Quantum Leap Broke Another Time Travel Rule & Changed The Show
This article contains spoilers for Quantum Leap episode 6.Quantum Leap episode 6 breaks another of its time travel rules, changing the show forever. The original Quantum Leap simply used time travel as a plot device, an excuse to transport its star Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett into one crisis after another. NBC’s Quantum Leap relaunch, which stars Raymond Lee as Sam’s successor Ben Song, is taking a different approach; temporal mechanics are becoming an increasingly important part of the show, as it breaks many of its old rules. Already the Quantum Leap project team has discovered a way of consistently going further back in time, but in Quantum Leap episode 6 things take another twist.
The Quantum Leap team has been shaken to discover Ben apparently launched himself into time in pursuit of another leaper. It increasingly looks as though Quantum Leap’s mysterious leaper comes from the future, and the project’s main programmer Ian Wright (played by Mason Alexander) reveals this discovery has caused him to look again at the strange coding Ben placed in the supercomputer Ziggy before he began his adventures. Ian now believes Ben’s coding hasn’t only found a way to unlock travel to the distant past, rather, Ben could also potentially leap into the future. This is a radical departure from Quantum Leap’s past time travel rules, and it potentially changes the show’s entire premise.
It’s already become clear Ben’s understanding of temporal mechanics far exceeded his predecessors. Ben’s programming allowed the Quantum Leap to break one important rule, because Ben has discovered a way to travel back beyond his own lifetime. Sam Beckett had once accomplished this, but on that occasion it was due to a quirk of genetics. In contrast, Ben has learned he can use a series of leaps to build up a sort of temporal momentum, so he can break previous limits to time travel. It’s been compared to a slingshot effect, where a spacecraft builds up momentum by using the gravity of a star or planet. According to Ian, this same technique can potentially be used to leap into the future as well.
This is a radical change to the shape of Quantum Leap, because it means the traditional stories can be followed by leaps into the distant past, with Ben already making Quantum Leap’s biggest change to history in episode 5. Even more remarkably, though, there can also be occasional stories in which Ben leaps into the future. The Quantum Leap project team can gradually learn what is destined to happen in the future, and indeed it’s even possible Ben’s ultimate goal in beginning his leaps was to rewrite the future rather than the past.
This raises a lot of major questions about Quantum Leap’s temporal mechanics, but oddly enough they have always rumbled unacknowledged in the background. The most notable is the extent to which the future is fixed, and to what extent it can be changed. Sam and Ben have always worked to change events in the past from a present that seemed relatively fixed; however much they changed details (with Sam even changing the life of his best friend Al in Quantum Leap’s cliffhanger ending), paradoxes have been avoided because the big picture has remained the same. The leapers have seldom stopped to consider ripple effects further into the future.
It’s fascinating to imagine an episode of Quantum Leap set in the future. This would be a tale with a very different dynamic, because the Quantum Leap team would have no way of helping Ben navigate a time they too had no knowledge of. The data they acquired through such a leap would undoubtedly leave time in flux because the Project Leap team would potentially be forewarned about future world events, even a glance at a newspaper headline would be informative, and it’s important to note the imaging chamber keeps detailed records.
The most exciting possibility is that Ben’s purpose is not to save Sam Beckett (as many had theorized), but rather that it could be about trying to erase some dystopian future timeline shaped by a major disaster. Ben’s leaps appear to be very purposeful, already adjusting the timeline to involve new vaccines and major developments in construction to protect against earthquakes. It’s quite possible Quantum Leap is setting up a chaotic future that Ben is trying to fix.
Episodes of Quantum Leap release on NBC on Mondays at 10 PM ET. Episodes are available for exclusive streaming on Peacock the next day.