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NBC's Quantum Leap Premiere Name-Dropped Scott Bakula's Sam Beckett, But Could He Actually Return?

Raymond Lee in Quantum Leap
(Image credit: NBC )

Warning! The following contains spoilers for NBC’s Quantum Leap series premiere, called “July 13th, 1985.” Read at your own risk!

NBC’s Quantum Leap revival didn’t feature Sam Beckett in the flesh, but Scott Bakula’s iconic time-traveling character did get plenty of references in the series premiere. Dr. Ben Song’s friends and colleagues tried to make sense of his decision to jump before they’d perfected their theory of bringing people back but didn't get many answers. The show also acknowledged the events of the original series and the experiment that trapped Beckett back in time decades before. 

In the decades since Sam Beckett's disappearance, Dr. Ben Song and other brilliant minds continued working to perfect the time travel method and even think they can drill down on how to bring people back from their jumps. The latter, of course, is important, as the characters later confirmed the bummer ending of the original Quantum Leap that was infamously laid out via title card. Yes, Sam Beckett never found his way home, and as far as the characters in the series know, he’s either dead or still traveling through time. 

It’s quite a grim reveal, but all hope is not lost. Viewers learn the Quantum Leap project restarted under the guidance of Herbert "Magic" Williams, and that for the past five years, they’ve worked on developing a way for someone to jump to a single point in time, and then return back to the present after jumping. Unfortunately, Ben uploaded a bunch of new data to the program before taking an impromptu jump, and thanks to amnesia he suffered as a side effect from it, he can’t explain why he did that. For now, he’s just as stuck in time and jumping into bodies Sam Beckett was, but should the team figure out how to bring him back, there’s a chance they can do the same for Sam if he’s still out there. 

Quantum Leap left the door open for Scott Bakula to reprise his role as Sam Beckett, but whether that will actually happen is another story. While there was rampant speculation he’d be involved and the actor showed enthusiasm about a revival, Bakula himself confirmed he had to turn down appearing in the project and that it was a “difficult decision” for him to do so (even with the cancellation of NCIS: New Orleans presumably freeing him up for more projects). With that said, the show presents an opportunity for Sam to make an appearance, so provided there’s an opportunity for him to appear in a future season, it might still be on the table. 

There’s also a chance that Scott Bakula and those involved in Quantum Leap are playing coy about whether or not he’ll return as Sam Beckett. Although we can only speculate, there is something curious about a response that showrunner Martin Gero gave during the TCA press tour in regard to Ben Song’s jumping ability. Gero was asked if Ben can jump into non-Americans, women, former people Sam jumped into, or even Sam, and responded with the following: 

I'm not going to answer the third one because that's too deep in the season. I don't want to get into stuff there. As far as can he jump into anyone other than Americans, absolutely. And can he jump into women, yes. That's our first one our first women he'll jump into will be Episode 4.

Martin Gero certainly didn't drop all the spoilers for what's to come about who can be jumped into, which could be a sign that the character will be referenced beyond what viewers saw in the premiere. I, personally, would take that as a positive sign there’s a chance we’ll see Sam Beckett in the future, though whether that’s someone played by Scott Bakula or someone else I cannot say. The show already had to launch without actor Dean Stockwell following his death, so it’d be a shame if it ultimately has to continue on without Bakula in any capacity as well.

Quantum Leap airs on NBC on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET. As the fall season of television gets underway, be sure to check it what new shows are arriving to stay on top of all the fun television coming down the pipeline.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.