Friday, March 28, 2008

Television: Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap has just enough Science Fiction to provide it with the premise, and not really enough to disguise deeper messages. That is not to say it doesn’t have something to say. In fact it can be quite preachy. The thing that makes it work, and even quite powerful, is that it takes a contemporary character and inserts him in the recent past. The audience gets to sees how far society has progressed, but at the same time it serves to show how much work remains to be done. (The British program “Life on Mars” used a similar premise effectively.)

The basic premise is that Sam, a brilliant scientist, has come up with a way to achieve time travel within the confines of his lifetime. When his funding is threatened, he prematurely tests the theory on himself, and is sent bouncing around in time. He quickly discovers that he is not in control, and in fact, it appears as though his travels are being controlled by God and used to make wrong things right. It even goes so far as to imply that the Devil or Hell is using a similar process to cause the wrong things that Sam is correcting.

Aside from this cosmic view of good and evil, individual episodes always carry a moral quest that Sam must perform, and the shows are at times directly religious. One of many great moments in the show occurs in “The Americanization of Machico.” Sam is a soldier returning home with his Japanese bride. His mother struggles with accepting the new daughter-in-law throughout the episode. Sam’s bride gets injured, and in response to Sam’s question if she was really praying for her, she replies: “Of course, I am a Christian,” to which Sam replies, “Then show it.” By the end, she does.

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