Monday, January 30, 2023

Quantum Leap: Leap, Die, Repeat

In many ways, JFK was the “Nuclear President.” He was partly elected due to the supposed “missile gap.” He also mentioned the potential of nuclear energy in his “We choose to go to the moon” speech. That is exactly the day Dr. Ben Song leaps to, finding himself in an experimental reactor about to have an accident requiring a major government cover-up in “Leap, Die, Repeat,” tonight’s episode of the new Quantum Leap, which airs tonight on NBC.

Initially, Dr. Song feels like he is in his element, with science geeks like Dr. Edwin Woolsey. However, his enthusiasm dampens when the entire place explodes. Ordinarily, that would be that, but he and the Quantum Leap team are somewhat relieved to discover he is actually in a time loop, but only somewhat. To save everyone and leap on, he will have to figure out who sabotaged the facility.

“Leap, Die, Repeat” is a clever way to break format without really breaking format. Instead of simply riffing on
Groundhog Day and other similar films, it offers a fresh take on time-looping. However, this episode has a terrible sense of the era’s history. Song and his holographic guide, Addison Augustine, roll their eyes when Col. Parker tells him his job is to guard the facility against Communists, but the Cuban Missile Crisis would happen just one month and four days after JFK’s “Moon Speech,” so it was a totally valid concern. Also, the janitor says he reads science fiction novels like Solaris, but Lem’s classic Polish sf novel was not published in English until 1970 (secret plot twist, maybe?).

However, there are two things that will really satisfy fans. First, Ernie Hudson gets to dispense some plain-spoken wisdom as Admiral “Magic” Williams. It is worth noting Williams makes
Quantum Leap one of only two current shows that feature a Vietnam veteran as a regular character, the other being The Winchesters (Iraq War veterans are represented on Blue Bloods, among others). “Leap, Die, Repeat” is also the first episode to feature a well known genre thesp as a guest star. In this case, it is Robert Picardo, from Star Trek: Voyager, is perfectly cast as the gung-ho Dr. Woolsey.

Despite some sloppy details, the time-loop is presented in a very clever way that keeps raising the episode’s stakes. Plus, it teases major revelations to come. For anyone who enjoys time travel sf, “Leap, Die, Repeat” will pull you into the series or keep you hooked. Highly recommended, it airs tonight (1/30) and streams tomorrow (1/31) on Peacock.