Friday, January 20, 2017

Leaping Back In

The subject of a hypothetical Quantum Leap reboot came up on Twitter, and my ideas didn't fit well into 140 characters. Quantum Leap is one of a handful of shows and concepts that I think would work particularly well reimagined for a modern age, but revival attempts never seem to move past the rumor stage. So, here's my idea for the pilot and premise.
It has been 20 years since Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. Project Quantum Leap lost contact with Dr. Beckett only five years later, and he has not been seen since. The timeline monitoring systems note that changes keep occurring, though it is unclear which changes are the result of Dr. Beckett's actions, and which are from outside influences. Unfortunately, the regressive changes threaten to erase Project Quantum Leap from the timeline, and the resulting paradox could rip the entire timeline apart. The project's only hope is to re-establish contact with Dr. Beckett and bring him home.

Enter Thomas Albert Beckett, Sam's 21-year-old son. Tom's feelings about his father are complicated, but his genetic similarity makes him the only person who might be able to track Sam's travels through time. He steps into the Quantum Leap accelerator...and vanishes.

He awakes to find himself in the past, facing a mirror image startlingly similar to his own. He's leapt into his own 19-year-old father, in 1972, on the eve of his piano concert at Carnegie Hall. Except Tom doesn't know how to play the piano, and he finds himself trying to help a young musician on the verge of giving up on her career. Oh, and he's caught in the crosshairs of an assassin from the future! His holographic guides on this journey are his "cousin" Capt. Georgia Calavicci and his genius half-sister, Dr. Samantha Jo Fuller.

If he succeeds, Tom will find himself leaping from life to life, driven as his father was to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each leap brings him closer to finding his father and setting the timeline right once and for all.
The pilot sets up our ensemble cast, with Tom Beckett as the young leaper, often out of his depth in ways that his father wasn't. He's clever, but he gets by more on charm and quick thinking than brains and multiple Ph.D.s. Georgia and Sammy-Jo trade off duties as the "Al" character, allowing for different interactions and more complex relationships between the protagonist and his partners. Georgia would be somewhat older, with her father's lusty streak, while Sammy-Jo is more like Sam was, and really should have been the Leaper. Throwing in a longer-term conspiracy angle that could loop in the Evil Leapers from the last season of the classic series, or more generally, other groups of time travelers with other agendas, allows for the kinds of arc-storytelling that modern sci-fi dramas typically require.

In terms of mechanics, the show would follow the same basic restriction to traveling between 1953 and the present day (which works for a variety of storytelling reasons) and the same basic format of exploring difficult times through the eyes of everyday people (rather than celebrities and world leaders). The old series did a good job for the late '80s of tackling difficult issues, and it'd be nice to do the same with the greater degree of empathy and nuance afforded us by 25 years of progress. Honestly, I think a show about how the past wasn't utopian and how to empathize with different people is kind of what we need right now.

To peel back the curtain here a bit, I started writing this post some months ago, and in the interim the first half of the first season of Timeless aired. It's not exactly Quantum Leap, but it has a lot of the things I liked about that series, and a lot of the things I'd expect to see in a new Quantum Leap reboot. Check it out!

1 comment:

Eric TF Bat said...

While you're waiting for QL to be rebooted, and once you've finished Timeless (which I agree is quite pleasant) I recommend Journeyman, a series cut short by the 2007 Writers' Strike, which managed a certain amount of closure to make it a nice little mini-series, in effect. It got compared to QL at the time, but I think it has its own charm. No idea where you'd find it officially; there are always unofficial sources, of course.