Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season
Rated: Not Rated
Episodes Length: 7 Hours and 8 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Audio: English – Dolby Surround
June 8th, 2004
Don Bellisario’s Quantum Leap, which debuted in 1989, was a creative series centered around a top-secret time travel project that went awry when it was about to be shut down due to a lack of funding. Interestingly, the two main participants, Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Rear Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) were very different, in terms of personality, with Sam being a somewhat intellectual and conservative guy, and Al being a cigar-chomping, flashy-dressing connoisseur of the female form. Whatever…both characters were played with great enthusiasm by Bakula and Stockwell, and the pairing really worked.
With regard to the project, all that we are told is that it would allow Sam Beckett to successfully travel through time within his own lifetime. As mentioned, funding was about to be pulled from the project, so Sam decided to “leap” before the accelerator was ready. Fortunately, Sam not only survived, but he successfully traveled through time. However, he also unexpectedly ended up briefly taking over the lives of others, for mysterious and unexplained reasons. To be more specific, when Sam leaps, he actually physically replaces the person he leaps into, although to people around him he appears as they did (Sam can also see who he has leaped into by looking into a mirror).
While Sam assumes control of these individuals’ lives, he must “put things right that once went wrong” in order to leap again, each time hoping he will find himself back where he belongs. Sam is not alone in his efforts to discern what it is he must do to move on, as he has the help of Al, who appears to him as a hologram. With Al’s aid, Sam does the best he can to make things right before those he has replaced return to their own lives.
The following is a brief description of the episodes that comprised the inaugural season of Quantum Leap:
--- “Genesis Parts 1 & 2” – Air Date 3/26/1989
Although the Project Quantum Leap is not ready for final testing, Sam hops into the accelerator and leaps anyway. As mentioned above, in traveling through time, Sam gets more than he bargained for when he ends up inhabiting the bodies of others, not to mention the fact that his memory is not what it used to be!
The first “host” (in the year 1956) is Tom Stratton, an Air Force test pilot and family man. As Sam acclimates himself to Stratton’s life, he believes he may be able to leap if he helps him take the X-2 aircraft to Mach 3. Instead, Sam leaps when he performs a heroic act, but finds himself in another person’s life, and not home. Specifically, Sam has assumed control of Fox, a minor league baseball player, who must make a game-winning play in order for Sam to continue his journey.
--- “Star Crossed” – Air Date 3/31/1989
As Dr. Gerald Bryant, a literature professor at the Ohio college attended by his one-time fiancée, Sam has to prevent a beautiful co-ed (Teri Hatcher) from ruining her life by becoming involved with him.
--- “The Right Hand of God” – Air Date 4/7/1989
In “The Right Hand of God”, Sam leaps into Kid Cody, a crooked boxer known for taking dives. Once he settles into Cody’s life, Sam learns that he has to win the championship to secure the funds for a new church for the group of nuns that train him (nuns supporting the fight game???). Unfortunately, this means that Sam must also butt heads with the fight-fixing gangster that expects him to take a dive.
--- “How the Tess Was Won” – Air Date 4/14/1989
After leaping into a soft-spoken veterinarian in rural Texas, Sam comes to believe his mission is winning the affection of the lovely, but tough-as-nails, heiress to a cattle ranch. However, when he plays along in a contest she has set up, he finds his efforts being undermined by another suitor, who is not afraid to play dirty.
--- “Double Identity” – Air Date 4/21/1989
Though his goal as a mafia hit-man named Frankie is not immediately unclear, Sam follows a list of instructions, supplied by his super-computer Ziggy, that he hopes will help him leap again. Unfortunately, these instructions bring about the Great East Cost Blackout, and instead of leaping home, Sam finds himself at odds with a mafia boss who is none too pleased with the budding romance between his girlfriend and Frankie.
--- “The Color of Truth” – Air Date 5/3/1989
In this episode, Sam leaps into Jesse Tyler, an aging black chauffer, who faces discrimination in the pre-civil rights South. Sam/Jesse’s reactions, motivated by his own belief in equality among people, cause tensions and violence to escalate, all as he endeavors to convince one of the a woman to change her opinion of people of different races.
--- “Camikazi Kid” – Air Date 5/10/1989
As a gawky, zit-faced high school kid named Cam, Sam is required to prevent the marriage of his sister to an abusive drinker, with the wedding only three short days off. His only hope of preserving his sister’s future is to somehow get the groom to reveal his true nature before it is too late.
--- “Play It Again, Seymour” – Air Date 5/17/1989
In “Play It Again, Seymour”, Sam leaps into Nick Allen, a gumshoe suspected of murdering his partner. The ensuing search for the murderer is peppered with references to the classic Bogart film Casablanca. Will Sam clear Nick Allen of the heinous crime, or will it turn out to be Nick who did the evil deed?
Overall, although Quantum Leap is 15 years old (its special effects and Al’s costumes look it too), it is still great fun to watch. The chemistry between Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell gave this series a lot of mileage, and both were excellent choices for their particular roles. Watching this again as an adult, I also have a greater appreciation for Scott Bakula’s work on this series. The guy had to do something completely different each week, often with minimal preparation, and he always pulled it off! Boxing, baseball, horse riding – you name it, Bakula made it look believable! It is a good thing for Don Bellisario that he was able to find someone so diverse, and dedicated enough to his craft to put in long hours of work getting ready for each episode.
Quantum Leap’s diversity is also the thing that made this one of the few television programs I have ever watched religiously. I never knew what Sam was going to be in store for each week, and I could not wait to tune in and find out! It is wonderful to have instant access to these episodes, and watching them without commercial interruptions is even better! Perhaps I am in the minority (the show never rated higher than 25th in the Nielsen ratings), but I believe this was a truly entertaining program, filled with great performances and engaging stories that tasteful dealt with some rather serious and controversial subjects!!! I only wish the series had not been so short-lived.
SO, HOW DOES IT LOOK?
Each episode from Quantum Leap’s first season is presented by Universal in the full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio in which it was broadcast, and the results of their efforts are a marked improvement over reruns on broadcast television, but only slightly above average, in terms of overall image quality. More precisely, these episodes exhibit fair amounts of both grain and print damage, and even some video noise. Fortunately, none of these were ever a major distraction by themselves, but their combined effects were occasionally enough to take my mind of where it should have been – the story!
Fine detail and black level were also generally about average, and shadow detail was acceptable as well, but the image just never displayed the sense of texture or depth that I would have liked it to. I also noticed a touch of edge enhancement in a couple episodes, but its application was slight enough that it should not prove to be even a minor distraction for most viewers.
On the brighter side, colors were pretty accurately drawn throughout, and definitely rendered more vividly than I was expecting from a 15-year-old television show, but without any ugly color banding or bleeding. Similarly, characters’ skin tones looked warm and natural throughout the season.
On the whole, the positive aspects of Quantum Leap’s visuals trump their deficiencies, but only by a slight margin. Therefore, these episodes look little better than average overall, but I have to believe that the condition of the source material is what had a major impact on the set’s image quality.
WHAT IS THAT NOISE?
Each episode from Quantum Leap’s first season is given the Dolby Surround treatment, which presents the source material in a decent enough manner, but that is about it. As one might expect of from the soundtrack of a fifteen-year-old TV show, the soundstage was somewhat restrictive, but to make matters worse, frequency response was not that impressive, particularly in the higher and lower registers. As a result, the aforementioned music and effects generally sounded slightly flat.
The good news is that dialogue was easily discernable, and well balanced in scenes where it was fighting with the score and sound effects for breathing room. And since Quantum Leap generally relied upon dialogue to move each episode along, that is probably the most important area for it to excel in. All things considered, I imagine the set’s ho-hum audio quality will still suit most fans fine, as long as they are not expecting a very dynamic listening experience.
NOTE: The extras are located on Disc One.
A Kiss With History: Remembering Quantum Leap:
This enjoyable featurette, which runs for 20-minutes, consists of interviews with stars Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, and creator Donald Bellisario, who discuss the show and the characters. The piece begins with Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell talking about how they became involved with Quantum Leap, and Don Bellisario discussing how he pitched the series to the studio brass. Apparently, a lot of the “Al” character’s mannerisms were patterned on Mr. Bellisario.
All three men fondly remember the show, and discuss its growth over the first season. They also discuss the massive amount of preparation Scott Bakula had to do for each episode (which is something I never gave any thought to), since he was doing something vastly different every week.
Perhaps most interesting though, were the brief discussion about the “rules” of leaping, and how Quantum Leap’s rabid fans played a large role in the show being picked up for additional seasons.
Before each episode begins (and without prompting), Scott Bakula will briefly comment on it. These on-camera introductions, most of which run for about 1 minute and 30 seconds, generally contain spoilers, so you may want to skip them and watch the episodes first!
First highlight “A Kiss With History” on the Special Features menu, then press “right”. Scott Bakula will appear and advise viewers to keep it spoiler-free! I know my advice above (Episode Insights) may not mean much, but if Sam says it, you’ve gotta listen…
Apparently, there are some other “Hidden Messages to Leapers” from Bakula and Stockwell hidden on these discs, but my attempts to find them proved fruitless. If you come across any, please let everyone know!
(on a five-point scale)
THE LAST WORD
Quantum Leap was a very creative and entertaining show, and one of the few television programs that I have ever watched religiously. I really looked forward to seeing where Sam would appear each week; to Sam finding out who he was and what he must do; and to Sam resolving the situations (sometimes in unexpected ways) so he could leap again. The interaction between Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell was always fun, and most episodes of the show were not only very well written, but tackled some pretty significant social issues (racism in “The Color of Truth” and spousal abuse in “Camikazi Kid”).
I like this show quite a bit, so when I read it was being released, I was hopeful Universal would present it in a way that would do it justice. Now that I have received the set, I can’t say that I am overwhelmed, but Quantum Leap’s episodes do look pretty good, and the monaural sound gets the job done, if nothing else. And though I would have enjoyed feature length commentary for at least one episode, which is becoming more common for television set releases, the included “Kiss With History” featurette and “Episode Insights” were fairly interesting and informative.
All in all, I can honestly say that if you like this show as much as I do, you should enjoy this set, albeit more for its content than its presentation! At the very least, it easily beats watching it on cable, and it gives me hope that the ensuing seasons will see the light of day (pretty please) . Recommended!!!