott Bakula 2:13 Memphis Melody
9 Shoot Out Velton Ray Bunch 3:03 The Last Gunfighter
10 Medley from Man of La Mancha Scott Bakula 6:18 Catch a Falling Star
11 Bite Me Velton Ray Bunch 3:29 Blood Moon
12 Alphabet Rap Dean Stockwell 2:05 Shock Theater
13 Suite from "Lee Harvey Oswald" Velton Ray Bunch 14:55 Leaping on a String
14 Fate's Wide Wheel Scott Bakula 3:05 Glitter Rock
15 A Conversation with Scott Bakula Scott Bakula (interview) 12:02
16 Quantum Leap (Prologue and Main Title Reprise) Mike Post, Velton Ray Bunch 2:20

Planned continuation[edit]

In July 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel announced its development of a two-hour television film based on Quantum Leap, which it was airing in reruns at the time, that would have served as a backdoor pilot for a possible new series. The series' creator Donald P. Bellisario was announced as the film's executive producer.[10]

During the TV Guide panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International, Scott Bakula said that the series' creator Donald Bellisario was working on a script for a projected Quantum Leap feature film.[11]


Broadcast history[edit]

The Quantum Leap series was initially moved from Friday nights to Wednesdays. It was later moved twice away from Wednesdays to Fridays in late 1990, and to Tuesdays in late 1992. The series finale aired in its Wednesday slot in May 1993.[4]

The most frequent time-slot for the series is indicated by italics:

  • Sunday at 9:00–11:00 PM on NBC: March 26, 1989
  • Friday at 9:00–10:00 PM on NBC: March 31, 1989 – April 21, 1989
  • Wednesday at 10:00–11:00 PM on NBC: May 3—17, 1989; September 20, 1989 – May 9, 1990; March 6, 1991 – May 20, 1992
  • Friday at 8:00–9:00 PM on NBC: September 28, 1990 – January 4, 1991
  • Tuesday at 8:00–9:00 PM on NBC: September 22, 1992 – April 20, 1993
  • Wednesday at 9:00–10:00 PM on NBC: May 4, 1993

Home media[edit]

In the 1990s, some episodes were released on VHS. In the United States, these included "Genesis" (two-part pilot episode), "Camikazi Kid", "The Color of Truth", "What Price Gloria?", "Catch a Falling Star", "Jimmy", "The Leap Home" (two-part episode), "Dreams", and "Shock Theater." In the United Kingdom, the episodes were mostly released in pairs, selling as "Genesis" (two-part pilot episode - on its own), "The Color of Truth" and "Camikazi Kid"; "The Americanization of Machiko" and "What Price Gloria?"; "Catch a Falling Star" and "Jimmy"; "The Leap Home" (two-part episode); "Dreams" and "Shock Theater."[citation needed]

Universal Studios chose not to obtain the necessary music licensing for all of the music for use in the "Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season" Region 1 DVD; subsequent releases featured music replacements, with Universal's inclusion of a disclaimer on the package indicating as such (this disclaimer also began to appear on other releases of various other Universal series).[citation needed] As of at least 2015, the series streams on Netflix and on Amazon.com.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the entire, digitally remastered, Quantum Leap series on DVD:[12][13]

Season - DVD name Episodes DVD release date
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Season 1 - The Complete First Season 9 June 8, 2004 November 8, 2004 May 2, 2005
Season 2 - The Complete Second Season 22 December 14, 2004 October 31, 2005 February 7, 2006
Season 3 - The Complete Third Season 22 May 10, 2005 December 12, 2005 June 7, 2006
Season 4 - The Complete Fourth Season 22 March 28, 2006 June 26, 2006 November 2006
Season 5 - The Complete Fifth Season 22 November 14, 2006 December 26, 2006 February 21, 2007
Seasons 1–5 - The Complete Series
(The Complete Collection)
97 November 4, 2014[12] October 8, 2007[13] N/A


Despite its struggling start with poor broadcast timings,[4] the series had gained a large 18–49 demographics of viewers.[citation needed] In 2004 and 2007, Quantum Leap was ranked #15 and #19 on TV Guide's "Top Cult Shows Ever."[1]


Along with 43 nominations, Quantum Leap received 17 awards (listed below).[14][15]

Year Award Category Winner(s) Episode
1989 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Cinematography for a Series Roy H. Wagner Genesis, Part 1
Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series Virginia Kearns Double Identity
1990 Quality TV Award Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Scott Bakula
Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series,
Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV
Dean Stockwell
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Cinematography for a Series Michael W. Watkins Pool Hall Blues
1991 Quality TV Award Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Scott Bakula
Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series Dean Stockwell
Edgar Award Best Television Episode Paul Brown Good Night, Dear Heart
DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series' - Night Michael Zinberg The Leap Home, Part 2 - Vietnam
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series Gerald Quist
Michael Mills
Jeremy Swan
The Leap Home, Part 1
Outstanding Cinematography for a Series Michael W. Watkins The Leap Home, Part 2 - Vietnam
1992 Quality TV Award Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Scott Bakula
Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Drama Scott Bakula
1993 Quality TV Award Best Actor in a Quality Drama Series Scott Bakula
Young Artist Award Best Young Actress Guest-Starring in a Television Series Kimberly Cullum
ACE Award Best Edited One Hour Series for Television Jon Koslowsky A Song for the Soul
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Series,
Single Camera Production
Jon Koslowsky Lee Harvey Oswald

Other media[edit]




Innovation Publishing produced a series of comic books which ran for thirteen issues from September 1991 through August 1993. As with the television series, each issue ended with a teaser preview of the following issue and Sam's exclamation of "Oh, boy." Among the people Sam found himself leaping into in this series were:[16]

Cover of the Quantum Leap comics, issue 10.
Issue Title Person Date
1 "First There Was a Mountain, Then There Was No Mountain, Then There Was" High school teacher named Karen Connors in Memphis, Tennessee. March 25, 1968
2 "Freedom of the Press" Death row inmate named Willie Jackson, who must prevent a murder on the outside. June 11, 1962
3A "He Knows If You've Been Bad or Good..." Part-time Santa Claus, who goes by the name of Nick. December 20, 1963
3B "The Infinite Corridor" Student at MIT named Matt Randall, who is researching quantum physics. April 2, 1968
4 "The 50,000 Quest" Contestant amid the quiz show scandals. August 15, 1958
5 "Seeing is Believing" Newspaper reporter/columnist, who responds to a girl seeing a UFO. November 14, 1957
6 "A Tale of Two Cindys" Teenage girl with an identical twin sister. February 12, 1959
7A "Lives on the Fringe" Professional golfer with mafia after him. 1974
7B "Sarah's Got a Gun" Bus driver, who discovers child abuse. May 19, 1953
8 "Getaway" Bank robber, while the leapee tours the Project with Al. 1958
9 "Up Against a Stonewall" Sequel to "Good Night, Dear Heart." Stephanie Heywood is released from prison after serving twelve years for manslaughter. June 22, 1969
10 "Too Funny For Words" Stand-up comedian, who befriends a fading silent movie star. June 13, 1966
11 "For the Good of the Nation" Doctor studying the effects of LSD on human subjects. July 1958
12 "Waiting" Gas station attendant with a lot of time on his hands. April 24, 1958
13 "One Giant Leap" An extraterrestrial aboard an orbiting spaceship. June 5, 1963

Few of the comic stories referenced episodes of the television series, with the exception of the ninth issue, "Up Against a Stonewall."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "TV Guide Names the Top Cult Shows Ever". TV Guide. June 29, 2007. 
  2. ^ "Quantum Leap - Intro Opening Theme". YouTube. Retrieved March 14, 2010. 
  3. ^ Cerone, Daniel (July 15, 1990). "'Quantum Leap' is Scott Bakula's Idea of an Actor's Dream". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Jenkins, Shelley (April 28, 2008). "Donald P. Bellisario Interview". Archive of American Television. Published in the article on April 12, 2012.
  5. ^ Connor, John J. (March 30, 1989). "Review/Television; Comeback for Wimps in New Series". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Chunovic, Louis, The Complete Quantum Leap Book, Citadel Press (1995)
  7. ^ O'Connor, John J. (November 22, 1989). "Review/Television; An Actor's 'Quantum Leap' Through Times and Roles". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Carter, Bill (October 1, 1991). "NBC Defends Move on 'Quantum Leap'". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "Quantum Leap - Soundtrack". Amazon.com. November 19, 1993. 
  10. ^ "New Leap, Tremors On Sci-Fi". Syfy. July 9, 2002. Archived from the original on July 9, 2006. 
  11. ^ Holbrook, Damian (July 23, 2010). "Comic-Con: Is Quantum Leaping to the Megaplex?". TV Guide. 
  12. ^ a b "Quantum Leap: The Complete Series (Region 1)". Amazon.com. November 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "Quantum Leap - The Complete Collection (Region 2)". Amazon.com. October 8, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Quantum Leap - Awards". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ "Quantum Leap, Awards". IMDb. Based on the original citation. NBC.
  16. ^ Zeman, Phil (January 19, 1995). "Quantum Leap Comic Guide". 


  1. ^ The closest Sam ever leaps to his own time is September 16, 1987, visited in the Season 5 episode "Revenge of the Evil Leaper" which is set eight years before Sam started leaping. The episode was aired in February 1993, which in the "real world" is only two years before Sam's home time as depicted in the series.

External links[edit]