NBC’s ‘Quantum Leap’ follows the story of a scientist named Ben Song who travels back in time, enjoying the perks as well as tackling the side effects of the leap. Back home, his team tries to find a way to bring him back while also wondering why he time traveled without telling anyone. With every episode, the show brings a new challenge for Ben and his team, raising the stakes every time he leaps into a new timeline. The show borrows its basics from the original ‘Quantum Leap’ which aired for five seasons from 1989 to 1993. If the arrival of the new series, with the same name, makes you wonder how it is connected to the original, then here’s what you should know.
Is Quantum Leap (2022) a Sequel or a Reboot?
The new ‘Quantum Leap’ is set thirty years after the events of the original series starring Scott Bakula. The first thing that the show does is acknowledge its parent series and its connection to Bakula’s Sam Beckett. This proves that the show is more of a sequel and not a reboot. Showrunner Martin Gero explained why it was decided to continue the story and the mythology of the 1989 show rather than start it all over again. “Everyone felt like the original show was so iconic, it would be crazy to cast a new Sam and a new Al and just start again. We would never be able to recapture the magic of those two characters, so to be able to do something totally new but in the same space — creating as a sequel more than a reboot — that just made sense to the entire creative team,” he said.
For Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, who serve as the executive producers of the new ‘Quantum Leap’, it was important to honor the legacy of the original ‘Quantum Leap’, while repurposing it for new audiences. While the basic mythology of the show remains the same, a lot of creative changes have been made to make the show more appealing to the viewers unfamiliar with the previous show, while retaining enough nostalgia of the previous version to satisfy the already established fan base. It was important to keep the story open to the new audience without burdening them with the five seasons of the original show.
The most notable shift in the story is the conversion of the bromance between Sam Beckett and Al Calavicci into a love story between Ben and Addison. For actor Raymond Lee, it was “a great opportunity to dive into different dynamics of what these leaps can feel like” rather than trying to recreate the chemistry of Sam and Al. For Gero, “It’s just a really neat twist on what is ultimately the worst long-distance relationship, like truly different time zones in a way that I don’t think anyone has experienced.”
The show is also more focused on the behind-the-scenes of the leap. The secondary characters also factor into the overarching plot with Ben’s past informing the reason behind his decision to take the leap. Steven Lilien told EW that Ben’s immigrant story will be at the core of the show. The story also changes on a technological level, especially with regard to the waiting room. In the original series, whenever Beckett time leaped and found himself in someone else’s body, that person would temporarily be transported to the waiting room, until Beckett leaped somewhere else.
For its retelling, the idea was “a little difficult to wrap our [the show runners’] mind around”. The 2022 version relies on concepts like the law of superposition to explain how two people can be in the same body at the same time rather than depend on something new that becomes tacky to explain. In a similar vein, Bryan Wynbrandt said that ‘Quantum Leap’ is also ready to deal with the causality of Ben’s actions that change the course of events in the past.
While the show tries to carve a new place for itself, it also stays in touch with the original story in more ways than one. One of the main characters in the show, Herbert “Magic” Williams, first appeared in the third season of the original show. “Those are memorable episodes, so it wasn’t hard to gravitate toward that world and find a character we always responded to,” Steven Lilien said. A connection like this not only creates a bridge between the original and the new but also allows the writers to touch upon the things left unexplained in the original series, especially when it comes to the repercussions on the life of someone whose body has been possessed by a time traveler.
While ‘Quantum Leap’ aims to be a great mix of the old and the new, for the creators of the show, this is an opportunity to do the things that the original could not. It is an opportunity to look at history with a more contemporary lens while exploring the “walking in someone else’s shoes” scenario in a new light.
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