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Quantum Leap is an American television series that was broadcast on NBC from March 1989 to May 1993. The series was created by Donald P. Bellisario, and starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist who becomes lost in time following a botched experiment. Dean Stockwell co-starred as Al, Sam's womanizing, cigar smoking sidekick and best friend. He appeared to Sam as a hologram that only Sam and a select few others could see or hear. The series features a mix of comedy, drama and melodrama, social commentary, nostalgia and sci-fi, which won it a broad range of fans. It is particularly notable for the end of each episode, where Beckett leaps into his next persona (the story of the next episode), usually uttering "Oh boy".

Show summary

In the series' first episode, Sam appears in the past with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Referred frequently throughout the series as a "swiss cheese brain", Sam's partial amnesia prevents him from remembering most of the details of his own life; all he knows is that he's not who everyone in the past seems to think he is. Fortunately Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell), Sam's best friend, appears to him in holographic form and explains that Sam is the victim of a time travel experiment that went wrong. Now Sam is lost in time, and his colleagues are having difficulty retrieving him and bringing him back to his own time.

soon learns that the man he replaced in the past (or "leaped into", in the show's parlance) is an Air Force test pilot who was about to be killed during a botched flight. Al explains that their best theory to what's going on is that "God, time, faith, or whatever" wants Sam to save the man (as well as his wife and unborn child) before he can "leap out". Sam does so and disappears, but instead of returning to his own time he leaps into yet another person's life, and once again tries to "put right what once went wrong". In each episode, Sam leaps into a new host, often finding himself in dangerous, embarrassing, or otherwise compromising positions, and with Al's help (and that of his colleagues, who have access to information from the future), he tries to right some wrong or misfortune in the life of that person or someone close to them.

Several characters are referred to throughout the series, but rarely (if ever) actually appear. Ziggy, the artificial intelligence that runs the project and supplies Al with information to help figure out the purpose of Sam's leaps, only appears in "The Leap Back", the same single episode in which Al's girlfriend Tina appears. Gooshie, the project's head programmer who has chronic halitosis and is reputedly having an affair with Tina, appears in six episodes including both the pilot and the finale. Dr. Beeks, the project psychiatrist, is also frequently mentioned, but only appears in two episodes.


Through the series, Sam believes that God, or some other higher power, is controlling his leaps, sending him to times and places where he is needed. In the series' final episode, he encounters a mysterious bartender who insinuates detailed knowledge of Sam's "mission" and his true identity. Because this bartender (or someone who looks exactly like him - both parts played by Bruce McGill) was also present in Sam's first leap, Sam comes to believe he might actually be that higher power, though the man neither confirms nor explicitly denies this.

The bartender helps Sam remember that he built Project Quantum Leap exactly because he wanted to put right what once went wrong, and makes him realize that he himself has control over his leaps. The bartender then asks Sam where he wishes to leap to next. Sam replies by saying he wishes to return home, but he cannot as he still has a wrong to put right for Al, by letting his first wife Beth (Susan Diol in her second appearance in that role during the series) know that Al is still alive in a POW camp in Vietnammarker. Sam then promptly leaps out and does so. The show's epilogue states that Sam never returned home.

This final episode was in fact intended to be an end-of-season cliffhanger, but after the series was not renewed for a sixth season, it was revised to function as a series finale. The original ending had Al's Vietnam-era picture "leaping" into a portrait of Al sitting with Beth and their four adult daughters. In both the alternate ending and the episode as broadcast, the leap effect eventually recedes into darkness, and text on the screen informs the viewer that "Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.". Note that "Beckett" is spelt with only a single T.

Physics of leaping

Al explains the concept of the experiment to Sam in the first episode during his initial period of amnesia using a simple analogy. Using a piece of string, Al explains that one end represents Sam's date of birth, while the other represents Sam's date of death. Connecting the two ends together will, in effect, form a loop. The looped string is then scrunched up in ones hand, and various parts of the piece of string will inevitably intersect and touch each other. By leaping at the intersections to a different section of the string, Sam can travel to a different date within his own lifetime. The leap seems instantaneous to Sam, but Al explains in the pilot episode that he spent a week travelling in time between the moment he leaped out of the air force test pilot and the moment he leaped into his next host.

In early episodes, it was unclear whether Sam's mind was leaping into other people's bodies, or whether his mind and body leaped together. Later episodes make it clear, however, that Sam's entire body has travelled through time, and that "the illusion of [his host's] physical aura" surrounds him, making him look and sound like that person to whomever he interacts with in the past, as well as to Al. Likewise, Sam's counterpart in the future is surrounded by a similar aura, and looks and sounds like Sam to people at the project. Sam is also able to transcend the physical limitations of his host, being able to see after leaping into a blind concert pianist, walk while sharing the existence of a legless Vietnam veteran, swim after leaping into a monkey, and retaining the strength of an adult man after leaping into a child, an elderly woman, and so on.

During the time in which Sam occupies a host, the host is simultaneously transported to the time travel facility where Sam made his initial leap - effectively switching places with them. It is never explicitly stated what happens to the people Sam has leaped into after he leaves, but it is assumed that the person return to their timelines with amnesia of the events. Conversely, in the episode "Roberto!", Sam suggests that the people he leaps into remember being in the waiting room at Project Quantum Leap.

Sam's memory

At the beginning of the series, Sam has almost total amnesia, not even knowing his own name, or recognizing Al. Complex technical skills (such as medical and scientific training and his knowledge of foreign languages), as well as historical knowledge, seem to survive intact, yet he is unable to recall most of the details of his own life. The appearance of these holes in his memory while other regions are left unaffected is what the character refer to as a "Swiss cheese effect".

Sam slowly starts to remember more personal information during the early episodes of the series, such as the fact that he had an older brother who was killed in Vietnammarker, and a younger sister who eloped and married an abusive alcoholic. While reviewing his memory, Sam mentions that his sister now lives in Hawaii and is married to a Navy man, Jim Bonnick, a character from the Magnum P.I. series. He also seems to recognize Al's references to his various colleagues.

In the first episode of the fourth season, Sam briefly returns to his own time, at which point his memories from before he first leaped begin to return, but his experiences during the last four years quickly begin to fade. Sam calls this a "reverse Swiss cheese effect". Sam's memory gets Swiss cheesed anew when he leaps again.

Kisses with history

The show occasionally featured "kisses with history" scenes where Sam briefly encounters a famous historical figure or is tangentially involved in a historically significant event, but which is unrelated to the episode's story. For example:

  • In "Star-Crossed", Sam has to get his future fiancée (Teri Hatcher) to reconnect with her father, who is a colonel in the army. On June 17, 1972, Sam tries to bluff his way past the security guards in the lobby of the Watergate Hotel. He is ejected, but Sam manages to find a door with a piece of tape over the latch. He and his future wife sneak in, but the guard, noticing that their car is still there, does a check of the outside doors and reports a break-in.
  • In "How the Tess Was Won", Sam helps a young Buddy Holly to write the song "Peggy Sue."
  • In "Double Identity", Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 when he asks someone to plug in a 1000 watt hair dryer at a fraternity house at 111 Erie Drive, Buffalo (New York) at 5:15 EST on November 9, 1965.
  • In the episode "Camikazi Kid", Sam demonstrates how to do the moonwalk to a boy called Mikey.
  • In "Play it again Seymour", Sam leaps into a man who looks a lot like Humphrey Bogart and in 1953 New York runs into a young Woody Allen.
  • In "Good Morning, Peoria", Sam helps Chubby Checker to perfect the Twist.
  • In "Thou Shalt Not...", Sam performs the as-of-yet uninvented Heimlich Maneuver on a choking man who is addressed as Dr. Heimlich.
  • In "Sea Bride", a voice can be heard over the ship's intercom saying, "Calling Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher".
  • In "Leap Of Faith", Sam recounts to a young boxer a scene from the film Rocky; the boxer's locker door is tagged S. Stallone.
  • In the episode "The Boogieman", Sam's stories help inspire a young aspiring horror writer, Stephen King.
  • In "Rebel without a Clue", Sam pleads with Jack Kerouac to talk a young woman out of pursuing a dangerous life on the road.
  • In "It's a Wonderful Leap", Sam, as a cab driver in 1958, advises a 12-year-old Donald Trump that investing in New York Citymarker real estate would be a good way to get rich, and that there will one day be a crystal tower on 57th Street and 5th Avenuemarker.
  • In "Goodbye Norma Jean", Sam inspires the title of the last film Marilyn Monroe ever completed. In Sam's original timeline she died before The Misfits was made.
  • In "Dr. Ruth", Sam leaps into Dr. Ruth Westheimer to deal with a case of sexual harassment in the past. While defending a victim of sexual harassment from her harasser, a woman later revealed to be Anita Hill stops to listen to what Sam is saying.
  • In "The Leap Between the States", Sam leaps into his own great-grandfather during the American Civil War, who is charged with helping runaway slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. The house servant and conductor of the stop has the last name "King", and Al explains that he is the ancestor of Martin Luther King, Jr..
  • In the episode "Memphis Melody", where Sam leaps into Elvis Presley, a young saxophonist from Hope (Arkansas) in a music contest is addressed as "little Billy C".

Opening narration

The series' original opening narration was read by Scott Bakula:

Beginning with the thirteenth episode of the second season, Bakula's monologue was replaced with a broader introduction explaining the show's premise. This introduction was originally read by actor Lance LeGault (who appears in the first season episode "How the Tess Was Won"), and later by Deborah Pratt (Bellisario's wife, as well as a co-producer and writer on the show). A shorter version of this second introduction, also read by Deborah Pratt, was used for the remaining three seasons

In the show's fourth season, the monologue was changed again, this time the computer Ziggy whose voice was revealed in the episode "The Leap Back" spoke the introduction, moderating it a bit for length:


The theme for the series was written by Mike Post. The theme was re-arranged for the fifth season. Scores for the episodes were composed by Post (36 episodes), Velton Ray Bunch (24 episodes), and Jerry Grant (10 episodes).

Throughout the series, Sam is called on to perform music. This includes singing and playing the piano and guitar. Due to copyright clearance issues, some of the music was replaced for the home video and DVD releases: However the Region 2 releases were not affected.


A soundtrack album was released in 1993 titled Music From The Television Series Quantum Leap was released on Crescendo on CD (GNPD8036) and cassette tape (GNPC8036) in 1993


Guest stars

A number of celebrities guest-starred on the series over the course of its run, including Debbie Allen, Bob Saget, Charles Rocket, Neil Patrick Harris, Lydia Cornell, Brooke Shields, Roddy McDowall and others; Chubby Checker, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer appeared in episodes as themselves. Several future stars made guest appearances, including Jennifer Aniston, Michael Beach, Terry Farrell, Diedrich Bader, Robert Duncan McNeill, Jason Priestley, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Carla Gugino, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eriq La Salle, Patricia Richardson, Patrick Warburton, Claudia Christian, James Morrison, Gregory Itzin, Lauren Tom, Jane Sibbett, Amy Yasbeck, Michael Stoyanov, Tia Carrere, and Beverley Mitchell.


  • Emmy Awards
    • 1989: Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling for a Series (for "Double Identity")
    • 1990: Outstanding Cinematography for a Series ("Pool Hall Blues")
    • 1991: Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series ("The Leap Home" (Part 1))
    • 1991: Outstanding Cinematography for a Series ("The Leap Home" (Part 2))
    • 1993: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Series - Single Camera Production ("Lee Harvey Oswald")
  • Golden Globe Awards
    • 1990: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV (Stockwell)
    • 1992: Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series - Drama (Bakula)
  • Directors Guild of Americamarker Awards
    • 1991: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows - Night (Michael Zinberg, for "Vietnam")
  • Edgar Awards
    • 1991: Best TV Series Episode (Paul Brown, for "Goodnight, Dear Heart")
    • 1991: Fred Lord laser effects

Other media


  • Julie Barrett: The A–Z of Quantum Leap. Boxtree, London 1995. ISBN 0-7522-0628-1
  • Louis Chunovic: Quantum Leap Book. Boxtree, London 1993. ISBN 1-85283-866-3
  • Hal Schuster: The Making of Quantum Leap. HarperCollins, London 1996. ISBN 0-06-105438-0


Ace Books published a series of novels due to the show's popularity, beginning in 1992 and continuing until the year 2000. While not considered canon, the novels were met with approval from Bellisarius Productions and Universal Studios. Being non-canon, the novels tended to deviate from series norms and also attempted to provide explanations for conventions that went unexplained in series episodes. For example, in Quantum Leap: The Novel (a.k.a. Carny Knowledge), Sam is depicted as exchanging bodies with subjects he leaps into, rather than being surrounded by the person's aura as explained on the show. The novel also states that Sam used brain cells from himself and Al in the creation of Ziggy, and that this "link" was the reason why Ziggy could transmit an image of Al to Sam's mind. This is also used to explain why Al can recognize changes in the present due to Sam's actions while others remain unaware.

  • Julie Robitaille: The Ghost and the Gumshoe. CORGI BOOKS, London 1990. ISBN 1-85283-397-1. Re-published in U.K. by BOXTREE LIMITED, London 1994. (Novelization of "Play It Again, Seymour" and "A Portrait of Troian")
  • Ashley McConnell: Quantum Leap: The Novel. ACE, 1992. ISBN 0-441-69322-9. Re-published in the UK as Carny Knowledge. Boxtree Limited, London 1993. ISBN 1 85283 871 X
  • Ashley McConnell: Too Close for Comfort. ACE, 1993. ISBN 0-441-69323-7.
  • Julie Robitaille: The Beginning. BOXTREE LIMITED, London 1994. ISBN 1-85283-392-0. (Novelization of the pilot episode)
  • Ashley McConnell: The Wall. ACE, 1994. ISBN 0-441-00015-0.
  • Ashley McConnell: Prelude. ACE, 1994. ISBN 0-441-00076-2.
  • Melanie Rawn: Knights of the Morningstar. ACE, 1994. ISBN 0-441-00092-4.
  • Melissa Crandall: Search and Rescue. ACE, 1994. ISBN 0-441-00122-X.
  • Ashley McConnell: Random Measures. ACE, 1995. ISBN 0-441-00182-3.
  • L. Elizabeth Storm: Pulitzer. ACE, 1995. ISBN 1-57297-022-7.
  • C. J. Henderson and Laura Anne Gilman: Double or Nothing. ACE, 1995. ISBN 1-57297-055-3.
  • Barbara E. Walton: Odyssey. BOULEVARD, 1996. ISBN 1-57297-092-8.
  • John Peel: Independence. BOULEVARD, 1996. ISBN 1-57297-150-9. Re-published in the U.K. as Leap Into the Unknown. BOXTREE LIMITED, London 1996 ISBN 0-75220-137-9.
  • L. Elizabeth Storm: Angels Unaware. BOULEVARD, 1997. ISBN 1-57297-206-8.
  • Carol Davis: Obsessions. BOULEVARD, 1997. ISBN 1-57297-241-6.
  • Sandy Schofield (Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Loch Ness Leap. BOULEVARD, 1997 ISBN 1-57297-231-9.
  • Melanie Kent: Heat Wave. BOULEVARD, 1997 ISBN 1-57297-312-9.
  • Christo Defillipis: Foreknowledge. BOULEVARD, 1998 ISBN 0-42516-487-X .
  • Mindy Peterman: Song And Dance. BOULEVARD, 1998 ISBN 0-42516-577-9.
  • Carol Davis, Esther D. Reese: Mirror's Edge. BOULEVARD, 2000 ISBN 0-42517-351-8.


Cover of Quantum Leap#10, art by C.
Winston Taylor
Innovation Publishing produced a series of comic books which ran for thirteen issues from September 1991 through August 1993. As with the television series, each issue ended with a teaser preview of the following issue and Sam's exclamation of "Oh, boy." Among the people Sam found himself leaping into in this series were:

Issue Person Date
1 High school teacher in Memphis, Tennesseemarker March 25, 1968
2 Death row inmate who must prevent a murder on the outside June 11, 1962
3A Part-time Santa Claus December 20, 1963
3B Student researching sub-atomic physics April 2, 1968
4 Contestant amid the quiz show scandals August 15, 1958
5 Reporter whose daughter claims to have seen a UFO November 14, 1957
6 Teenage girl with an identical twin sister February 12, 1959
7A Professional golfer with the mob after him 1974
7B Bus driver who discovers child abuse May 19, 1953
8 Bank robber, while the leapee tours the Project with Al 1958
9 Lesbian on parole after twelve years in prison for murder June 22, 1969
10 Stand-up comedian who befriends a fading silent movie star June 13, 1966
11 Doctor studying the effects of LSD on human subjects July 1958
12 Gas station attendant with a lot of time on his hands April 24, 1958
13 Alien aboard an orbiting craft June 5, 1963

Few of the comic stories referenced episodes of the television series, with the notable exception of #9, "Up Against A Stonewall": Sam leaps into Stephanie Haywood, a central character in the episode "Good Night, Dear Heart". The story in the comic book begins with her parole, about a week before the Stonewall riots.

Fan films

Quantum Leap: A Leap To Di For (2009) Writer/Director Christopher Allen and RACSO Motion Pictures, present this not for profit fan film, continuing the journey of Sam Beckett after the events of the final television episode.

Synopsis: Sam Beckett has leapt into a 26-year-old American male on a visit to Paris, France. Finding himself with a beautiful young British girl, all seems well until Sam discovers the exact date... August 30, 1997, twenty-four hours before the death of Princess Diana.

Filmed on location in Indianapolis, Indiana. Premiered at the 20th anniversary Leapback convention in Hollywood, California, March 27, 2009. With an international FREE Internet release April 18, 2009.

With a cast consisting of: Deborah Pratt, Beth Horn, Joshua Ramsey, Ed Ernstes, Niki Hurrle Warner, Ladonna Pettijohn, Chelsea Marie Rogers, David Briggs, Nathan Bechtold, and many others.

Home video releases

In the 1990s, a few of the episodes were released on VHS. In the United Statesmarker, these included "The Pilot Episode" ("Genesis"), "Camikazi Kid", "The Color of Truth", "What Price Gloria?", "Catch a Falling Star", "Jimmy", "The Leap Home", "Dreams", and "Shock Theater". In the United Kingdommarker, they were mostly released in pairs, selling as "The Pilot Episode" (on its own), "The Color of Truth" and "Camikazi Kid"; "The Americanization of Machiko" and "What Price Gloria?"; "Catch a Falling Star" and "Jimmy"; "The Leap Home" and "The Leap Home Part II - Vietnam"; and "Dreams" and "Shock Theater".

1998 brought the DVD release of "The Pilot Episode", containing only the episode "Genesis" and chapter selection.

For many years, despite many requests from fans, the official word from Universal was that more releases (such as season box sets) would be very unlikely due to the high level of music recordings used in episodes, creating numerous copyright problems. This was resolved with the DVD releases in 2004, which replaced much of the library music with generic music (causing a protest by fans in the process).

The Region 1 version of Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season came out in North America on June 7, 2004, containing all of the episodes as they were originally broadcast (except for "Play It Again, Seymour"), along with some bonus features.

Universal chose not to obtain the necessary music rights for all of the music for use in the Quantum Leap: The Complete Second Season Region 1 DVD. Some were replaced with generic instrumental music. This, as mentioned above, outraged many fans and inspired a letter-writing campaign, demanding such a modification be corrected. The most criticized instance was the removal of Ray Charles's "Georgia on My Mind" from the season two finalé, "M.I.A.", during a scene in which the holographic Al dances invisibly with his first wife Beth. Subsequent Region 1 DVD releases continued to feature music replacement, but Universal did begin including a disclaimer on the package indicating such (this disclaimer also began to appear on other releases of various other Universal series, such as Magnum, P.I. and The A-Team). Quantum Leap: The Complete Third Season and Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season also have extensive music alterations in order to keep licensing costs low.

All seasons have been released on DVD in the UK; Season 1 was released on November 8, 2004 (music intact), Season 2 on October 31, 2005 (music intact), Season 3 on December 12, 2005 (music intact),Season 4 on June 26, 2006 (music partially intact) and Season 5 on December 26, 2006 (music unknown).

All five seasons are available on DVD in Australia; Season 1 was released on May 2, 2005 (music intact), Season 2 on February 7, 2006 (music intact) and Season 3 on June 7, 2006.

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fifth season was released on DVD November 14, 2006 in North America, with "Blueprints from the original Time/Imaging chamber set" as the only extra. This release was not affected by music replacement.

DVD releases

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1, 2, and 4.

DVD name Ep# Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 9 June 8, 2004 November 8, 2004 May 2, 2005
The Complete Second Season 22 December 14, 2004 October 31, 2004 February 7, 2006
The Complete Third Season 22 May 10, 2005 December 12, 2005 June 7, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season 22 March 28, 2006 June 26, 2006 November 2006
The Complete Fifth Season 22 November 14, 2006 December 26, 2006 February 21, 2007
Seasons One - Five

(The Ultimate Collection)
97 N/A October 8, 2007

(only available in R2)

See also

Time-travel shows using a similar premise:
  • Journeyman, another show about a man uncontrollably travelling through time, putting right what once went wrong.
  • The Time Tunnel, a show about a time-travel experiment gone wrong and time-travellers being stranded in time.
  • Being Erica, a show about a woman time-travelling to put right what went wrong in her own life.
  • Seven Days, a show about American NSA time-travellers putting right matters of national security that once went wrong.
  • Tru Calling, a show about a doctor going back one day to save patients lives, and also fix things that went wrong during the day.
  • Early Edition, a show about a man receiving the next day's newspaper, and using the information to put right what is about to go wrong.
  • Voyagers!, a show about a time-traveller ensuring that history unfolds as it is supposed to.


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