03 February 2009

Quantum Leap: Season 2

Quantum Leap Ups the Ante for Season 2
By Kristin Battestella

Once you get on a Quantum Leap kick, it’s tough to stop. You fall in love with a particular episode, then remember another episode you love, and you must watch that one, too, and so on and on and on. To this day my sister will tell you, “I love that episode about that deaf dancer.” Truly!

Season Two of Quantum Leap ups the ante onscreen and off. Not only does the series explore more of the Quantum Leap project and Sam’s past, but we’ve got a full twenty two episodes to do it. As Sam remembers more about himself, his missions aren’t as clear. Conflicts from Sam and Al’s past highlight the season, making Quantum Leap more than just a latent science fiction show with issues.

Scott Bakula is again on form as the leaping scientist Dr. Sam Beckett. His knowledge and degrees come in handy during his leaps, but Sam’s heart often rules his head. His memories about his family and childhood are painful, as is seeing phantoms of his past unrelated to the task at hand. Bakula excels at Sam’s Boy Scout ways while reminding us Sam is a lonely, emotional, wandering man with nothing to cling to but memories. Bakula shines in performances that could easily turn comical. He’s a woman twice, blind in one episode, and mentally challenged in another.

Dean Stockwell is also stellar as Al. We get to see more of him beyond his hologram assistance and humor. Stockwell gives us the charm and wit, most definitely, but we’re also treated to the sentimental and emotional side of Al in the past, present, and future. The acting duo is perfect together, with both balancing the straight man or the voice of reason; yet each can be the clown or the lover. As much as we like them together, it’s also great to see these strong personalities at odds.

Some of the show’s sentimentally might make each episode seem like any other show’s obligatory very special episode, but Quantum Leap keeps the issues and perspectives serious. Back in the day, we did have more wholesome shows than now it seems, but few of them touched upon the taboo topics as deep as Quantum Leap has. ‘The Americanization of Machiko’ deals with Japanese American relations, and ‘What Price, Gloria?’ gives us Sam’s first leap into a sexual harassed woman- a topic usually relegated to weak television movies. After ‘Thou Shall Not’ and ‘Jimmy’ deal with Judaism and mental illness, respectively, you’d think Quantum Leap would have no earth shattering stories left to tell. On the contrary, the revelations spread over the season and the season finale ‘MIA’ tests the personal relationships of Sam and Al. We get our first hints of how Vietnam upsets both men, a topic given serious attention in Season Three.

Of course, we do have some of those over the top history coincidences, like Sam helping Chubby Checker with The Twist and almost crossing paths with The Beatles, but Quantum Leap also acknowledges its preposterous time travel premise. We’ve always seen books and films that warn of us changing history and creating paradoxes, yet Sam insists that he must change individuals’ lives for the better. The very nature of his project and how Sam’s actions change the future is highlighted in the season’s charming opener, ‘Honeymoon Express’. A few episodes are a bit obvious or seem to retread, but writer and creator Donald P. Bellisario gives us more leaping food for thought than bad-and we’ve got three seasons left in the tank.

Quantum Leap - The Complete Second SeasonThe DVD set for Season Two acknowledges the two man show with Al’s first appearance on the collection’s cover, but it is unfortunately devoid of features. Some effects may look hokey, and the DVD sets seem a bit behind the times themselves, but such quality television is tough to come by. Young and old can enjoy Quantum Leap together anytime.

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