I’ve been thinking about the recent spate of television shows being revived and rebooted - like, say, The X-Files - and it occurred to me that there’s one show that is practically begging to be brought back, because a modern reinvention would add a new dimension to the premise, as opposed to leading to a simple rehash of what had gone on before.
That show is Quantum Leap.
In case you’ve never heard of it: Quantum Leap was a television show starring Scott Bakula as Dr Sam Beckett, a physicist who leaps through spacetime during an experiment in time travel, by temporarily taking the place of other people in order to correct historical mistakes. He’s accompanied by his friend Al, played by Dean Stockwell, who appears to him as a hologram and tries to help him however he can.
(At the start of each episode they had a bit of an introduction explaining the premise, not entirely dissimilar to what you get on The Flash or Arrow, so here’s a copy of that on YouTube, so you can see what I mean.)
Anyway, so, Quantum Leap. The show was first broadcast from 1989 to 1993; all the time travel took place within Sam’s lifetime, so the scope of the show was essentially limited to 1950s - 1980s. It basically used time travel to provide an anthology format, jumping around between different scenarios to deal with different issues and tell different stories, often dipping in and out of different genres.
The show used this angle to deal with things like the Vietnam war, the Civil Rights movement, and the Kennedy assassination. (I’ve not seen it, but apparently the Kennedy episode is one of the best fictional depictions of the event, because the showrunner P Bellisario had at one point been fairly close friends with Lee Harvey Oswald.)
Now, reboot. Admittedly, I am often wary of such things - if you’re bringing something back, it’s always worth asking “why?”, because if there isn’t a satisfactory answer, then it’s probably not worth bringing the show back. But I’d argue that with Quantum Leap, there is a satisfactory answer:
We have another twenty years worth of history to deal with.
And I think that is, actually, a good enough reason to reboot the show. (Specifically reboot; Scott Bakula is 60, and Dean Stockwell is 79, so I’m not sure they’d really be up for it anymore. There was talk of a movie a few years back, but that seems to have just been talk.) The anthology show format and style of storytelling applied to more recent history could provide some genuinely compelling entertainment.
Casting is hardly my forte, but it’s an idea, if nothing else…
Something that immediately jumps out at me as an idea: Sam jumps into the body of a man who dies in the events of 9/11. Sam assumes that he’s supposed to change history to save the man, but he’s unable to do so. In fact, what Sam’s supposed to do is call the man’s family, to let them know he loved them.
It’s a two sentence summary of an episode that would, obviously, be much more complex, but it’s an idea of what I’m getting at. Recent history is full of events that are full of potential drama.
Perhaps the Iraq war, for example, or a school shooting. Maybe campaigning for the Obama presidency would bring together a man who worked for civil rights in the 60s and his son. (Yes, I cribbed that straight from The Butler.) A love story focused around the legalisation of gay marriage could be really poignant. The list goes on.
I think there are some real benefits to a Quantum Leap reboot; certainly, moreso than there are with other shows one might be inclined to reboot. This is our opportunity to put something right, after all.