The era of sequels, prequels, and reboots continues with NBC’s Quantum Leap, a re-imagining (of sorts) of the 1990s show with the same name. This time around, actor Raymond Lee plays Dr. Ben Song, who together with his team looks to unlock the mysterious nature of the technology and its original creator from the original show.
In recent years alone, there’s been a film reboot of Star Trek that was cleverly set in its own universe but still recasting Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew, thus making it a reboot but also a sequel of sorts. The same, to a lesser extent, was done once again by JJ Abrams (who helmed those initial modern Star Trek films) with Star Wars. Despite the presence of legacy characters like Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker in large roles, the similarities between The Force Awakens and A New Hope are purposeful in that the creative team clearly intended to ‘remake’ the original film while also making a sequel at the same time. Suffice to say, there’s been so many reboots and sequels recently, and Quantum Leap is another that can be added to the list. The question of whether or not this is a successful reboot/sequel, though, remains.
The first episode of the reboot aired Monday, 9/19 on NBC and streaming on Peacock. For months, fans of the original have been wondering if original star Scott Bakula would reprise his role in some capacity, and trade reports seemed to suggest he was at least speaking with the writers of the new season. That seemed promising, but Bakula confirmed last week that he wouldn’t appear at all in the new iteration, and (in a kind way) stated his doubts as to how they would be able to do Quantum Leap without Sam or Al.
When it comes to whether or not the new Quantum Leap recaptures the magic and charm of the original, the absence of Bakula is bound to play a role. The reboot's creators Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt do a relatively good job of reviving the show. Still, the fact that Bakula isn’t here means that it always feels as if there’s a piece of the puzzle that’s missing, and the same goes for Dean Stockwell’s Al.
However, the deep dive into the mythology and ‘how’ of the original series is explored here. The new lead character, Dr. Song, serves as the caretaker for the leap technology and restarts the program after all these years. The idea that one of Song’s motivations is to bring Sam home and back to the present after all these years is a nice touch, which in part reminds audiences familiar with the previous seasons of the hero that once was. While it's a nice touch, a series focused entirely on that seems like it would be more fitting.
2022’s Quantum Leap doesn’t fully capture the magic of the original, which is understandable to a certain extent given the quality of the 90s show, but is still worth watching nonetheless. Dr. Song is an interesting and compelling enough lead, and the diversity that actor Lee brings to the table is great to see. However, for longtime fans, it’s hard not to be reminded that he isn’t quite Sam, and Addison (the Al replacement) isn’t quite Al. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare them with their original counterparts, but that is the nature of a reboot such as this.
In many ways, the original series was built upon that relationship between Sam and Al, with their back-an- forth bickering but ultimately wholesome friendship proving to be great to watch. Arguably, that relationship is the reason for a new series in 2022, as the cult following the show has gained in the years since is owed largely to Bakula and Stockwell (along with the writing, of course). The core relationship isn’t the same here, and there’s certainly enough room for improvement for that to change, which could help get some of that magic back.
One of the beauties of the premise of Quantum Leap is the episodic nature, in which every outing is a new adventure with a new setting and story. This provides a certain throwaway nature as to move on quickly from episodes that aren’t quite up to scratch, but also infinite possibilities in terms of the stories that are told. It’s this that provides hope and potential for this new series to develop and find its footing in future episodes and seasons, assuming it makes it that far. This new season doesn’t appear to have the same feel as the original, but fulfilling one main plot line in the form of rescuing Sam Beckett, clearly already set in motion in the pilot, could be enough to give it the boost it needs.