It’s 2051 and Ben leaps into a stranger’s body at the Quantum Leap Project…. but it’s a building that is in ruins with only one other occupant. A much older Ian reveals that the sad state of the ruined world is down to a lot of factors, almost all of which the government has sought to blame on the QL project and its interference in time. The Powers That Be had decided to send a Leaper – Martinez – back through time, directed to stop the original Leaper ever starting – which was meant to be Addison – by killing her. In 2041, Ian managed to go back to 2022 and warn the Ben of that era, which is why Ben ended up Leaping early and instead of Addison and ultimately changing the timeline to the one we know… but for the better?
The Quantum Accelerator is already pulling Ben back from the future and – receiving a last-second formula to help reprogram Ziggy – Ben ends up in 2018, back in his own body but when the Project was still being constructed and on the day of his first date with Addison.
Now Ben must avoid Martinez’s incoming deadly intentions towards him and the Project… but can he do so without alerting 2018’s Addison and the suspicious team to what’s going on and irrevocably altering the timeline yet again… this time, for the worse and causing a paradox?
A couple of weeks ago I suggested that if the Quantum Leap finale was going to answer various questions as promised, it would have to bend back on itself and revisit earlier times in the QL Project just prior to that first televised 2022 Leap. That in itself was fine because if you revisit that premiere there were actually several ways and key moments to fit new footage into the piece without disturbing anything – just a chronological sleight of hand. However, while the finale – Judgment Day – does indeed have Ben Leaping into an earlier version of himself at the Project, it sadly doesn’t get quite that meta – but it does indeed get close… with some chronological headaches to overcome in the process.
Given that the reboot took a lot of cues from the original (really only losing the Waiting Room and a talking Ziggy and giving us an expanding out the ‘home team’) it’s interesting that the finale essentially breaks a lot of the rules and does a lot of ‘firsts’… doing things that the original did not or could not. We open with Ben Leaping into the future – a definite first for the show and, specifically, a devastated Los Angeles in 2051 that we learn is in its apocalyptic state because of worldwide decisions and events that the US government chose to blame on the Quantum Leap project (which is why they sent Martinez back in time to stop the Project ever coming into existence). Getting key programming information from Old Ian, Ben then leaps back into his own body. Sam Beckett did the same thing, but only in much younger versions of himself. Here, Ben is back in the early days of the Project where the Quantum Accelerator isn’t close to being fully operational and he’s about to go on his first date with Addison. Having the 2023 team watch the events being experienced by the 2018 team (through the Imaging Chamber tech) and being aware that the future Ian may have experienced some of these events in their original form as well… is likely to induce a temporal headache.
While episodes of the original run like Shock Theater saw Sam experiencing past Leapee personas, here we actually see Ben and Martinez spiraling back through their previous physical locations (the asylum, the USS Montana and the town of Salvation) and fighting each other to the death. It’s unlikely these scenes were filmed at the time of lensing the previous Season One episodes, but they’re convincing enough to feel like they were pick-up shots. They also involve other references, such as Ben picking up boxing tips from the third episode, Somebody Up There Likes Ben). Its’ another clever touch that, in the end, it isn’t Ben that defeats his ‘nemesis’ – Martinez is shot by Yaani King Mondschein reprising her role as Salvation’s Frankie. The showrunners have also confirmed that after the events here, Martinez is dead and the threat of Leaper X is now closed off after being a major part of the Season One narrative. In some ways that’s a shame as Walter Perez gave a good performance and – even with the revelation that Martinez wasn’t so much a bad guy as a soldier committed to the mission that he believed was honestly going to save the world – it seems that the character was ultimately little more than the maguffin to set up the finale confrontation (Of course, Martinez – who has yet to Leap and may never now do so – is technically still alive in 2023 and dubious governmental concerns about the Project may yet still come into play down the line…)
It’s the kind of finale that is probably worth watching more than once, just to get your head around some of the concepts and ideas in the mix. Even then, there’s some stuff that doesn’t make a lot of sense. including the awfully tropey idea that three different versions of Ian have to input the ‘Cheat Code’ simultaneously (and given that they are scattered at intervals along the timeline, that’s a ridiculous concept in and of itself on every level). The more clever aspect of this finale on a practical level is that had the series not been renewed almost nothing would have had to be reworked, bar the briefest of reaction shots. We see Addison, expecting Ben to emerge from the Accelerator and her face looking briefly confused or upset in those last moments, indicating it’s not who she expected or there’s no-one there… (C’mon, how many of us were vainly hoping for a against-the-odds Scott Bakula cameo?). If the series was one-and-done, it would have been fairly easy to clip a second or so from that and have the audience presume it is Ben while still leaving a crack in the narrative door. Of course, the series did get picked up and we therefore know Ben’s not coming back any time soon… and we also get a few teaser shots from the next season (four episodes have already been filmed with NBC wanting to stockpile episodes of their shows in case of a writers’ strike which may happen this summer).
All in all – and for better or worse – this episode was convoluted and even contradictory (with elements of The Terminator, the X-Men comic’s Days of Future Past and others) but enjoyable and felt like a reestablishing of the ‘team’ aspect of Quantum Leap and its investment in the ensemble (rather than the ‘duo’ of Sam and Al we had for most of the original run). A nice script and character moments (particularly by Mason Alexander Park as variations of Ian) power the more personal side of the story but also give a narrative clearing of the decks for the second run… so there’s a lot to build on. There’s also wiggle-room in how things could be tweaked in Season Two. If it’s required, the production can use the ‘Quantum Bubble’ ripple effect to tweak things to allow for the changes that might have had to happen (though the showrunners have said Ben’s changes to certain interactions with Addison in this episode shouldn’t have altered anything fundamental changing for their relationship). Will it be forgotten that Martinez was technically in Magic’s body when he started battling through time and was then killed (chances are that issue will be side-stepped given the let’s-be-honest-convenient reset of the day). It’s been confirmed that Janis (Georgina Reilly) won’t be in at least the first six episodes of the next season, but that seems rather annoying as she really could and should really be a fixture now – otherwise she’s merely been something of an exposition piece and she deserves better. Her continued presence would add both some friction to the team and still be a legacy link to the original show when needed.
The second season of Quantum Leap returns in late 2023…
- Production Design / VFX8
- Fan Satisfaction9