Movie: Time travel is one of those subjects that has been done to death in various entertainment media. Be it books, television or movies, all too often, the subject is handled poorly, in a manner that shows no understanding of the human condition or quantum theory. Back in 1989, a television show changed all that, a show called Quantum Leap. The show centered on a man, Dr. Samuel Beckett, that was the project director of a science experiment in the near future dealing with time travel. He theorized that he could project himself into the past by virtue of a quantum accelerator, becoming unstuck in time (a concept made popular by famed author Kurt Vonnegut in his story, Slaughter House Five). By leaping into the body of a variety of people, he would be able to see events of the past through their eyes, and then return home. The project wasn't quite ready when he made the first leap and he ended up bouncing throughout time in a host of different bodies. The show's concept was that Sam was somehow controlled by an outside force in terms of where he ended up and if he fixed something in the life of his host (or those around him), he would jump to another body, starting the process over again. As the series progressed, the references to a higher being became more open and it all started with the mid-season replacement Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season of eight episodes. Here's a breakdown of the episodes by title, date of the leap, and the airdate of the episode:
Episode One: Genesis, Parts One & Two: September 13, 1956: (March 26, 1989):
This was the two-part episode that set the stage for the series. Dr. Samuel Beckett (Scott Bakula) entered the body of a test pilot by way of a quantum physics project in the future. His companion, Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), follows him by means of a neurological hologram, essentially joining him in spirit if not physical form. How does he get home? Who controls his leaps in time? As Sam lives the lives of those he "leaps" into, he must uncover whatever wrong path they took and set it right, all while being assisted by Al and his advanced computer, Ziggy.
Episode Two: Star Crossed: June 15, 1972: (March 31, 1989):
Sam leaps into the body of a college professor Casanova. He meets a gal from his own past (played by the gorgeous Teri Hatcher) while Ziggy tries to figure the odds about what he's supposed to do in this leap. Does it have to do with the professor or with his former fiancé, only time will tell.
Episode Three: The Right Hand Of God: October 24, 1974: (April 7, 1989):
Sam leaps into the body of a boxer trying to help some nuns build a chapel. The problem is that he runs across some gangsters that want him to take a dive, or else. This episode was notable for some of the more famous guest stars the series had as well as a few twists that set the stage for future leaps.
Episode Four: How The Tess Was Won: August 5, 1956: (April 14, 1989):
Sam's next customer was a Texas veterinarian that tries to impress a rancher's daughter. Like most shows based on romantic entanglements, Sam soon finds out that a direct route to the heart doesn't exist.
Episode Five: Double Identity: November 9, 1965: (April 21, 1989):
Sam ends up as a Wiseguy entangled in a situation that will likely get him killed over an amorous liaison with another mobster's woman. As Sam dodges bullets and attempts to keep from performing a hit of his own, Ziggy predicts his odds of survival as ever decreasing.
Episode Six: The Color Of Truth: August 8, 1955: (May 3, 1989):
In this send up of Driving Miss Daisy, Sam plays an old Black Chauffer in a Southern Alabama town during the Civil Rights movement. This was a quantum leap in terms of the show's subject matter becoming more mature (and the producer's willingness to tackle ever increasingly controversial subject matters). Will Sam be able to convince a woman that racism is wrong or will he fail at his mission, saving the life of his charge?
Episode Seven: Camikazi Kid: June 6, 1961: (May 10, 1989):
Sam leaps into a high school nerd that needs to save his sister from marrying an abusive man. The two commit to a highly dangerous drag race with an outcome that may, or may not, protect the one he loves.
Episode Eight: Play It Again, Seymour: April 14, 1953: (May 17, 1989):
Sam finds himself in the body of a private investigator modeled after Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade character. He believes his mission is to uncover the identity of the person that murdered his partner before he ends up in the morgue himself. As he races against time, he soon figures out that he might not be able to save his host from an early demise.
I liked the show a whole lot when it first aired. It showed a lot of originality and clever writing, rarely getting trapped into the pigeonhole that so many similar shows have fallen into over the years. There were a lot of great episodes that explored a great many themes over the life of the series, and some of the best episodes took place in season one (The Color Of Truth being one of my favorites). I would've liked an audio commentary on each episode by Bellasario, Stockwell or Bakula, but perhaps future season sets will address this shortcoming. I'm going to rate this one a Highly Recommended based as much on the content as the presentation on DVD. It wasn't perfect but it gives fans hope for future boxed sets and for as popular a show as this one, that says a lot.
Picture: The picture was presented in the originally filmed 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There was some grain in the episodes, some minor video noise, and even a bunch of print scratches but it looked pretty good compared to the reruns seen on cable television. The fleshtones were accurate and the transfer was pretty solid.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English as originally released for prime time television. There wasn't much dynamic range but the vocals and music were mixed well, with all of the original songs intact. I didn't hear any major problems with the audio but it wasn't great, even for a fifteen-year-old show. The box lists the audio as 2.0 mon English and while much of the show does sound like monaural, upon close examination with my headphones, I did hear some separation in the tracks (admittedly, not much though so I can't fault Universal too much). There were closed captions in English and optional French or Spanish subtitles as well.
Extras: The best extra was a short featurette A Kiss With History: Remembering Quantum Leap. It had recent interviews with Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, and Donald Bellasario that gave some insights into the show; lasting over twenty minutes. The other good extra was an optional commentary at the beginning of each episode by Scott Bakula as well as a short written synopsis of the episodes. Some of you will enjoy looking for the Easter eggs that contain footage of Bakula and Stockwell making comments to fans too (they were much easier to find using my computer than my home player). Lastly, I believe there was a paper insert that detailed the episodes and provided detailed information about the show but my copy did not have one included. The DVD case itself contained three DVD's in the fold out style casing, enclosed by a cardboard cover.
Final Thoughts: Rating television boxed sets is difficult to do under the best of circumstances; after all, if you're a fan of the show, you're going to enjoy it far more than a casual observer and if you don't like the show in question, all the extras or best DVD treatment in the world won't get you to like it. Quantum Leap: Season One was only a partial season but it introduced the world to some great characters (Sam and Al's exploits were always good for a laugh) and a scenario that allowed for a number of socially relevant issues to be intelligently handled. I expect future seasons to be even better; I'm just hoping to see more extras that fully utilize the DVD format to its fullest extent.