I didn’t mean to have one after coming back, but the planned review is taking longer to get done. It should be ready for next week. My sincerest apologies.
Hello! It has been a while. The reason will be after the review. Suffice to say, it’s been too long, but Lost In Translation is back.
The X-Men have been around a while. Originally created in 1963 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the Children of the Atom consisted of Cyclops, Angel, Marvel Girl, Iceman, and Beast, with Professor X being the team’s mentor. The team evolved over time, with members coming and going along with the writers. Chris Claremont picked up the writing of the comic and would go on to be the longest serving contributor to X-Men lore. Under Claremont, the comic became a super-powered soap opera, as the characters dealt with threats to mutant-kind while bickering amongst themselves.
The various X-titles explored what it was like for outsiders in society. Readers could fill in whatever blank the X-Men filled, whether it’s being Black, Jewish, gay, or trans. The X-Men are Marvel’s outsiders, the ones who don’t fit in to what society accepts as normal. X2: X-Men United plays it up with Bobby coming out to his parents as a mutant. Magneto, one of the best known antagonists of the team, shares the Profiessor X’s goal of having mutants seen as humanity’s equal but is more extreme in how he goes about reaching that goal.
The X-Men have had a number of adaptations, including four animated series, three movies as a team, four prequel films, three featuring Wolverine, two featuring Deadpool, and one featuring the New Mutants, spinning off from the original three movies. There was still one area not yet exploited, the anime segment. This in 2011, along with several other adaptations of Marvel titles, X-Men Animated Series (エックスメン) was created. The twelve episode series was a co-production between Marvel, Sony, and anime studio Madhouse, with Warren Ellis co-writing the story.
The anime uses the team of Cyclops, Storm, Beast, Wolverine, and Professor X. and introduces Emma Frost and Armor as new members during the run of the series. The series begins with the death of Jean Grey, with Cyclops agonizing over having to kill her before the Dark Phoenix runs amok. Jean dies by another’s hand. The story then skips a year. Mutants are disappearing in the Tōhoku region in northeastern Japan, near an area the even Cerebro cannot scan. Xavier sends the team to investigate. During the investigation, the team discovers that the U-Men are active in the area, abducting mutants to harvest their organs.
The team manages to rescue one of the missing mutants, Ichiki Hisato, but is too late for the other, who transforms into a monster and needs to be killed to be stopped. The team also finds Emma Frost, formerly of the Hellfire Club‘s Inner Circle. Frost was also seen by Cyclops in Jean’s mindscape just before her death, so he’s not inclined to trust her. Hisako then manifests her power, psychic armour that augments her strength.
A new problem also manifests – Damon-Hall Syndrome, a syndrome that causes mutants to gain a second set of powers. Emma gains the ability to turn her skin diamond hard. However, if the syndrome is allowed to continue, the infected mutant will lose control. Beast begins work to create a vaccination to stop the syndrome and begins inoculations.
Adding the the X-Men’s problems, when using Cerebro, Professor X keeps running across a young boy instead of what he is looking for. The young boy says nothing, adding to Xavier’s mystery. Xavier’s ex-lover, Sasaki Yui, is also in the area, working with the area’s mutants in a similar way that Xavier’s School for Gifted Children does with one difference; Yui’s research has come up with an experimental medication that is supposed to suppress mutant powers. The actual result, though, is that the medication is a viral mutagen.
The various elements come together for the climax, as the villain behind the U-Men reveals himself and the young boy haunting Xavier appears. Ultimately, it is not a super-powered battle that determines who wins, but the power of love and friendship saving the day.
One thing Marvel does with its various non-comic works is set them in alternative universes. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is listed as Earth-TRN700. The X-Men anime is listed as Earth-101001, allowing for changes to characters as needed. However, the characters are recognizable. Storm’s appearance follows Halle Barry in the X-Men movies, no mohawk here. Characterization follows the comics and other X-Men spin-offs, with tension between Cyclops and Wolverine, Logan’s short temper, and Beast’s wisdom. Even the villains hold to the comics, from the Hellfire Club to the U-Men, who almost turn the series into body horror.
The biggest change is art style. Anime brings in its own set of assumptions and tropes. However, so does Marvel’s art style in its comics, with that style constantly evolving. The regular characters are recognizable, though the anime style can be seen in the body horror of the altered mutants and U-Men.
Overall, the anime builds from the comic and the movies. Characterization and character designs follow what has been established, with changes as needed for the shift in medium. The series uses a different villain than seen in other X-Men adaptations, which makes for a refreshing change of pace. There are some changes to canon, such as Xavier’s relationship with Yui, but with Marvel designating the different adaptations as separate, alternate universes, the differences can be smoothed over. Overall, the X-Men anime is a good adaptation of the X-Men franchise.
As for the extended hiatus, I wound up catching COVID-19 mid-January. I wasn’t bedridden, nor on oxygen, but in the worst of it, I was spending half the day in bed, waking up to try to eat something. I wound up losing some of the weight I gained during the pandemic lockdown, but I really don’t recommend this method. I was under mandatory quarantine from the 26th until end of day of the 31st after a positive test. Not that I was capable of going anywhere during that time. I suspect I had just a mild case of COVID-19, with just lingering after effects, including a persistent cough and fatigue that’s finally going away. My apologies for the extended disappearance, but it couldn’t have been helped.
Lost in Translation will return. I’m recovering from a mild case of COVID-19 which has eaten a lot of stamina that I’d normally have. Apologies for the disappearance.
Due to illness, I was not able to get the planned review completed. I will have it done for next week.
I think it’s safe to say that the past couple of weeks was a long decade. No review today, but Lost in Translation will return next week.
As a year, 2020 managed to be a dumpster fire on top of a flaming pile of crap. However, a few things worth looking at did come out of it. Some were even remakes. One of the remakes, Spitting Image may have been needed, a shot in the arm to handle current affairs.
Spitting Image first aired in 1984, debuting on the British network ITV. The series was a satire of current affairs featuring puppets in the image of the movers and shakers of the day, hence the name. Creators Peter Fluck, Roger Law, and Martin Lambie-Nairn pulled no punches during the run of the show, which, at its height, was one of Britain’s highest rated series. However, the high numbers couldn’t last as politics changed and Spitting Image was cancelled in 1996 due to low viewership.
The politics of the 80s took a shift to the right. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the UK; Ronald Reagan was President of the US. Terrorism was a threat, with the Irish Republican Army and the Palestine Liberation Organization being notable for the era. Dark times, but there were distractions. The Royal Family was always good for a scandal, and Princess Diana provided a human side of the family. In entertainment, Michael Jackson was carrying the fame from 1982’s Thriller and was only beginning to show signs of eccentricity. Andrew Lloyd Webber had a smash hit with Cats, opening 1981 and still on Broadway during the run of Spitting Image, and would have another smash with The Phantom of the Opera in 1986. In the 80s, if you had a niche musical taste, there was a band filling it.
And Spitting Image satired all of it. The Royal Family, with Her Majesty being the only sane woman while the Queen Mother gets into the gin and the Princes getting into all sorts of trouble. Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, ruling Britain and her own cabinet with an iron fist, not caring about who gets hurt. Neil Kinnock, head of the Labour Party and the Opposition, who is not quite there. Ronald Reagan, who was portrayed as being senile. Spitting Image didn’t take sides; all was fair game. Even international politics were skewered, with Prime Minister PW Botha of Apartheid-era South Africa making appearances. Leaders of the USSR got puppets, from Chernenko, who may or may not be dead, and Mikhail Gorbachev, who pioneered Glasnost and Perestroika, opening up the Soviet Union.
Satire holds up the elevated for examination, flaws and all. Satire can be funny, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, the hardest impact is to slip a satirical, serious moment in between the moments of ridicule. Music can drive the point home faster and harder. In the series’ popularity, Spitting Image had Sting and Genesis perform for the show.
Not all songs were hard hitting. Sometimes, the song parodied the music industry. Take “The Chicken Song”.
Originally written to skewer pop novelty songs that hit top ten in the summer, “The Chicken Song” became a pop novelty song that hit number one for three weeks. Sometimes, satire becomes what it satirizes, and there’s no predicting how that will happen.
Politics, though, changes. It’s the one constant of the field. Thatcher stepped down, Reagan finished his second term, leading to George W. Bush’s single term, Apartheid ended, the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union disbanded, sort of. The 90s brought a softer touch and a leftward swing in global politics, and the quality of politician changed. There was no cruelty for the sake of cruelty, no senility, just normal scandals like sexual favours in the Oval Office. Nothing earthshaking.
As mentioned, 2020 may be one of the worst years on record, up there with 1348 when the Black Death[https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/black-death] killed a third of the population of Europe alone, and similar numbers in Asia and the Middle East. Fascists marched in American cities. Britain left the European Union without a plan. In a bleak year, something was needed to give hope, or at least laughs. Spitting Image returned.
This time, Britbox became the series’ home, with a parallel YouTube channel. While a new cast of characters were needed, there are some returning characters. Her Majesty will be celebrating the 69th year of her reign on February 6, 2021; her children have gotten older and have had their own kids. For the new characters, Boris Johnson is no Margaret Thatcher, and Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.
The new series, much like the original, doesn’t pull punches. Even Greta Thunberg appears, though the new series is exaggerating her more than anything else. Boris Johnson is portrayed as a mindless lout, not able to make a decision, with his cabinet more out of control and looking to replace him, ideally with themselves. Trump is venal, stupid, and incapable of learning. His marriage to Melania is loveless. Ivanka is vapid, and Jared Kushner is a mannequin.
Both series require a good knowledge of current affairs from a British point of view. There’s no getting around that. With the new series, the case in point is Jürgen Klopp, who manages the Liverpool football club and has a generally cheery outlook on life that the series exaggerates. The series can take a light look at things as well.
Political satire requires politicians who aren’t staid and competent. Unfortunately, 2020 didn’t have staid and competent politicians. The Spitting Image remake returned when it was needed. The 80s hid the darkness of the Thatcher regime and the Reagan White House with glitzy entertainment, something that 2020 did not have. The remake keeps the irreverence of the original and provides a beam of, if not hope, laughter, in a hell of a year.
With the holidays over, let’s ease back into the reviews. Two and a half years ago, Lost In Translation covered the audio drama adaptation of Star Wars. NPR and LucasFilm teamed up two more times, bringing The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to radio. Today, we’ll examine the radio adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back.
When Star Wars was released in 1977, it could stand alone. The plot was resolved, though there were a few plot lines still left dangling. The end was satisfying, with the Empire’s planet-killing super-weapon destroyed. Sure, the Empire wasn’t completely defeated, but the Rebellion had struck a major blow against it.
In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back came out. The Rebellion was on the run. The base on the fourth moon of Yavin was known, thanks to Vader escaping after the Death Star’s destruction. The Empire is busy looking for the Rebel Alliance’s headquarters, sending out probe droids to planets in the Outer Regions, a sparsely populated part of the Galaxy Far Far Away that includes Tattooine. The Rebels have started making a new HQ on Hoth, a frozen planet with its own problems like hostile local lifeforms. Then the Imperial probe droid arrives.
The movie can be broken down into X main parts. The first is on Hoth, ending with the Rebel Alliance fleeing the planet with Empire in pursuit. The characters split up. Luke heads to Dagobah to learn from Yoda, a little green Muppet of great wisdom. Leia, Han, and Chewbacca are chased by Vader, through a dense asteroid belt. While Han, Leia, and Chewbacca try to figure out what’s wrong with the Falcon’s hyperdrive, Luke begins his training. Through shenanigans, the Falcon loses the Imperial pursuit and flies sublight to Cloud City on Bespin, where Han knows the Baron-Administrator, Lando Calrissian.
However, thanks to Boba Fett knowing the same shenanigan that Han used, Vader is alerted to where the Falcon is. Leia, Han, and Chewbacca are taken prisoner to be held to draw Luke out. On Dagobah, Luke’s training is intense as he has to unlearn his bad habits and relearn using the Force. A trip through a tree filled with the Dark Side of the Force warns that Luke may become his worst enemy, replacing Vader. However, he feels the pain of his friends and leaves to Bespin.
On Bespin, Han is handed over to Fett, Leia and Chewbacca make their escape, and Lando shows whose side he really is on. Luke arrives to have a lightsabre fight with Vader, who is trying to turn him to the Dark Side. The major revelation – Vader is Luke’s father – comes out, and Luke sees that there is a way out that doesn’t involve becoming Vader’s apprentice. He lets himself fall through Bespin’s ventilation system. Leia picks him up and the Falcon returns to the Rebel Fleet.
Empire ends with Han in carbonite in the hands of a bounty hunter, Luke missing a hand, the Rebellion on the run without a home. The movie is very much the middle of a trilogy, with the heroes on the edge of disaster, despite the previous win. The movie is also very tight in its plot. Luke has his training and Han and Leia are pursued by the Empire. The film keeps things personal for the characters. There is no massive climactic space battle. The final action scene is the heroes trying to escape.
The audio adaptation brings back Brian Daley to write the script, and the same cast for the returning characters. Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels again reprise their roles as Luke and 3P0, respectively, and Billy Dee Williams joins the cast to play Lando again. Ann Sachs, Bernard Behrens, Perry King, and Brock Peters are back, and are joined by new cast members John Lithgow as Yoda, Peter Miachel Goetz as Admiral Ozzel, Gordon Gould as General Veers, Nicholas Kepros as Captain Needa, David Rache as Admiral Piett, Don Scardino as Wedge, and Alan Rosenberg as Boba Fett. The cast is interesting, almost an alternate universe dream cast for the film. John Lithgow at times sounds more like Cookie Monster, another of Frank Oz’s characters, than Yoda when being playful, but takes on the wisdom of the ages when Yoda turns serious.
The radio play starts earlier than the film, with the ambush of a Rebel convoy protected by Renegade Flight by the Empire, ending with the complete destruction of all fighters and freighters in the convoy. There’s more depth given to the Imperial officers, including Needa wishing to see some action before the Galactic Civil War is over and a rivalry between Ozzel and Piett. The format does require dialogue to paint the scene. The use of the Force gets narrated by the user. Luke calls his lightsabre to him, and Vader explains that he his channeling his anger when he chokes. Luke destroying an AT-AT single-handed was done through the point-of-view of the Command Centre.
Not all actions were explicitly narrated. Some were handled through an off-comment. One that worked well came from an interchange between the Deck Officer at Echo Base and Han when the latter was trying to find out if Luke had returned despite having 3P0 nattering about the Falcon‘s hyperdrive.
Deck Officer: “Why are you holding your hand over the protocol droid’s mouth?”
Han: “He’s got a cough.”
3P0: muffled complaints
With Luke’s training, Yoda is giving instructions on what to do, which is what is seen in the movie. The sound effects are straight from LucasFilm, with Ben Burtt supervising. Music is John Williams, and like the movie, the soundtrack is part of the storytelling of the audio drama.
Casting is again important. The non-film cast members may not sound exact, but they do have the proper delivery. What helps here is that the cast is familiar with playing the characters already and that they have the movie to work from. Han isn’t as flamboyant this time around, but he is still ready to go off to do what needs to be done, whether it’s paying off Jabba or escaping TIE fighters. Ann Sachs has Leia’s leadership; nothing is going to get in her way if she can help it. Brock Peters brings a new dimension to Vader. Lithgow does sound like Frank Oz, even if he’s not quite on point with Yoda. The character, though, can go from frivolous and curious to serious within the span of a few lines, and Lithgow can keep up with the change.
What does help with the adaptation is that the movie is personal. The plot hangs on the characters. There isn’t much room to branch off, unlike R2 and 3P0’s escapades while waiting for Luke and Ben at the Mos Eisley cantina. There still is added depth, like the Piett-Ozzel rivalry, but that comes from needing dialogue to carry the scene instead of visuals.
The radio adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back puts in an effort to recreate the movie into a medium that lacks the visual spectacle expected from Star Wars. This effort pays off as the radio play still keeps things tight and tense to the end, even when the ending is known.
This past year has been a royal mess of a dumpster fire. No one is going to remember 2020 fondly. A pandemic mishandled by many governments. Far too many beloved celebrities passed away. The American election just. Would. Not. End. Really, if an election lasts more than four weeks, consult a constitutional expert. There have been bright spots, such as the return of Animaniacs and Spitting Image, but those seem few and far between.
Next year, 2021, has some hope to it. There is a vaccine for COVID-19, though it may take until September to finish vaccinating the populace. The US may have a functional president in the New Year, though the UK is still stuck with Boris Johnson. The New Year isn’t going to be an immediate panacea for 2020.
Movie studios are preparing for an extended period where theatres are either in lockdown or audiences are avoiding potential contact with others. Warner will be releasing all of their films, including Dune and The Matrix 4 in theatres and on HBO Max. Disney has done the same, with Hamilton, Artemis Fowl, and Soul moved to forthcoming to Disney+ exclusives and has already released the live action Mulan that way. Studios with access to streaming of some sort are covered.
What about theatres, though? Theatres rely on the output of studios to bring in an audience. Streaming means the audience doesn’t have to leave home. While some megablockbusters may fare better in theatres instead of streaming – who wants to pay $15 to stay at home? – smaller, more personal film may work best streamed. Theatres have been on shaky finances for a while; studios get all of the film proceeds leaving theatres to increase the price at the concession stand. Movies just aren’t staying as long as they used to and no film today will ever stay a year in theatres, unlike in 1977 and 1978, when Star Wars did just that.
Theatres will have to be more than a place that shows movies. Places like the Alamo Drafthouse provide an entire evening out, adding dinner and drinks with the movie. There’s room for expansion. Not every theatre needs to be the full night out with dinner and dancing after the movie, but having a full night out once the pandemic ebbs is an option to keep in mind.
Studios, though, will still have to produce content. While megablockbusters mught get held back to when and if audience levels make it worth a release, studios will need a near certainty to draw audiences out. Megablockbusters like Star Wars and Marvel’s Avengers series are too big to risk reduced audiences because of lockdowns or imposed restrictions on the number of people allowed in a theatre. The optics of an opening that is depressed because of the pandemic could have franchise-wide effects. However, with anticipated films that might not have the pull that the megas have coming, such as /Dune/, there are some adaptations that can be put on the sacrificial altar to judge audiences or used as the canary to determine if it’s safe to bring the megas back.
Television, including streaming services, will see a few changes. Some genres of television just won’t fly right now. Thanks to social distancing, reality TV. The producers and audience of Survivor won’t want to see the contestants all come down with a severe case of COVID-19. Late night talk shows survived the summer social distancing rules by having the hosts and crew work from home where possible, interviewing guests using remote cameras. Smaller casts and crews with constant monitoring for the coronavirus can let a show be put together. Experimental formats could make inroads; the series doesn’t have to perform well, just fill a timeslot. The One Day At A Time remake had animated an episode to get around COVID restrictions.
Content is going to be sparse for a bit. Television has the advantage of being used to getting an episode done within a week, but with social distancing rules in effect, getting cast and crew together is problematic. Writers can use technologies like Skype, Zoom, and Discord to keep in touch with each other, though online meetings are more exhausting than face-to-face. It won’t take long for studios to get back to full production, though.
This coming year is going to be in flux, ultimately. The past year disrupted everything, from how people lived to how people worked, at all levels. There may be no going back to the old normal; if so, a new normal will be established through trial and error. Studios are going to lean heavily on adaptations to carry them, but the megablockbuster will wait until after audience levels are determined. Television and streaming will keep going strong; no one has to leave home to watch series on either. The aftermath of 2020 will play out through 2021, turning next year into a nice ball of unknowns that might work out as people expect or might go more pear-shaped.
Time for the now traditional year-end wrap up with a look at the top ten movies of 2020, thanks to the list compiled by Box Office Mojo. The top movies are
1) Bad Boys for Life – sequel to 1995’s Bad Boys.
2) 1917 – original, inspired by the stories the scriptwriter’s grandfather told about the Great War.
3) Sonic the Hedgehog – adaptation of the video game franchise.
4) Jumanji: The Next Level – sequel to the 1995 movie, Jumanji, itself a loose adaptation of the children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg.
5) Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – sequel to the 1977 film, Star Wars.
6) Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – adaptation of comic book characters.
7) Dolittle – adaptation of the character created by High Lofting in a series of books.
8) Little Women – adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name.
9) The Invisible Man – loose adaptation of HG Wells’ The Invisible Man.
10) The Call of the Wild – adaptation of Jack London’s novel of the same name.
First, to take care of the obvious, 2020 is going to have a huge asterisk on it. None of the films listed above will appear in a top twenty list for the decade. The pandemic and subsequent lock downs hurt the box office. None of the films listed were released after March of 2020. 1917, Jumanji: The Next Level, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Little Women were released late in December 2019. The Rise of Skywalker is the only movie to be on the list for both 2020 and 2019. Blockbusters just didn’t happen in 2020. Studios shelved them in the hopes of being able to wait out the pandemic.
There was one original work in the top ten of 2020, 1917, benefiting from the lock downs. There were two sequels to original works, Bad Boys for Life and The Rise of Skywalker, one sequel to an adaptations, Jumanji: The Next Level, and the rest are adaptations. Possibly another effect of the pandemic lock down, four of the adaptations are based on classic literature, something not seen in a while. Only one comic book adaptation and a moderately successful video game adaptation round out the top ten.
There might be hope that an original film can break into the top ten again this decade. The problem here is that 2020 is an atypical year compared to the previous decade. Audiences were encouraged to stay home to prevent spread of the coronavirus, which is infectious before it becomes symptomatic. Typically, the early months of the year are used for smaller films, with studios saving the blockbusters for holidays when audiences will have the extra time to go out to see them. Sonic, thanks to a delay to correct the effects of the main character, was delayed. The corrected trailer may have generated interest to get audiences to see how things turned out. For literary adaptations, release during the school year may get classes out to watch to compare the original to film, which sounds like an amazing idea. Someone should do that for all adaptations, maybe as a blog series.
This past year was not kind to film studios, nor was it kind to people in general. Everyone took a hit, so it’s no surprise the box office did, too. The top ten of 2020 reflect the restrictions needed to fight the coronavirus. As a result, films that normally wouldn’t make a showing did get noticed, so there’s a bit of a silver lining.
Back in September, Lost in Translation reviewed a number of fan works. Near the end of the month, one fan work was found that needed a bit of extra care, something that time wasn’t allowing at the time. Time to rectify that. This week, let’s look at the Quantum Leap fanfilm, “A Leap to Di For”.
Quantum Leap was a science fiction anthology series created by Donald P. Bellisario, with the episodes tied together by the show’s premise, that it is theoretically possible to time travel within one’s own lifetime. To prove it, Dr. Sam Beckett, played by Scott Bakula, head of and designer for the Quantum Leap project. Once the acceleration chamber was ready, Sam stepped in and disappeared. He now travels from time to time, putting right what once went wrong, and hoping that the next leap will be the leap home.
Helping Sam out is Admiral Al Calavicci, played by Dean Stockwell. Al appears to Sam as a hologram that only Sam can see and hear, though there are times others can see him. Al acts as the anchor home and is the more flamboyant of the pair. Al also acts as a backup memory for Sam, as the leaping process Swiss cheeses Sam’s memory. There are others on the project, including Gooshie (Dennis Wolfberg) and the computer Ziggy (voiced by Deborah Pratt, who also wrote 20 episodes for the series).
A typical episode begins during the pre-credits sequence as Sam leaps into a new person in a flare of actinic blue light. Once the light clears, Sam needs to figure out who he is now and where he is, usually before something go wrong. The sequence frequently ends with his trademark, “Oh boy,” mostly after he realizes just how odd the situation is. After the credits, Al arrives to fill in details of what’s going on, though the reason for the leap takes time. Ziggy, while powerful, isn’t infallible and has made a few mistakes.
Project Quantum Leap was set a few years into the future, in part to give the series its science fiction feel and in part to allow Sam to leap into someone of the then-current era. Most of the leaps were historical, within Sam’s lifetime. Because of the power requirements and the likelihood of attracting attention when at full power, the project was located out in the New Mexico desert. This also meant that visitors displaced by Sam couldn’t get far and learn too much about the future while Sam lived their lives.
Being an anthology allowed the writers to explore a range of issues, from the serious to the light. Sometimes who Sam leaps into gives an indication of the level of seriousness, but not always. Sam leaping into a mother of three in “Another Mother” explored serious issues families could run into. Time travel allowed for period pieces, some modern takes, and looks at key historical events. Some leaps were personal for Sam or Al. Other leaps were important for the characters involved, but not necessarily to the bigger picture of history. And some leaps had a oblique ties to history, such as “How the Tess Was Won”, where, ultimately, he just had to help young Buddy with a song lyric.
Quantum Leap ran from 1989 until 1993, a five season run. Ultimately, the main problem for the series was NBC leaping it around on the schedule, making it difficult to find regularly. Bellisario was given enough notice that a final episode could be shot that wrapped up some plot lines, though Dr. Beckett never returned home. The finale allowed for a last-minute renewal, but the series was not picked up for a sixth season.
The series was cancelled, but not forgotten. Dean Stockwell often appears in a guest role in series that star Scott Bakula, including Star Trek: Enterprise. Quantum Leap gets referenced in other series and even movies. The show left an impact on viewers. Naturally, that leads to fan works, including fanfics and fanfilms. Time travel, though, requires a quick look at the period of the film.
Diana, Princess of Wales, born Diana Spencer, gained international fame on her engagement with Charles, Prince of Wales, and heir apparent to the throne of England. The press treated the engagement as a fairy tale, including the wedding. However, the British tabloids have no clue on what the word “boundaries” mean. After having two children, William and Harry, problems appeared in the marriage that the tabloids pounced on. Diana and Charles separated then divorced, and the paparazzi went into overdrive. Diana died on August 31, 1997 in a car crash trying to flee paparazzi.
The romance between Charles and Diana was the first royal relationship to occur in the era of twenty-four hour cable news. The couple was good for filling time with footage of their appearances, together and separate. While British tabloids were never known for integrity, the paparazzi had a wider range of potential customers thanks to cable news. Diana was also friendly, if reserved, around the public, endearing herself with people in general. Princess Diana was a popular member of the Royal Family. Her loss was a blow.
With that background, here is the 2009 Quantum Leap fanfilm, “A Leap to Di For”:
The episode begins with Sam (Joshua Ramsey) leaping into a situation in media res, with the classic, “Oh, boy,” scene ender. The year is 1997, three years after the last episode aired. August 30, 1997, to be specific. Sam pulls back on getting intimate, in part because he’s not sure what’s happening, in part because of his upbringing. He slows things down to try to figure out who he is and wait for Al (Ed Ernestes) to arrive. Al does, but Project Quantum Leap is having technical issues, including Windows XP-era error beeps and a blue screen error as Al leaves.
Sam and the woman, Meredith (Niki Hurrle Warner), try to figure out what to do. Sam tries to explain without giving away that he’s not who he looks like and is from the future that Princess Diana is in danger, that she should not go out during the early morning hours of the 31st. With a bit of work, Sam sends a message to Al in the future.
In the present day, the message for Al gets intercepted by a security guard on patrol, who bypasses the chain of command to take the message up to the highest levels. The President of the United States (David Grant Briggs) reads over it and realizes there’s a chance to save Princess Diana. The budget for the Project Quantum Leap, which had been slashed to $10 000 per year, gets a shot in the arm in order to try to prevent the tragedy.
Project head Dr. Samantha Fuller (LaDonna Pettijohn) brings the equipment up to date, leaving the Windows XP-era computers to something more powerful and brings Ziggy (voiced again by Deborah Pratt) back online. Al provides the handlink, one that he kept. With the project back online and working, Al heads back into the imaging chamber to help Sam.
Sam, though, has gotten into some trouble. Meredith turned to her father, Howard Jamieson (Dennis Crosswhite), a Member of the British Parliament, for help. However, Jamieson takes the warning as a threat and has Sam detained. Sam escapes the guards and, then, with Al’s help, finds Princess Diana. Sam tries to warn her, but Diana (Chelsea Rogers) needs time.
Ultimately, the reason for Sam’s visit is tangential to Diana’s death. He does get to meet Dr. Fuller, and places her as Sammy Jo, from the episode “Trilogy Part III: The Last Door” just as he leaps out. The final scene has Sam arriving in a dressing room in the body of a woman about to go on stage in a bikini.
The first impression of the fanfilm is that Christopher Allen, the writer and director, knows /Quantum Leap/ well. It helps that the series is an anthology, but he manages to get details in that adds to the proper feel. With Project Quantum Leap, the equipment retains the appearance of being a cross between a Rubik’s Cube and Tetris. While not mentioned by name, Gooshie can be seen in the background at Project Quantum Leap. Sam’s lines fit the character. The cast works, too. Joshua Ramsey has Sam’s mannerisms down. The same can be said for Ed Emestes’ Al. Chelsea Rogers has the shy reserve of Diana.
Setting wise, the fanfilm uses its limitations to its advantage. There’s no need for extravagant sets when they’re not needed, so a redress of a hotel room or someone’s bedroom is enough. Project Quantum Leap’s sets are the more unusual, but even there, the main thing is lighting and the control console. The fashion of 1997 can easily be recreated.
The fanfilm itself would fit in with the series, if the series had lasted until at least 1997. The original series didn’t show anything beyond the production year, in part to avoid having to make up events. “A Leap to Di For” is definitely made by fans who care about Quantum Leap, and the effort pays off.