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.