Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Quantum Leap -- Episode 2: Star-Crossed

Sam Leaps Into: 
Dr. Gerald Bryant, professor of English Literature

Get a student who is in love with him to transfer her love to a guy on the wrestling team.  Reunite his lost love with her father so that she will learn to love again.


Lawrence College
Marion, Ohio

Memorable Quote:
She knew.  She knew how I liked my burger.  Shove that up your gage circuit, Ziggy.  ~Sam

It's fun to see Teri Hatcher involved, and unlike her Penny Parker character in MacGyver, here she gets to play someone with at least a few brain cells.  Hatcher does a great job in giving the Donna character a combination of youthful energy, charm, and naive.  

The three passengers (Donna, Jamie Lee, and Oscar) agreeing to ride with Sam on an overnight trip to DC was quite a stretch considering Sam gave them no details about the purpose of the trip. Especially from Donna's perspective -- why would she go in a car with this college professor who is acting all weird and creepy around her?  Unless she can sense something special about him in the same way she knew how he liked his burger.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • The opening scene where Sam is lecturing to a classroom full of lovestruck female students is reminiscent of the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark where Dr. Jones is distracted by a student with "Love You" written on the back of her eyes. Given the way the women were salivating over the professor, when Sam finally looked in the mirror I was expecting to see Josh Duhamel (or his 1989 equivalent) but instead saw an undistinguished old dude.
  • In episode one I talked about the Dvorak Leap Home melody, and it shows up again here at 27:20 as Sam and Donna are beginning to bond.  Great stuff.
  • Another MacGyver guest star (our 4th in 2 episodes!): it's Michael Gregory as Donna's father. We saw him in Trail of Tears as Whitecloud, the righteous vigilante who would be in jail right now (or blown up) for blowing up an energy plant if not for MacGyver's last second bomb defusal (on the slowest moving bomb ever).  But I digress.
  • Oscar is played by Michael McGrady who I remember from Season 2 of 24 (he was the cop that pulled over Kim Bauer and found a dead woman in the trunk).
  • I'm intentionally not reading up about future episodes so I don't get any spoilers, but I think Donna comes back at some point (but played by a different actress).

I reached out to Deborah Pratt, the writer of this episode and producer of the series, to ask her what she remembered about this episode.

The amazing thing about writing good TV is that there is a natural flow of story once you begin to give history to your lead characters. That history defines who they are, how they think and how they react in situations. It's important to know Sam is capable of great love. Fans fell in love no question. 

One of the rules of the series was the time traveler is never suppose to affect or change their history especially their own. Sam breaking his own rule was a test of character, but because he did it to help Donna, I think it made him more of a hero. His ulterior motive, to not be left at the altar, made him a tortured hero and I think fans relate to that on an emotional level. The multiple story lines of the English professor and the romantic young girl, her Romeo and Juliette fantasy and the reality of Sam and Donna's missed chance at happiness, wove a multi layered tapestry that supported the evolution of the character, the theme of the episode and series and title. 

One of the real challenges about Quantum Leap were the "kisses with history". Trust me, they were tough to pull off. I wanted to establish an important one early on in the series to set how time traveling can effect history. I felt those effects should always be positive if possible. That positivity was one of the key elements that I believe was the underlying power of the series.  I think Sam accidentally triggering Watergate was my favorite kiss with history. The goal wasn't ever that we changed history as we know it, just established it was Sam's fault and I think that was a clever device and usually made people smile.

As for choosing Teri, she gave a great audition. She had a natural innocence and vulnerability. I think she and I spoke about her background and love of mathematics and engineering. I thought that was awesome she was so smart.

I also got a hold of director Mark Sobel and talked to him briefly by phone.  He said that it was a fun episode to direct and that despite the show being a balance between comedy and drama, creator/producer Don Bellisario encouraged him to emphasize the comedy element as much as possible.  It was filmed at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, and all the actors were great to work with.  His main contribution to the story was Sam showing restraint with Donna in that he didn't simply reveal to her that he was from the future -- Mark said that this device is often used in time travel stories and it makes the time traveler seem kind of dumb for thinking that the other person will believe them (and Sam did try this to no avail with Peg in the first episode).

I was also curious to know how the mirror scenes were filmed (when Sam looks into the mirror to see someone else), and he said there was no mirror -- it was empty space with the other actor in a symmetrical room.

Final Analysis:
Another good episode, though I'll put it just a notch below Genesis (since I'm required by law to rank all these episodes against each other).  It's interesting that they didn't waste any time getting into Sam's personal life and backstory, and Deborah lent some interesting insight regarding that. This is a pretty comfortable episode for Sam -- comfortable in that he's not in danger (other than getting punched by Oscar) and he doesn't have to do anything overly challenging.  If he could remember his leaps, he'd likely look back at this one as one of his favorites especially since he got to reconnect with Donna.


  1. I was planning to pull up Netflix and watch this, but Netflix doesn't seem to think that all of the episodes should be streamable - which is the issue I ran into the last time I tried to watch QL.

    I vaguely remember this episode, but it's not jumping out as one that was 'awesome', so it must not have made much impression. I remember Teri Hatcher though.

    1. Yeah, netflix doesn't have the first two, but I think it has all the others from the first season. Not sure why, maybe something to do with music rights.

  2. This episode didn't do a lot for me and I was surprised by the lack of urgency to the conflict for an episode so early in the show's run. There was nothing irredeemably wrong with it and Deborah Pratt's writeup did shed some light on interesting points from a narrative point, especially Sam's struggle to make the mission not be entirely about him even when faced with such a highly personalized situation, but the convenience factor of Sam stumbling into his future fiancee while on a random message to keep two people apart didn't really work for me. I did like the performances though, especially by Teri Hatcher (agreed that it's nice to see her play it straight) and Michael Gregory. The ending where Sam inadvertently triggered the Watergate break-in was clever and nicely done, although I think it would have been better if Sam understood the historical context of that when Al clued him in (why wouldn't he? even with my limited experience with the series, Sam often knew historical context when he was about to witness it). I definitely preferred the pilot to this one.

    1. In later episodes they refer to his memory as "Swiss Cheese" (i.e. having holes in it) and so he remembers some things but not others. I think as the show goes along he slowly gains his memory.

  3. I know that I am late to the game and will never be able to catch up to your current viewing.
    Being a chemist, I love the that fact that Sam loves Bunsen burners and science buildings. The McGovern campaign, Nixon's CREP (committee to re-elect the President), Watergate breaking and the television showing a news program with Vietman all brought back memories. I don't think Sam caused the Watergate break-in. I think he took advantage of the taped door to enter the building (MacGyver style!). When the security guard became suspicious of Sam, they discovered the break-in. I loved the Don McLean "American Pie" music and Al giving 'hints' to Sam to read his sash. Al and Sam's bond of friendship sees them through many tough times.

  4. Donna's dad is portrayed as a decent and strict army man, who cares and loves her a lot and is very strict with his duties and yet he hadn't made any effort to contact her for 10+ years?! If he was a such decent man, why is that?

    Also it doesn't make sense that all is magically good between her and her dad, when he has pretty much ignored her for such a long time.

    I felt that solution to the situation was a cop out.

    Also Sam's host, Dr. Bryant, has an improper (sexual?) relation with an young female student and it seems to be not a first time. I wonder what happened after Sam leaped off? It seems likely that Donna shows a lot interest toward Dr. Bryant. It must have been disaster.