Dr. Sam Beckett returns in the third season of “Quantum Leap” to take on bikers, dancers, and the devil himself - oh boy!
“Quantum Leap” has always been one of my favorite sci-fi television series. The peak of the show came in its third season which really built on the foundation of the first two seasons, exploring its characters in a way that it never managed to capture again. Future seasons of “Quantum Leap” would become very gimmicky - utilizing a lot of famous historical figures or moments in an attempt to garner higher ratings. Season three rarely (if at all) falls into that pit, using quality writing and superior acting to tell some really fun and emotional stories.
As always the show is centered around Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) as he leaps around in time fixing things that once went wrong. Along for the ride is Sam’s friend Al (Dean Stockwell), who feeds Sam information about each quantum leap through time, guiding and assisting Sam and at the same time taking advantage of his holographic form to gawk at beautiful women and make inappropriate comments. Thankfully the show was made for network television during the early 90s, so Al’s comments can only get so bad.
No matter how many times I watch the show, I always remain impressed with Scott Bakula’s ability to totally lose himself in his character, and not just Sam Beckett. With every leap there is a part of him who becomes the person he leaped into, whether it’s the tone of his voice, or the way he carries himself, or the expression of his face. When, in the first episode, Sam leaps into himself at the age of 16, Bakula makes you believe he’s a younger brother to an actor probably half his age, and a son to a woman who is only a few years older than Bakula. Actual physical ages become irrelevant as Bakula shows us that true manifestation that occurs to any of us when we get around our family - we all become younger brothers or mother’s sons, no matter how old we are. It’s an amazing transformation on Bakula’s part though, and a true testimony as to how good the show could be. Bakula carries this ability to a new height in Season Three, guest starring in the first episode to play Sam's father.
Other leaps in Season Three include a beauty pageant contestant (yes, more high heels for Sam), a black man during the Watts riots, the clown in a biker gang, a male dancer, and Future Boy, a television show sidekick. “Future Boy” is most notable not only for guest star Alan Fudge, but also for adding more to the “Quantum Leap” mythos, almost having another character travel in time. Just when you think each episode couldn’t possibly be better than the previous one, the season ends with “Shock Theater”, allowing Sam to bring back the personalities of characters he previously leapt into as he undergoes shock therapy, as well as giving us one of the finest cliffhangers of “Quantum Leap” history - Al as a solid person and Sam as the hologram! It almost makes up for the show’s weakest episode - “8 1/2 Months” where Sam leaps into a pregnant woman. The writers tried to go for a gimmick that never paid off, and frankly never really made sense. Still, one ill episode in a season of twenty-two - most shows would be lucky to have that.
The pregnancy episode isn’t the only gimmick the writers attempt, just the only one that doesn’t pay off. The third season saw “Quantum Leap” celebrate several holidays with definite Halloween and Christmas episodes, both of which are excellent, even if the Christmas one is a bit contrived (what show hasn’t paid homage to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?). With the season opening with Sam leaping into his younger self, and ending with “Shock Theater”, the show doesn’t get any better than this, and like when the show originally aired, that cliffhanger ending has me anxiously awaiting season four.
The benefit of television series releases is that studios have a chance to pull a Sam Beckett themselves - putting right what once went wrong. While the third season release of “Quantum Leap” doesn’t bring anything special to the table, Universal does respond to complaints about the first two seasons with a few changes.
Firstly, and the change I like the most, Universal ditches the horrible cardboard packaging that plagued the first two seasons. While you still have the foil cover to draw attention to the set, within are three slim cases to hold each of the three discs that make up the set. I’m a big fan of slim cases, which fit easier into my computer bag to carry around than a big bulky DVD box set. Now if Universal would just give us six discs instead of three flippers, I’d be a really happy man.
Secondly, the disc has no extras. Now that’s not really a change from the second season, but unlike the second season there is nothing here to make you believe there should have been extras (the second season package mentioned bonus materials that were never put in). I still miss the intros from the first season set, and would like to see commercials or commentary on select episodes. Unfortunately since we haven’t gotten any commentary so far I have no reason to think they’ll add it in the future, which is a real shame. There are a couple of episodes that deserve to be talked about, and several of them fall within this season. Still, sometimes you have to be happy just to have the set released, and not argue about what didn’t come with it.
The only real technical complaint I have would be the sound, but it’s not an issue with the DVDs as much as about the episodes themselves. Some of the episodes are very badly looped - the original sound was probably unusable so the actors were brought back into the studio to record the lines, which unfortunately don’t quite match up with the mouth movement. I’m sure it’s the cost of filming a weekly tv series on location, and while it’s a bit distracting, it’s not really the DVD’s fault. It’s just a shame the problem couldn’t be fixed for the DVD release.