By Nicholas Yanes
A few months ago, the Quantum Leap revival was renewed for a second season. With fans waiting for the continuation of the reboot to return, it’s a perfect time to look at the original series — focusing on its top five episodes.
For those new to this franchise, the original Quantum Leap premiered on March 26, 1989, and ran until May 5, 1993. Following Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell as Rear Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci, the series went on for five seasons and 97 episodes.
Of course, nothing better summarizes Quantum Leap than its introduction:
Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top secret project, known as QUANTUM LEAP. Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Doctor Beckett, prematurely stepped into the Project Accelerator and vanished. He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was made through brainwave transmissions, with Al, the Project Observer, who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Doctor Beckett could see and hear. Trapped in the past, Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right, that once went wrong and hoping each time, that his next leap will be the leap home.
With that out of the way, here are Quantum Leap’s top five episodes, according to ratings from IMDB.
M.I.A. — April 1, 1969
IMDB Rating: 8.8
This episode begins with Beckett in drag and plays it as a joke, but ends with the audience in tears.
Leaping into the body of an undercover cop, Beckett is initially told by Al that his mission is to prevent a woman from meeting a new man while her husband is a P.O.W. in Vietnam. But Beckett soon realizes that Al is giving him bunk info to prevent Al's wife from getting remarried, and his real mission is to save the cop’s partner.
Beckett decides not to interfere in the life of Al’s wife. This deeply upsets Al, but he's given the chance to see his wife one last time.
If you want your heart broken, watch the scene below.
The Leap Back — June 15, 1945
IMDB Rating: 8.8
Interestingly, this is another Al-centric episode. The previous episode ended with a lightning bolt striking both Beckett and Al. Audiences learn in this episode that the strike has caused Al and Beckett to switch places.
Al is now the one who leapt back in time and Beckett finds himself in his own present: the futuristic Quantum Leap control center in the distant era of 1999.
Beckett is able to reconnect with his wife, and Al is in the body of a World War II ex-POW. In the end, they realize that Al was there to save a woman, as well as his host body, from being killed.
However, once Al gets knocked out, the only way to save him is for Beckett to leap back in time. This act saves Al’s life but it causes Beckett to become lost in time once again.
The Leap Home: Part 1 — November 25, 1969 & The Leap Home: Part 2 (Vietnam) –—April 7, 1970
IMDB Rating: 9.1 & 9.0
Quantum Leap’s third season is often seen as the best in the series, and much of that praise is because of its first two episodes.
Part 1 finds that Beckett has leapt home — to his childhood home, and he’s in his own 16-year-old body.
Beckett wants to use this time to encourage his father to eat healthier, keep his sister from getting into an abusive relationship, and prevent his brother from going to Vietnam.
None of Beckett’s efforts work and he just leaves his family feeling upset. As Al tells him, “You're not changing their future, Sam, all you're doing is making their present miserable.”
It turns out that Beckett is just there to help his high school basketball team win a game — clearly more important than helping his family...
Once the mission is accomplished, Beckett leaps away calling out for his brother and right into Part 2.
The second part of this story centers on Beckett in Vietnam … alongside his brother, Tom. Now part of Tom’s platoon, they are on a mission to save POWs. Sadly, they aren't able to accomplish the mission. As they avoid an ambush, Tom is able to live — but only because the POWs aren’t saved.
Watch the scene below:
Mirror Image — August 8, 1953
IMDB Rating: 9.1
Of course this would be the best-rated episode of Quantum Leap.
In the final episode of the original series, Beckett gets the chance to help save miners, talk to a person who might be God, and help prevent Al’s first wife from remarrying.
But more than that, this is the episode in which Sam realizes he is the one making himself leave. He decides to continue leaping — and a final caption reveals that Sam never returns home.
Nicholas Yanes examines the entertainment industry as an academic and corporate consultant. As a freelance writer he has contributed to CNBCPrime, Casual Connect, GameSauce, Sequart, MGM's Stargate Command, and ScifiPulse.