The New Quantum Leap Has Retconned How the Leaps Occur
Today, we look at how the new Quantum Leap retcons how the leaps occur on the series.
In Abandoned an’ Forsaked, we examine stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent) with a retcon (retcon stands for “retroactive continuity,” but we’re specifically talking about retcons that contradict earlier stories).
On the original Quantum Leap, the way that Dr. Sam Beckett leaped is that Sam would literally switch places with the person whose life he was leaping into. They would travel to the future and Sam to their past. They would remain in a waiting room at Project Quantum Leap and due to their memories being all swiss cheesed, they forget their trip to the future when they return to their proper time (and presumably, through the swiss cheese effect, maintained enough knowledge of what Sam did during his leap that they aren’t completely lost going forward.
Simply put, Sam Beckett himself would be in the past, not the person. He just APPEARS as the other person to other people (the whole “facing mirror images that are not his own” part of the introduction).
The current Quantum Leap, though, has changed how the leaps occur. Gone is the waiting room element and now, Ben Song specifically leaps into people’s actual physical body and we just see Ben despite him being in their bodies. Or, at least, that is what they explained both in the third episode (where Ben leaps into a boxer, and his hologram aide, Addison, explains that when he fights, Ben is hitting the other guy not as Ben, but as the boxer that he leaped into. Similarly, when Magic (Ernie Hudson) explained his experience from Sam Beckett leaping into him during Vietnam in the latest episode, he also describes it that way, even adding in a new consent element to the leaping, as apparently you have to “give in” to the leap for it to happen.
I guess, however, Ben feels like he is in his own body, somehow? Because when he leaped into a woman in this most recent episode, there was nothing physically strange about it.
In any event, this is a rather major retcon and I honestly don’t see the point of it. Why change one of the fundamental parts of the original setup now?
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8 thoughts on “The New Quantum Leap Has Retconned How the Leaps Occur”
I figure it happened for the same reason it happens in comic books: an editor wasn’t paying attention. It is their job, or a producer’s job, to keep that stuff straight. While it is nice when a writer or writers have avid working knowledge of a show from 25 years ago, that’s not entirely their job. The editor and producers are the stewards, and that’s one area where they may have slipped. Or not cared.
I had always thought only Sam’s consciousness traded places with the person. Wasn’t there an episode where the person looked at his reflection in the Waiting Room and it was Sam’s face looking back?
I think so, Tom, but it’s definitely Sam’s body, I think. I remember the episode where he leaps into the the body of the guy who lost his legs, and at the very end of the episode he stands up and the people in the past just see a legless guy floating in the air. Something tells me that wouldn’t have worked too well if he were in the actual guy’s body.
Since the new show features more of the QL Project, the switching would mean having to include more waiting room scenes like in the Lee Harvey Oswald episode. Maybe the showrunners thought that would be too much given all of the big mysteries going on on the Project side.
Well it didn’t make a lot of sense the original way: Sam can fit into their clothes, he never has problems from being a different height (adjusting a car seat, say). But yes, it is a retcon.
One thing that occurred to me watching the latest episode is that “If you don’t change the past, you’ll be stuck here” makes no sense at all. I understand it adds to the drama but it leaves the other party stuck at the project in the present (classic Leap) or out of their body (current version). Why would the higher power running the leaps do that to them?
I believe the genius of the original series was that Sam retained his physical abilities and body because only the”aura” of the person he was replacing remained. Hence, he was able to perform martial arts, play piano, and have legs when he was supposed to be a paraplegic. This added a certain advantage for him in the various situations.
In this new series, I don’t understand how the two bodies have “merged”.
I remember the Dr. Ruth episode from the original where she gives Al a therapy session in the waiting room.
I always wondered if (A) the normal timeline was altered in some way and the leaper is correcting it or (B) the leaper is being used to alter time into a better version.
I don’t think Magic’s explanation discounts the existence of a Waiting Room. He could have simply forgotten it after leaping back. In fact the memory of Sam’s face could be from the waiting room experience.
I don’t see this as a retcon so much as a change the new version has consciously made, a different way of leaping. And honestly I get why they did it. Because the original show version requires you to understand that the leaper takes on the “physical aura” of the leapee and I remember it took up 5 questions in the alt.tv.quantum-leap FAQ to explain it. (and it still makes my head hurt to be honest). And honestly, until Sam leapt into a pregnant woman in season 4 it never explained how the leap worked– aside from the leapee going to the Waiting Room, it was largely assumed Sam was in the body of the person he leapt into. (In fact in What Price Gloria, the first time Sam leaped into a woman in Season 2, Al said he saw Sam as the Leapee!)
I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand I think having the leaper leap into the body is honestly how I would say 90% of casual viewers believed was going on, so it’s cleaner. But on the other hand, I think they’re limiting themselves dramatically especially since they’re doing more in the Project in the modern version. Killing Time shows how cool the leapees being in the future could be.
But mostly I’m bugged why they couldn’t just address this in dialogue. All it would take is to say “Back in Sam Beckett’s day, they used to have a waiting room for the people he leapt into. But that was before Ben figured out Quantum Enganglement, which makes the leap more precise.” Or something like that.