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Quantum Leap Will Never Ascend Until It Puts Right What Once Went Wrong (With Dr. Sam Beckett)

NBC's "Quantum Leap" revival is fast becoming the strongest sci-fi offering in a network television landscape dominated by shows fronting first-responders, doctors, and lawyers. And despite the fact that the current leaper has already played a couple of those roles himself, "Quantum Leap" continues to carve out its own little dramatic corner in today's TV land arena.

The revival — essentially a cleverly realized continuation of the original "Quantum Leap" timeline – kicks off with Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) becoming the first man to step into the quantum leap accelerator since Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) did so three decades ago. Thus far, Dr. Song's leaps have proven every bit as thrilling as those of his predecessor. And while the series was originally framed as a reboot, it's truly more of a sequel that maintains numerous ties to the original, with Dr. Beckett's name being bandied about on the regular, and Janice Calivicci (Georgina Reilly) being the daughter of original "Quantum Leap" heavy Rear Admiral Al Calivicci (the late, great Dean Stockwell).

When the new "Quantum Leap" was greenlit, assumptions were understandably made that Sam Beckett would be back, and that his infamously — nay infuriatingly — open-ended fate would finally be addressed. As the end of Season 1 approaches, though, the revival is pretty much 0 for 2 on the subject, leaving many to shout into the quantum void, "Where the hell is Sam Beckett, already?!" 

And if the "Quantum Leap" reboot ever wants ascend to the heights of its predecessor, that lingering question cannot go unanswered.

A few new leaps can't undo the divisive legacy of the O.G. Quantum Leap finale

The new "Quantum Leap" series will hardly go down in flames if it never addresses the whereabouts of Dr. Sam Beckett. Even by just sticking to the episodic formula that made the original a hit, the revival is proving a perfectly serviceable follow-up with a compelling story. Nonetheless, with so many specific ties to its predecessor already in place, it's not only reasonable to expect Dr. Beckett's story might eventually factor into the sequel series' narrative — such narrative completeness feels absolutely necessary.

That has less to do with indulging in some good, old-fashioned nostalgia than it does cleansing the sour taste left in the mouths of many after the original series finale of "Quantum Leap." Titled "Mirror Image," the divisive episode was reportedly ushered through production with creatives uncertain if a renewal would happen. As NBC Insider confirms, the official axe fell too late in the game to even finesse the episode as something resembling a suitable swan song. Rather, when "Mirror Image" aired on May 5, 1993, it crudely closed out Sam's story with a title card explaining he never made that fated leap home.

As far as finales go ... it was bittersweet affair. In the years since, that title card has come to feel more and more like Poochie's infamous exit from "The Itchy and Scratchy Show" than a legitimate ending. To make matters even more insulting, in a "Game of Thrones" Starbucks cup-level oversight, said card somehow made it to air with Sam's last name misspelled. 

Three decades later, the shamefully abrupt finale remains an open wound that's never really healed. Quite frankly, the revival owes it to us to address the narrative elephant in the room.

Give us Dr. Sam Beckett or give us or give us ... ugh, just give us Beckett already, okay?

As "Quantum Leap" fronts a hero traversing time and space to right the wrongs of the past, it's truly baffling the series has yet to right its own. Make no mistake, that hastily dangled "Quantum Leap" finale is one of the great wrongs in the history of modern television. With all due respect to Dr. Ben Song's journey, if the sequel series doesn't address it soon, it runs the risk of alienating anyone tuning in with hopes of finding out what the hell happened to Dr. Sam Beckett. Bringing Sam into "Quantum Leap" would almost certainly deliver a major ratings boom to the revival, as well.

Given the seeming ease with which "Quantum Leap" narratives past and present could be merged, not bringing the leapers together would be the missed opportunity of missed opportunities. For his part, "Quantum Leap" creator and showrunner Martin Gero seems painfully aware of both the need to bringing Sam into Ben's story, and the vast narrative potential that act would open up. In 2022, he told Collider that he's actively working to make it happen. "I have a very, very good idea that Deborah (Pratt) knows about and that Don (Bellisario) knows about," Gero said, continuing, "I think it could be really exciting."

Unfortunately, Gero stops short of detailing his master plan to blend the "Quantum Leap" narratives. After Dean Stockwell's 2021 death, it's unlikely those plans will include elements of the original series' long-rumored alternate ending, wherein Al would've leapt after Sam (via SyFy), or the supposed scrapped finale footage recently discovered by Allison Pregler. Nonetheless, while Gero is hot to bring Beckett back, it seems the only obstacle is Sam Beckett himself. 

Is Scott Bakula refusing to do Quantum Leap again, or just playing coy?

It's sad but ultimately true that Scott Bakula is the primary reason Dr. Sam Beckett has yet to appear in the "Quantum Leap" revival. Martin Gero admitted as much in that same Collider interview, telling the outlet he's still vigilantly trying to onboard Bakula, though he's not having much luck convincing him to take a ... ahem, leap of faith. 

The beloved actor confirmed his absence from "Quantum Leap" via a lengthy Instagram post in September of 2022, telling fans how difficult it was to pass on the revival as the original series remains so dear to his heart. That statement confirms it was indeed Bakula's choice not to come back, and he offered no specific insight as to why he passed on the project. 

Now, sure, he might simply be gaming for a bigger piece of the revival pie, but given Bakula's famed "good guy" reputation in Hollywood, it's hard to imagine that being the case. It's similarly difficult to think the "Quantum Leap" team have been pulling a Marvel-sized bit of wool over our eyes while plotting a late season reveal.  

As it stands, "Quantum Leap" will probably not be welcoming Sam Beckett back anytime soon, despite the series' second season order leaving the door cracked for a return. Producers could simply recast the role, or address Sam's fate in his absence. But those options would be insulting to both Bakula and the character's legacy, effectively serving as another title-card slap in the face. As the show seemingly cannot address Sam's fate in a satisfying way without Bakula on board, said fate will likely remain a mystery. As long as that's the case, the "Quantum Leap" revival will never feel truly whole. Oh boy.