Monday, September 26, 2022

Quantum Leap 2022: July 13th, 1985 & Atlantis

Why Would you repeat an infamously disastrous scientific experiment? Because it involves time travel. We all know Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and found himself leaping into lives that he had to set right, before he could leap out and repeat the process again. Now Dr. Ben Song is in a similar position, but that was not the plan. He was supposed to be the holographic communicator and his lover Caitlin Bassett was supposed to be the leaper. For some reason he leaped without telling anyone in the new Quantum Leap, which just premiered on NBC and Peacock (the second episode “Atlantis” airs tonight).

The Quantum Leap project had been mothballed after Beckett was declared lost in time. The original program director and hologram Admiral Al Calavicci (the late Dean Stockwell) has passed away, but the military relaunched project under the Herbert “Magic” Williams (Beckett leaped into him during Williams’ Viet Nam service). Song was considered the glue who held the team together, so everyone is shocked when he leaps without warning, after installing some strange new code.

Inconveniently, Song experiences amnesia after leaping, an anticipated side effect. Frankly, Williams and Jenn Chou, the project’s security director, are a bit suspicious of Song, particularly since he apparently had been in recent contact with Calavicci’s brilliant but somewhat unstable daughter Janice. However, they all must work together to get him through his first leap.

It seems Song is now part of a gang that will successfully replace the Hope diamond. For extra added nostalgic detail, the heist will go down in Philadelphia during the Live Aid concert. Unfortunately, Song initially manages to make things much worse for his host body, which could very well set the pattern for the show.

Like the 1989 series, Song finds himself leaping at particularly dramatic moments, but the launch of the space shuttle at the start of the “Atlantis” episode might have been beyond the means of the 1989 precursor series. Director David McWhirter nicely capitalizes on the claustrophobic Shuttle setting and the storyline will resonate with viewers who remember the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Plus, Carly Pope and Leith M. Burke both do strong, commanding work in their guest shots as the Shuttle first officer and commander.

One of the reasons
Quantum Leap 2022 is so good, so far, is that it is not a remake, reboot, or re-conception. It is a continuation of the original series that obviously respects (and makes frequent reference) to its characters. If the first season ends with Song leaping into Sam Beckett (as fans maybe are already hoping), it will earn a standing ovation and a champagne toast.

As Song, Raymond Lee has the right ah-shucks charm that evokes Scott Bakula’s portrayal of Beckett. He is easy to root for, even though his chemistry with Caitlin Bassett’s Augustine is still a work in process. On the other hand, Ernie Hudson (the fourth Ghostbuster) brings the series instant credibility and charisma as the hardnosed (yet somewhat fatherly) Williams. Nanrisa Lee is appealingly smart and tough as Chou. In the first episode Mason Alexander Park is a bit schticky as Ian Wright, the project programmer, but they settle his character down nicely in “Atlantis.”

Again, you haven’t heard anyone use the term “toxic fandom” to defend
Quantum Leap 2022, because it builds on the original series rather than tearing it down. The first two episodes establish a distinctive identity for the 2022 revival, with an overriding mystery that continues across each episode, but it still retains the spirit of the original edition. Highly recommended for time travel fans, Quantum Leap’s “Atlantis” airs tonight (9/26) on NBC all episodes stream on Peacock after their initial broadcast.