Monday, September 19, 2022

REVIEW: 'Quantum Leap' - Dr. Ben Song Begins a New Journey Leaping Into the Past to Save Lives in 'July 13th, 1985'

NBC's Quantum Leap - Episode 1.01 "July 13th, 1985"

A new team assembles to restart the Quantum Leap project. Lead physicist Ben Song takes an unauthorized leap into 1985 as the team scrambles to figure out what happened and how to get him back.

"July 13th, 1985" was written by Steven Lilien & Bryan Wynbrandt and directed by Thor Freudenthal

The creative team has opted to incorporate elements of the original drama starring Scott Bakula in its reboot of Quantum Leap. An opening title notes how Dr. Sam Beckett hasn't been seen since he vanished from the Quantum Leap Project in 1995. No one has attempted to venture into the accelerator to start the same journey all over again. The team working on the project wants to develop the technology to pull back the leaper whenever it becomes convenient. And yet, that's not what ultimately happens. Instead, Dr. Ben Song is trapped just like Sam was all those years ago. He wakes up from his first leap with amnesia as well. He can't offer any explanation to the team about why he made this decision. The government project had an operational plan should they figure out how to make this project viable once more. Ben was operating with a mysterious outsider who somehow cracked the code. They had to move during a specific time window. That meant disrupting Ben and Addison's engagement party. Ben only left a video message behind for her. Even then, he only cryptically teases how there are much bigger forces at work. It's all meant to be incredibly mysterious. It's a conspiracy after all. The team has to work to put the pieces together while ensuring Ben can make it home safely to them once more. He wasn't suppose to be the one making the leaps. He certainly has the skills to help people when they need it the most. However, Addison was brought onto the project to fulfill this role. She was planning for it. And then, Ben stubbornly followed his own plan. He carries himself with the charisma and charm to make for a compelling lead. He also kept this massive secret from the woman he loves. She yearns for understanding. He can't provide that for her. Instead, they are focused on the task at hand. They have to save Ryan's life before he is killed during a robbery/bombing. It's ultimately a very confusing plot that doesn't have much time to make the episodic interests all that compelling. It plays with expectations of criminals. Ryan is perceived as bad. Then, he's given the dimension of being put in a bad situation to help his wife afford her cancer treatments. It's sentimental. It's not ultimately groundbreaking. It's a rather simple way to convey the basic plot without digging for more character depth. That's annoying. Time is being spent evenly between Ben's episodic adventures and the team in the present-day trying to save his life. They don't want his fate to be the same as Sam's. They don't actually lead with much confidence. Instead, they only tease more connections to the former show without actually striking out to create a unique identity for this one.

It should be an absolute blast watching Ben leap into the bodies of people in the past during heightened moments of their lives. He wakes up in 1985 Philadelphia and immediately has to serve as the getaway drive for a heist. The criminals have enough explosives to do a whole lot of damage. The historical record suggests no one is injured. That's good. It doesn't explain what Ben is meant to be doing in this location. He ultimately finds his way to save Ryan's life. He isn't destined to die on this day in the hopes of saving his wife. He earned sympathy not only from the local police but from the entire community. Once his story gained public attention, people rallied to his support. Again, it's a rather simplistic conclusion. That's the risk when doing episodic storytelling. Sometimes, the endings have to be clear and concise. They can't operate with much ambiguity. Instead, it has to be off to the next adventure while the team at home tries to figure out how to get this mission under control. Magic knows he has to report to his superiors at some point. Jenn is the only one who can produce a meaningful lead. But again, it doesn't offer much support for why all of this secrecy had to be done. It's all in the pursuit of telling a much larger story. That comes at the expense of what made this property so enjoyable in the first place. Sure, it's meaningful to see the chemistry and connection between Ben and Addison as they work together on this mission. She keeps her composure despite not knowing why he acted this way. They essentially have to form an entirely new relationship. They were willing to spend their lives together once. That can hopefully be restored at some point. Ben is the only person who can see Addison in the past. He has to constantly explain why he is talking to someone who isn't there. It's clunky without adding much dimension. It also means Addison carries the burden of this relationship. She remembers everything. She knows what this bond once was. She's professional in the new setting. It takes time for her to adjust given what their roles were suppose to be. They don't have any time to rest either. The team can't pull Ben back after he completes the mission. Instead, he keeps making leaps. He travels to a rocket blasting off to space. That's the next massive adventure he must face. Addison finds his phone at home. He will clearly need her back at the lab to help figure out the purpose of what he must do next. There will always be people in need of saving. That's even more true when delving into the mysteries of the past. Not a lot seemingly changes. And so, it's entirely driven by what Ben hopes to achieve. That point exists purely in the dark. Once the show provides more compelling reasons to keep this conceit going, then it will be a successful broadcast procedural. Until that point, it may be destined to forever be teasing something more exciting even though it has a cast willing to embrace all that this property entails.