The first episode aired on March 26, 1989 and the show ran for five years (96 episodes). It sprang from the fertile mind of Donald Bellisario, who also created shows such as Magnum p.i. , Airwolf, Tales Of The Gold Monkey and, more recently, JAG and NCIS.
Quantum Leap starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist from the near future (from the perspective of 1989), who believes he has found a way to time travel within his own lifetime.
However, when he tests his theory, the experiment goes awry he finds himself “leaping”, or bouncing, through time into the bodies of strangers. He soon realises he is being directed by some unseen higher power to either save or improve these people’s lives. To move on to the next leap – and, he hopes, eventually leap back home – he must “put right what once went wrong”, changing history in the process.
Sam’s only companion is Al Calavicci, played by Dean Stockwell, a friend and colleague from Sam’s own time who appears as a hologram that only he can see and hear. Using the computer resources of Sam’s lab and their present-day historical records, Al helps him figure out whose life he is living and the reason for Sam being there.
Quantum Leap was unapologetically sentimental and schmaltzy and, despite the slightly futuristic time-travel premise, refused to get too bogged down in sci-fi, preferring instead to focus on the human drama and character interaction, while tackling contemporary issues such as racism, sexism and attitudes towards the disabled in an entertaining way that just about managed to stay the right side of preachy. It was a clever move that no doubt helped the show move beyond its genre roots and also win a large, and loyal, mainstream audience.
Key to the show’s success was the great rapport between Bakula and Stockwell, without a doubt one of the great TV partnerships.
Here, then, is the definitive version of the opening credits, complete with the explanatory narration and also the teaser for the episode it comes from (which is the first episode of the fourth season where a technical hitch causes Al to become the leaper and Sam becomes the hologramatic helper):
EDIT: Okay, rather annoyingly, embedding is disabled for this video. So until I figure out a way round that or find a different video elsewhere, I’m afraid you’ll have to click on the player above, which will take you to the video on YouTube. Alternatively, click HERE.