The problem that usually arises with science fiction based television shows is the premise begins to wear thin after a couple of seasons.
The writers begin to retread the same old story lines. Fortunately, this was most definitely not the case with the classic time travel series, Quantum Leap.
Quantum Leap Season 3 has remained fresh and original, exploring topics that would be more difficult to air if not for the sci-fi coating. Like such series as the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, Quantum Leap offered a mirror to the social problems of society while always maintaining an entertaining perspective for the audience.
As with the previous two seasons the only real regulars of the cast are Scott Bakula as the leaper, Doctor Samuel Becket and Dean Stockwell as his holographic guide Rear Admiral Al Calavicci. Since the premise of time travel within Sam’s lifetime offers an ever changing group of guest stars the writers where able to infuse new situations in ever episode, always allowing Sam and Al to explore different times and places.
In this third season the producers and writers built upon what was successful in seasons one and two, the individual’s problem as a reflection of broader social issues.
In one episode Sam leaps into a black medical student engaged to a white woman. While this is nothing really unusual now the date of the leap was 1965, the dawn of the civil rights movement, more specifically, during the infamous Watts race riot. In another story Sam enters the body of fashion photographer must help an aspiring model resist the pressure to be thin by turning to amphetamines addiction. Sam also guides her as her agent makes unwanted sexual advances to her. These people’s lives are depicted as a micro cosmic view to the problems that existed in the time presented. Some episodes are about regular people set against a larger historical background such as the one where Sam leaps into the brother of a bomb shelter salesman on during the Cuban Missile Crisis became public. As a child of the fifties I remember all too well the pervading fear that gripped the nation in 1962, this episode brought that feeling back with an emotional impact.
Quantum Leap season 3 demonstrates the talent of Scott Bakula. It is not often that an actor gets to play different races and even different genders in the same role. In one touching episode Sam leaps into a pregnant teenage girl, needing to find adopted parents for her unborn child. Bakula shows a sensitivity not normally displayed in a television science fiction series here has the story line explores teenage sex and abortion.
There is even a little room for some humor as Sam apparently goes into labor, not knowing how it would be possible to actually give birth. Bakula also gets to show off his singing talents in an episode or two. While most will associate him only with television he did start his career in musical theater and has an excellent voice to match his acting chops.
Whether Bakula is playing a thirteen year old boy, a priest or a waitress he does so convincingly with a dedication to the story. While this premise could have been silly Bakula makes us believe.
Dean Stockwell could have just played Al as two dimensional as a hologram. Instead he builds a truly believable relationship with Sam. Stockwell provides a real human face to Al, a man with many painful times in his past, bad at romantic relationships and best friend to Sam. While this character is often used as comic relief, chomping on a cigar, walking through objects as he dispenses advice to Sam, Stockwell plays Al with a serious, almost tragic foundation to the character. Part side kick, part Greek chorus, Quantum Leap would not have faired so incredibly well without the chemistry between these two men.
Now that the fan base has been drawn into the lives of Sam and Al it was only natural for them to clamor for more of the back stories of the pair. Quantum Leap Season 3 gives the audience nice teasing glimpses at the younger Sam and Al.
At the start of Quantum Leap Season 3 Sam leaps back into himself at sixteen where we get to see the family dynamic between the young Sam, his older brother and their father. When Sam leaps into the body of a soldier fighting next to Sam’s brother in Viet Nam we get a look at a young navy pilot taken as a POW, he turns out to be Al.
There are some episodes that are more or less played for laughs. One of my favorites is the Quantum Leap take on the perennial holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Originally airing on December 21, 1990 this episode has Sam take on a greedy land developer on Christmas Eve with Al playing the ghosts. While this episode is completely predictable it doesn’t matter, the writing and acting carries the story. This ability to mix humor sets Quantum Leap Season 3 above most of what was on during its tenure.
Quantum Leap series creator Donald P. Bellisario has one of the fertile minds ever to take on the media of weekly television. For the most part he had the golden touch with series like Kojak, Battlestar Galactica, Magnum PI and JAG his track record is secure. This former Marine had the combination of imagination and discipline necessary to make any project he takes on work.
With Quantum Leap, Bellisario could express his interest in history as well as his apparent belief that an individual can make a difference. Most television series use a rotating group of directors and Quantum Leap Season 3 is no different. Since each episode is a different time place and cast it helps that a different guiding hand is used for each story. Bellisario permitted each director to leave his or her own mark on their episode while maintaining an overall continuity that held Quantum Leap Season 3 together.
Universal continues their dedication to bringing cult television series to DVD. As with other such box sets they give the consumer their money’s worth.
While Quantum Leap Season 3 does not have extras it does give the whole season mastered with clear full screen video and a better than average Dolby stereo audio. Many people wonder "Why get a DVD set of a show that is popular in syndication?" When you consider that many syndication stations cut the episodes to make room for commercials it is great to get the series intact.
Quantum Leap Season 3 is a must have for fans of the Quantum Leap series but is also a worthy addition to any collection.
by Doug MacLean of hometheaterinfo.com
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