Sam Beckett's 10 Strangest Quantum Leaps

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, TV
Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 8:00 am
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By Kevin J. Guhl

Although it had a sci-fi premise, Quantum Leap was mostly grounded in the real world. Its hero, Dr. Sam Beckett, disappeared during a trial run of the time machine he invented and found himself traveling to different years throughout the second half of the 20th Century, appearing as different people and tasked with putting something right in their lives that had once gone wrong, all the time hoping that his next leap would be the leap home. For five seasons, Sam's adventures mostly resembled TV dramas-of-the-week, albeit with the twist of a protagonist put there through fantastic means. However, the occasional Quantum Leap episode went off the beaten path and put Sam in very weird circumstances, especially in the show's more experimental final season. Two episodes of the show are actually rumored to be cursed, affecting people who watch them in various unsettling ways. These are the 10 strangest Quantum Leaps.

10) The Curse of Ptah-Hotep

Sam leaps into an archaeologist who has unearthed a supposedly cursed Egyptian tomb. Disasters befall the dig, even affecting Ziggy, the computer at Project Quantum Leap, which starts to malfunction due to new software that was created in Egypt. Although Sam is extremely skeptical about the whole idea of a curse, the viewer is treated to a quick glimpse of an emaciated mummy hand as it grabs one of the members of the dig party just before the episode ends.

Quantum Leap tended to show that supernatural beings and other oddities were real, and offered tantalizing glimpses of Bigfoot, Bermuda Triangle strangeness, UFOs, angels and other weird things throughout the course of the series. It was an odd fit for a show that was usually more realistic that fanciful (well, aside from the premise), but reveals of this type were often done in a tastefully short and shocking way. On a related note, two airings of this episode in 1992 supposedly coincided with large earthquakes in California, supporting the idea of a curse that even extended outside the program. It wouldn't be the first episode of Quantum Leap connected to supposed strange phenomenon in the real world. Read on...

9) 8 ½ Months
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Sam leaped into women on several occasions and there were usually several awkward situations for him to deal with, like competing in a beauty pageant and fending off sexual advances from guys who thought he was a woman. But the strangest situation he had to deal with as a woman, hands down, was when he leapt into a pregnant teenager. His mission was fairly routine, in that he had to convince the girl's father to support her so she wouldn't have to give the baby up for adoption. The bizarre part was that Sam continued to endure all the pregnancy symptoms and ultimately labor pains as if he were actually pregnant with the baby. Keep in mind that the show established that it's actually Sam's entire body that leaps, and that he takes on the appearance of the person he's pretending to be to everyone around him. Thankfully, Sam leapt out of there just before the baby emerged.

8) Lee Harvey Oswald

Reportedly, NBC dictated to Quantum Leap series creator Donald Bellisario that the show's fifth season amp up the appearance of historical celebrities in the leaps, which had really only happened before in cameos that were considered to be more like "kisses with history." Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton and Buddy Holly appeared on the show, for example, but as children that Sam inspired or encountered briefly in some way that wasn't the main focus of the episodes. Before you knew it, though, Sam was suddenly leaping into Dr. Ruth, Elvis and Marilyn's Monroe's chauffer. The most groundshaking and unsettling leap, though, was when Sam leapt into Lee Harvey Oswald and their brains became scrambled together, causing Sam to almost shoot JFK himself! (By the way, the show took the stance, contrary to the popular theory at the time, that Oswald acted alone.) Thankfully, Al was able to snap Sam out of it just in time so that everyone's favorite time-traveling physicist wouldn't have the blood of the 35th U.S. President on his hands. Sam then leapt into the nearest person who could complete his mission, a Secret Service agent in the motorcade, which resulted in the best twist ending of the entire series. It turned out that Oswald had originally killed Jackie Kennedy, too, and Sam's protecting of her created the history that we as viewers had experienced.

7) Blood Moon

Sam leaps into an eccentric artist who seems to believe he is a vampire and is living a life straight out of a campy horror movie. The guy lives in a castle, sleeps in a coffin (which Sam has the misfortune of being inside when he first leaps in) and is preparing to kill his girlfriend in a ritual sacrifice (which Sam must stop, of course). The viewers are left to assume the guy Sam has replaced is a total wackjob, until Sam glances into a metal plate to see what the guy looks like (as his reflection is always of the person he's leapt into) and sees no reflection.

6) Killin' Time

The basic subject matter of Sam's leap in "Killin' Time" isn't out of the ordinary for the show - he's become a serial killer who is holding a woman and her child hostage in a house that is surrounded by police, and must diffuse the situation without anyone getting killed. The strange part of the episode is that the serial killer has escaped from the waiting room at Project Quantum Leap that he's supposed to stay in until Sam completes his mission, meaning that Sam can't leap until the guy is brought back. This causes Al, who normally appears to Sam in the form of a hologram and provides guidance, to venture out from Project Quantum Leap's hidden location in the New Mexico desert and track the killer to the nearest city. This episode was first broadcast in 1992 but was set in 1999, as the events at Project Quantum Leap were meant to be taking place in the near future. However, the creators of the show appear to have anticipated that the world would turn into Blade Runner in a few years' time. The city Al captures the killer in has lanes for electro-magnetic cars, lots of neon, voice-activated doors and hookers who dress like they're extras at Quark's Bar on DS9. Quantum Leap didn't frequently show life back in the present time, so this episode was unique for doing so in full force, even if the vision of "the future" we got was pretty comical. By the way, props to the Quantum Leap team for an episode title that works on several levels.
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