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Whatever Happened To Al From Quantum Leap?

Television has rarely been a haven for wildly original science-fiction tales. NBC's time-traveling sci-fi saga, Quantum Leap, is one of the rare shows that never quite became a breakout hit, but that was still mainstream enough to quell any sort of real cult hit status. It's also a series that tends to be remember through futuristically rose-colored glasses.

Premiering in the Spring of 1989, Quantum Leap was also a true original in the realm of science-fiction television, one the narrative ambitions of which were often too big for the medium, itself. For those unfamiliar with the show, Quantum Leap followed an ingenious physicist named Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) dedicated to building a machine that makes time travel a reality. Threatened with an end to his project's funding, Sam takes the drastic measure of entering the machine, himself, only to end up being relentlessly tossed about in the past. 

The catch is, he's not really venturing through time as himself, and is, instead, entering the bodies of people from the past for the purpose of righting some egregious wrong in their life. The only ally Sam has on the journey is a hologram named Al, who appears (with the help of a super-computer named Ziggy) to help Sam figure out which wrong needs righting. Quantum Leap followed that formula for a full 97-episodes between 1989 and 1993, and the great Dean Stockwell appeared as Al in every single installment. 

In doing so, he became a true Quantum Leap fan favorite, and a legit icon in the sci-fi world, even if Quantum Leap die hards have seemingly lost track of the actor since the show's bittersweet finale. Here's what Al from Quantum Leap has been up to in the years since the show left the airwaves. 

Dean Stockwell continued to work in film and television long after his Quantum Leap days

Just FYI, if you call yourself a fan of small screen science-fiction and really have no idea what Dean Stockwell has been up to since Quantum Leap went off the air, you might want to check your cred, because he played a key role in one of the most beloved sci-fi series of all time. That series was, of course, Ronald D. Moore's near-flawless '00s revival of the iconic, late-'70s sci-fi fantasia Battlestar Galactica.

Moore's Battlestar Galactica revival was originally conceived as a two-part miniseries event, which aired on The Sci-Fi Channel in 2003. So well-received was that two part event, the network quickly gave Battlestar Galactica a full series order. The series premiered the following year, and went on to run for four up-and-down seasons between 2004 and 2009. Dean Stockwell didn't join the cast of Battlestar Galactica until late in the series' second season but, when he did, the actor made an immediate, and lasting impression as the less than traditional religious counselor, John Cavil.

It would later be revealed, of course, that Stockwell's character was actually a Cylon infiltrator capable of truly Machiavellian manipulations. Stockwell would go on to portray two different version of the infamous "skin-job" we'd come to recognize as Number 1. In true Number 1 fashion, each of those characters were possessed of a wickedly sardonic view of the world, not to mention a particularly sadistic mean streak that was all but unrivaled by any other character on the series. Though Dean Stockwell's run on Battlestar Galactica lasted but 14 episodes, his character arc remains one of the most memorable.   

Dean Stockwell continued working with Quantum Leap co-star Scott Bakula

Battlestar Galactica and Quantum Leap were hardly, however, Dean Stockwell's only forays into the realm of science-fiction. In fact, the actor visited the genre regularly, appearing in episodes of The Twilight Zone and Stargate SG-1, in David Lynch's big screen folly Dune, and the small screen adaptation of Stephen King's The Langolierthroughout his decades-long career. He even voiced Duke Nukem in the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.

As it happens, the chance to work with his old pal and Quantum Leap co-star Scott Bakula again eventually brought him back to science-fiction television in 2002. That chance also brought Dean Stockwell to world of Star Trek, which has seen no shortage of cameos throughout its various iterations. If you're wondering which Star Trek series brought Stockwell and Bakula back together for the first time since Quantum Leap, it was the early 2000s Star Trek: Enterprise

That series, of course, found Bakula commanding the first-ever flight of the famed U.S.S. Enterprise, a full century before William Shatner's iconic Captain Kirk was calling the shots on the vessel. Stockwell turned up in the 21st episode of Enterprise's inaugural season as the warden of a deep space interment camp where Bakula's Capt. Archer is mistakenly detained with Ensign Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery). There's a lot going on in this episode of Enterprsise, of course, but seeing Stockwell and Bakula together again was obviously not just the highlight of the episode, but probably the entire series.

That Enterprise gig wasn't the last time Stockwell turned up in a series fronted by his old Quantum Leap co-star. The duo got together again when Stockwell made a guest appearance on Bakula's long-running procedural NCIS: New Orleans in 2014. Even so many years after Stockwell and Bakula first worked together on Quantum Leap, you could tell they still loved trading lines together.      

Dean Stockwell ultimately retired after 70 years in and out of the spotlight

Sadly (or perhaps fittingly), Dean Stockwell's 2014 appearance on Bakula's NCIS: New Orleans would prove to be one of his last. The beloved actor hasn't gone on to the gig in the sky just yet, but it was reported in 2017 that Dean Stockwell had suffered a stroke not long after appearing in Rick Alverson's Entertainment in 2015. While he has reportedly recovered from that tragic event, he ultimately decided it was time to to call it a career shortly after.

Stockwell's retirement brought to an end a career spanning seven decades, and while he never quite earned superstar status as an actor, he was perpetually on the fringe of the big time in Hollywood, having shared the screen with icons like Orson Welles, Gene Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, and Frank Sinatra, and having worked with lauded filmmakers like Sydney Lumet (Long Day's Journey Into Night), Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas), Francis Ford Coppola (The Rainmaker), Robert Altman (The Player), and David Lynch (DuneBlue Velvet). He even earned himself an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for his brilliant work in Jonathan Demme's 1988 crime comedy Married to the Mob ... though he probably should've earned another for his scene-stealing crooning in Blue Velvet.

As much as we sincerely hope the not-quite-legendary actor is enjoying his retirement and continuing to create art in his golden years, we also can't help but feel his retirement has left a hole in the cinematic landscape that will likely never be filled. We're pretty sure Ziggy would back us up on that.