Monday, January 09, 2023

Quantum Leap: Paging Dr. Song

You don't see a lot of hospitals in science fiction, aside from James White’s Sector General novels. Dr. Ben Song would have preferred to keep it that way. He is a theoretical physicist (time travel scientist) rather than a medical doctor. However, he will have to practice as best he can when he leaps into a first-year resident’s body in “Paging Dr. Song,” this week’s episode of Quantum Leap, which airs tonight on NBC.

It turns out delivering the baby in the cold-open will be the easiest task presented to him, while he inhabits the good doctor. Somehow, this leap involves three patients, who have not checked in yet. He finds Eli Jackson rather quickly, but the retired corporate lawyer wants to check out immediately, rather than transfer to oncology for the cancer treatment he urgently needs. Song will have to convince him, but he will need help from Jackson’s estranged daughter, who happens to be his host’s mentor, third-year resident Dr. Sandra Turk.

“Paging” builds to a climax involving a subplot in which an experimental drug the hospital is testing will cause the death of one of Song’s patients. It is your basic Big Pharma demonization, but it feels rather dated in the era of Covid vaccine controversies. Seriously, do the writers want to encourage greater skepticism and distrust of the pharmaceutical industry at a time when only 68% of the United States is fully vaccinated?

On the plus side, this episode again draws on the military background of Song’s fiancée and holographic guide, Addison Augustine, who helps coach Song before breaking some hard news to a patient. Caitlin Bassett is terrific delivering the second-best speech of the series so far, right behind Magic Williams’ explanation of his experience as one of Sam Beckett’s original Quantum Leaps.

Recognizable character actor Stan Shaw also brings a lot of tragic dignity to this episode as Jackson. This leap brings out a lot of high emotions, but Ernie Hudson and Nanrisa Lee keep things cool back at Leap headquarters, where they try to get some out of Janis Calavicci, using her lack of coolness against her.

This is definitely one of Bassett’s best episodes, but it is still a little light on Hudson. He needs another good feature-spot soon. We are also overdue for another big revelation regarding “Leaper X,” but at least Song manages to wrap a lot of medical melodrama in a satisfying way. This episode shows why so many soap operas are set in hospitals. Still highly recommended for fans of the original series and time travel in general, “Paging Dr. Song” airs tonight (1/9) on NBC and streams on Peacock tomorrow.