One of the running threads of the original Quantum Leap was the long-standing friendship between Sam and Al and the lengths that each side would go to for the other. Early on, Al was established as a guy willing to bend or break the rules of time travel for his friend Sam – providing details on where to find Donna, helping Sam save his brother, and telling Sam he had a brother named Tom. Sam was a bit more of a stickler when it came to the rules, as witnessed in “MIA” when he chastises Al for not researching fully the reason for Sam’s leap and instead desperately working to get Sam to sabotage Beth’s new relationship.
Over the course of five seasons, we saw Sam slowly begin to realize that his mission wasn’t only to put right wrongs in the lives of people he didn’t know, but also to change his friend’s life for the better. This beautifully hits home when Sam leaps to the final moments of “MIA” as himself and asks Beth to wait for Al. The reveal is that Sam succeeds because he’s finally willing to bend the rules to help his friend. The cost is Sam never returns home.
It’s one of the reasons that the original Quantum Leap still resonates with me today.
It’s also why I’m slowly becoming frustrated with this new version of the show.
As good as the show is at giving us compelling, character-driven stories in the past, it is completely dropping the ball when it comes to the future storylines and the implications they have on Ben’s journey and his decision to start leaping through time.
This week was another example of this. Ben leaps into a teenager, who with three other teens has escaped a deprogramming camp in 1996. Ben helps them survive and turns the tables on the camp administrators. It’s all solid enough and the story hits the right emotional beats.
On the other side, it’s drug down by the future team scrambling to find and stop Janice.
Last week, we saw Janice show up and tell Ben she knew why he was leaping. This week, Ben finally recalls why he’s traveling – though in typical new show fashion, it happens thirty seconds before the Leap, teasing the audience into coming back next week for more details. This is after we sit through Janice attacking the project and locking everyone down while she escapes.
As good as the scene with Magic telling about Sam leaping into him was, the rest of the future scenes are starting to become a bit repetitive for this fan. We can’t get into Ziggy because Janice is doing something and then we wring our hands a bit that she’s one step ahead of us. Outside of Magic’s character moment, every other character moment feels forced – up to and including Jen’s dad thread from this week. After being shoe-horned in last week, this one just feels like it’s going from a textbook of cliched dramatic tension 101.
I don’t think it’s necessarily helped that by limiting Ziggy, you’re limiting the usefulness of Addison to Ben. Recall that Al could center on other people and come up with ways to expedite things for Sam in multiple episodes – something that Addison has yet to do. I feel like the producers are overlooking a vital detail to help Ben solve problems or overcome obstacles. In this week’s case, it’s trying to move ahead to find the cabin or possibly using some trick to frighten the wolves away since I believe it was established that Al could be seen by young kids and animals. (Or you can say that and thus, eliminate the wolf threat).
The reveal that comes in the final moments though, has me wondering.
So, Ben leaped to save Allison somehow. From what? What is lurking in her past that needs fixing? Will this take her away from him and the project? Or is there some looming threat to her that he has to somehow fix the series of events leading up to her fate?
The series seems to be taking a page from the X-Files in the “give them one answer but them ask eight more questions.” But it was a bit more effective there because I was more invested in the characters.
At this point, I like Ben and they’ve done a good job getting us invested in him. The nod to one of his teen colleagues losing their mom dovetails well with what we learned a few weeks ago. But, honestly, I’m starting to not feel much when it comes to Ben and Addison as a couple. I am not sure I necessarily buy the depth of their relationship as much as the writers want me to. Yes, we declare they love each other, but based on what we’ve seen about Ben and his decision to leap, I start questioning whether this is really a solid relationship.
I’m still here for the show – and maybe I need to stop thinking so much. But given that this is meant to continue the universe that was established with Sam and Al, it’s becoming harder to do that with each passing episode.
Again, I will say this series really needs an episode or two by Donald P. Bellisario or Deborah Pratt to kick-start things.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/09/2022 12:44:00 PM
Doctor Who specials have to walk a fine line between pleasing hard-core fans (like myself) and not being so dense that the casual fan tuning becomes lost and frustrated with the viewing experience.
Like many specials designed to celebrate something – anniversary, holiday, etc, “The Power of the Doctor” also faced the climb of sending off the Jodie Whitacker era. Given how I feel that Chris Chibnall is like the Doctor (good at starts, not great at endings), my biggest concern going into the episode was that Chibnall wouldn’t be able to stick the landing – just as he hasn’t in three previous series finales.
For the most part, “The Power of the Doctor” did well enough, though even at close to ninety minutes, it felt like it needed about five more minutes. Of course, that could be the classic Whovian in me who’d gladly take as much time for the Doctor’s former companions meet to share stories time as they wanted to give me.
“The Power of the Doctor” isn’t a perfect episode, but it still leans heavily into the strengths of this era – namely, Sasha Dhawan as the Master and the give and take between the Doctor and the Master. I’ll admit that the 80’s weren’t exactly kind to the Master and the new series take on the character has been hit or miss. But what Chibnall did with the Master during this era really resonated, simply because Chibnall made the Master into a legitimate threat again. The big criticism I have of Ainley’s Master is that too many of his plans were half-baked at best – and while the Master not thinking things entirely through goes all the way back to Roger Delgado, it just felt a bit too campy many times in the JNT era.
Chibnall restored the balance between the two characters so that it felt like Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado. The line here where the Doctor says they used to be friends felt like something out of the Pertwee era. As did the reaction of “what have you done this time?” as the Master’s latest plan unfolded. It does eventually turn out that the Master hasn’t thought all this through in his desire to defeat the Doctor – but it doesn’t feel overly campy and over the top.
It also felt like Chibnall was checking off the box of having Dhawan get to play the Doctor, since I know there is a group that feel like he would have been a great choice for the role.
On the whole, “The Power of the Doctor” leans heavily into nostalgia – but in the best possible way. Whether it’s bringing Ace and Tegan back or seeing multiple classic Doctors on screen, I give Chibnall credit for finding a way to bring everyone back for some fun. And that’s all before we see so many classic companions in the final moments.
But that said, I still feel the biggest criticism from the Chinball era is on display here – the lack of pacing. I get having Dhawan just go for the gusto and toy with the Doctor and Yaz works, but it felt like some of those scenes went on too long. Then, there’s the issue of sticking the landing, which the episode doesn’t feel like it did. Again, Chibnall is great at beginnings, not great at endings. And it showed up again here, even given a longer run time.
I guess there’s part of me that wants to see Ace bash another Dalek or two and is less interested in the emotional departure of Yaz. Part of that boils down to the fact that I never felt invested in any of the TARDIS team in this era in a significant way. Heck, I got more choked up with the fifth Doctor’s image bringing up Adric to Tegan and promising he won’t let that happen to her than I did at Yaz leaving the TARDIS.
Now that the Whitaker era is complete, I look forward to rewatching it and seeing if and how my assessments change. I still think her era is the equivalent of the Colin Baker era to new Who – good actor who didn’t get the stories to really showcase what she can do.
I’m grateful to Whitaker and Chibnall for a female Doctor, though. My little girl loves that the Doctor was a girl – and that she was smart and defeated the Daleks a lot.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/07/2022 09:25:00 AM |
The problem the new Quantum Leap faces is the original did one hell of a Halloween episode back in its third season. Fans who only casually watched the original know about “The Boogeyman” because Sam met Stephen King and faced off against the devil.
Topping “The Boogeyman” in terms of sheer shock value was going to be difficult to do.
Give “O Ye of Little Faith” credit for trying, even if the final result isn’t exactly as memorable or over-the-top bonkers fun as the original version.
Ben leaps into a priest, who has been summoned to perform an exorcism on an apparently demon-possessed young girl who just turned eighteen. Eerily enough, as Ben attempts to follow the script for an exorcism, he’s cut off from Addison.
As with most of the episodes of the new Quantum Leap, the stuff in the past works very well (even hitting a few, great creepy moments) while the things in the present feels like it’s being forced on the script. This week's biggest culprit is a conversation between Addison and Jenn where we discover that Addison had never vowed to get married – until she met Ben. I’m all for character development for all the characters on this show (quick tell me one thing about Ian besides he’s good at computers), but even this one felt like it was written to get screen time for Narisa Lee and less about advancing the plot or characters in any significant way.
Plus, I think it fails the Bechdel test on just about every level.Read more »
posted by Michael Hickerson at 11/04/2022 02:59:00 PM |
After seeing “What a Disaster!” I can see why the producers shuffled the order of things, moving this from the pilot to the sixth episode of the season. That’s not to say “What a Disaster” is bad, so much as to say asking the audience to invest as much in Ben’s background in episode one would have been a larger ask.
Ben leaps into a John, a man facing imminent divorce from his wife, just moments before the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989. The series is doing well at having Ben cover his initial confusion upon entering a person’s life mid-drama, and this week is no exception. Ben having to cover for gaps in his knowledge of John’s wife as his wife asks for divorce works well enough, though I keep wondering why no one notices that Ben is focusing on Addison and her advice from the future.
Speaking of Addison, can I just say that I liked the handlink used here a lot more than the one we’ve seen until now? If there’s one aspect of the original pilot they can and should use again, it’s the link.
Back to our story. Turns out John is there to save the couple’s son from dying and reunite an estranged mom and son. This mission has a personal note for Ben, who once got B’s on his report card because he was tired of his mom telling him he was special and then after they got in a huge fight about it, she died. So, Ben’s carrying around a bit of guilt over that (as one would) and it all comes bubbling back.
Some of the better emotional beats of the original series came when Sam connected with the leapie due to some emotional connection. So, Ben’s connection here worked, as did his call to his mom seconds before he leaped.Read more »
posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/27/2022 08:13:00 AM |
No matter how good or bad “Salvation or Bust” is, most of the conversation about it will probably cover the last thirty seconds of the show when another Leaper shows up who knows Ben and feels that Ben is following him through time.
The implications of this to the overall arc of why Ben leaped and what his destination is are fascinating. And given the pace at which revelations are coming in the show, I don’t think it’s something that will exactly be swept aside for an episode or two.
Part of me says that this new leaper is somehow connected to Janice and that the imaging chamber she’s building isn’t to try and contact Ben but to contact whoever this other leaper is. A big question it brings up is just how many accelerators there are and just where are they located? Given that leaping seemingly takes a huge investment of power, how exactly are the other leaping group keeping their tracks hidden?
Or is this all part of the time travel thing where the new leaper is from our future but ending up in the past.
Give the show credit – it’s got me intrigued to see where this all goes.Read more »
posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/19/2022 09:32:00 AM |
For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be a person that Sam leaped into – would you recall much, if anything about it? What would you recall? How would you know that Sam had come in and changed things?
After thirty years, we get an answer to that question, with Magic sharing that Sam leaped into him at a younger age and changed his and others’ personal history.
While I like the explanation and the scene itself, I do find myself wondering about a few other things. One is that Magic says that Sam saved his life (and that of Tom) during the time he was away. I can’t help but wonder how Magic knows if and how Sam altered history. Would history instantly shift around Magic and those around him? Another was, did Magic know what Al gave up to that Sam could save his brother and Magic? Or was what Sam did for Al something that was kept under deeper wraps?
When you reference one of my favorite episodes of television, “The Leap Home,” it brings up a lot of questions and implications.
In its fourth installment, Quantum Leap has found its footing, though. The current-day threads have enough time to keep things interesting and thanks to Magic’s connection, I was a lot more invested than I have been. I do like the growing sense of frustration that Addison has with Ben and his keeping things from her.
But where this episode really shone was in the past, with Ben leaping into a woman (took Sam until season two to get there) and possibly derailing the woman’s life because he’s unaware of how to respond to a marriage proposal. The leap itself had the feel of one from the original series where the data and our understanding of things keep changing as Sam struggles to find out what he needs to put right. In this case, it’s the circumstances surrounding the woman our bounty-hunting duo is supposed to bring in and why.
I will admit a frustration has started to raise its head a bit, though. Yes, Ben went into the accelerator for some reason and there is a goal in mind. And yes, that provides some momentum and a through-line to the show. That said, it never quite feels like Ben inhabits the person he’s leapt into as much as Sam did. Thinking about to the original “What Price Gloria?” where Sam is a woman, there was a great deal of humor and insight gleaned from Sam having to inhabit and convince the world he’s a woman. I feel like the new series gets in a rush to have Ben complete the mission so he can leap that it’s overlooking this step.
I am also intrigued to see just how Ben’s getting his memory back about who Addison is will impact things. I seem to recall that Sam could recall certain things on certain leaps and not on others, so I wonder if Ben will recall the truth about Addison going forward or if it will be a hit-or-miss kind of thing?
posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/13/2022 10:08:00 AM |