Monday, April 03, 2023

Quantum Leap: Judgment Day

For a time travel show, Quantum Leap has been remarkably unconcerned with time paradoxes, until now. To make up for it, the season finale literally turns back the clock, leaping whole-heartedly into potential butterfly effects and time distortions. Dr. Ben Song is still trying to save his fiancée, Addison Augustine, but he will jeopardize the space-time continuum to do so in “Judgment Day,” which premieres tonight on NBC.

Everybody could be in very big trouble, because Song is about to leap into the future—and it does not look good. He cannot stay long, for technical reasons, but future Ian Wright has something important to tell him. Unfortunately, Song isn’t sure he gets it. Initially, the next leap should be easier, since he is familiar with his new host—himself. However, changing things will create paradoxes, since he would remember the original timeline. Nevertheless, he might just do so anyway.

Some of this season’s lesser episodes almost forgot about the time travel making each leap possible, focusing instead on social justice lectures or some pleasant but small stakes family drama. With “Judgment Day,” they compensate for lost opportunities. It also involves the full regular cast and the recurring Janis Calavicci and Richard Martinez (a.k.a. “Leaper X”), all of whom have key roles to play.

This episode was written by series story editor Margarita Matthews as was “Leap, Die, Repeat,” which was the only previous episode to really tackle time paradoxes and it that case, time loops. They are definitely the two episodes of the first season that most directly explore the theoretical dangers of time travel. “Judgment Day” is also the only episode to have action in more than two time periods.

Episode director Chris Grismer keeps the tension high, while economically incorporating a lot
Doctor Who-worthy time-talk. He also has the distinction of helming three of the season’s best episodes: “S.O.S.,” “Ye of Little Faith” (also written by Matthews), and “Judgment Night.”

There is some resolution in “Judgment Day,” but in one key aspect, it definitely keeps us hanging. Perhaps the only disappointment is the finale does not bring the continuation series full circle with the Scott Bakula original. Regardless, there should be plenty to follow-up on during the second season. “Judgment Day” is very definitely recommended for time travel fans—and weirdly, it might even work as a self-contained episode for viewers joining at the last minute, when it premieres tonight (4/3) on NBC. Overall, the entire first season (streaming on Peacock) is recommended, except the exhaustingly strident twelfth episode, which is largely inconsequential to the continuous story arc.