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Quantum Leap: Complete Series One Review

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Time travelling, body invading sci-fi series is still hokey fun

★★★★

Quantum Leap must have been a hard sell. A sci-fi show without any gadgets or aliens? A morality tale with a cigar-chomping, skirt-chasing guide? That it had any success at all is a miracle worthy of one of the show’s plotlines.

The premise was beautifully summed up in the opening voiceover, sadly absent from this first series. Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) tested his time machine and found that, as he was a faintly rubbish scientist, his mind had leapt into other people’s bodies, leaving his own frame sitting vacant in a white body-stocking. On each leap, Sam had to “change history for the better” in order to travel on and one day reach home, his only help coming from his colleague, Al, who appeared to Sam as a hologram, and supercomputer Ziggy, which figured out what Sam’s mission was each week.

It’s a clever idea, but the jargon-filled premise was merely the jumping-off point to a celebration of good ol’ apple-pie Americana that owes more to Highway To Heaven than Star Trek. In these opening nine episodes, Sam and Al get to grips with the rules of leaping, while Sam wrestles with the temptation to meddle with his own past. Standout episodes such as The Color Of Truth interpret Atticus Finch’s advice to walk a mile in the other man’s shoes literally, and prefigured later, socially aware storylines, sandwiched between the regular tasks of saving lives and marriages.

Unquestionably, the show owed much of its success to the two leads. As Sam Beckett, Bakula displayed a preternaturally hairy chest and vast quantities of aw-shucks charm. Dean Stockwell’s Al provided a welcome counterpoint, dishing out witty one-liners and essential advice with aplomb.

While this first season lacks the ‘evil leaper’ arc of later years, and there are plot holes galore (why is leaping limited to the geographical borders of the US?) and sometimes ropey effects, this is still classic television — and there are four more series to come to DVD. Oh boy!

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