I’ve referenced on the podcast that I am currently going through a re-watch of Quantum Leap. I imagine this will eventually lead to an episode of Dragonfly Ripple as my daughter is joining me on this journey. Specifically, I am watching the Mill Creek Entertainment-produced Quantum Leap Blu-rays.
I had owned the earlier DVD release and my first action (well, actually second but more on that later) upon receiving these in the mail was to stick the disc in containing “MIA” and verifying “Georgia on My Mind” was there. And it was. Immediately this was completely worth the double dip for the retention of that song alone, as the earlier DVD releases had much of the music stripped out of it. (And “Georgia” had been stripped out of “MIA” but not a later episode on those releases.)
And that’s a tricky thing. On the one hand, I understand the dilemma of having to make the sets affordable, but on the other, music plays such a role in this show as it properly sets the tone for a time traveler showing up in different eras.
The show itself can range from extremely great to sickeningly sweet and sappy. Sappiness aside, the acting prowess of Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, along with the chemistry they have together, is enough to make even the inferior episodes enjoyable. Donald P. Bellasario builds a world that we only get glimpses of at times and it makes the full universe richer. We learn about the history of the characters along the way but at times, our biggest questions aren’t even answered.
The quality of the shows on seasons 1-3 and 4-5 for the most part (again, more on this later) is fantastic on these Blu-rays. There is still dust and scratches proving this is not a full restore, but often times that adds to the charm, especially considering the show is set in the 50s-80s.
This set is not without a few disappointments. First, there are no captions on the episodes. My hearing is fine, but I find more and more I like to turn captions on when I watch shows especially if I’m watching late at night and have to keep the volume down while the kids are sleeping. And there are hearing-impaired who might enjoy watching and now can’t get enjoyment out of the set. The second oddity has apparently been fixed, but when my discs arrived, they weren’t all in the correct cases. It gave me a minor heart attack at first as I scrambled to do an inventory, but everything checked out. Third, I’m not at a point where I need extras or even have time to watch them, but it would have been nice to see some. Especially a commentary track by Bakula, Stockwell and/or Bellasario. That’s a pipe dream.
Those things are all on Mill Creek and besides the lack of captions, nothing that I’d raise a fuss about, especially since the case issue has reportedly been fixed. My biggest disappointment is not on Mill Creek, and sadly there’s nothing that can be done about it. The first three seasons are near perfect. Every shot is in HD and it’s outstanding. Starting with the fourth season, the producers must have changed how they did their special effects and all effects shots look pretty bad.
If you want all the super-technical reasons for why this might be the case, check out the article below about why we’ll never see DS9 or Voyager on Blu-ray and mentally search and replace “DS9” for “Quantum Leap.” As a quick summary, in the 90s, studios weren’t thinking about HD so porting effects shots over to video, which was SD, was a cheap and quicker way of producing effects. Well, now that we live in a 1080p and beyond era, these SD effects don’t look so good. In seasons 4 and 5, anytime there’s a leaping or hologram effect, the shot quality looks pretty bad and there’s a considerable amount of visible interlacing on effect itself. It doesn’t make the show unwatchable, but I personally find it jarring.
The only way around that, and Ziggy says there’s only a .0001% chance of this happening, is for Quantum Leap to get the same treatment Star Trek: The Next Generation got and all source film would be scanned and the effects recreated in HD. I can’t even imagine a scenario in which that happens. But seeing this does make me appreciate the CBS team that recreated the NextGen effects all the more.
Mill Creek Entertainment has several Universal shows available as full series on Blu-ray. I have already purchased The Rockford Files (look for a review on those when I’m further into that set) and could see a Knight Rider purchase as a possibility someday. I have a mental wishlist of more shows I’d like to see them release, and topping that list is The A-Team.
Disappointments aside, I am super glad to have this set and heartily recommend any fan of this show purchase it.
As a bonus to this review, here are my top ten episodes of Quantum Leap:
10. Catch a Falling Star –Sam leaps into an understudy playing Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha where he runs into the lady who was his piano teacher when he was a kid. Quite smitten, he begins to go off the rails away from what he’s supposed to do. This episode has one of the best leaps as the musical build up to it is quite nice.
9. Killin’ Time – Sam leaps into a guy holding a family hostage. In the future, that guy breaks out of Project: Quantum Leap and Al has to track him down, otherwise Sam can’t leap. Season 5 winds up being a pretty gimmicky season, but I didn’t mind a lot of it even though some “purists” did.
8. Another Mother – Sam leaps into the 80s and is the mother of three children.
7. A Single Drop of Rain – Sam leaps into a traveling con artist who promises a small town he’ll make it rain. This is from the fourth season, a season I found fairly uneven, but it’s a highlight from the entire series.
6. The Leap Back – Picking up on the cliffhanger of the third season, Sam and Al have switched places which means Sam has made it home. It’s not without it’s problems, but it is fun to see the switch and get a glimpse of the future.
5. Last Dance Before an Execution – Sam leaps into a guy on death row and he’s there to clear his name. Quite a different twist for the show as Sam is confined to prison for the entire episode and he has to get others, including Al, to do the legwork for him.
3/4. Leap Home, parts 1 & 2 – Two distinct episodes, but still linked. Sam leaps into himself in high school and tries to overextend his purpose there. That’s followed up by Sam leaping into a guy who’s in his brother’s Vietnam squad. These two are labeled parts 1 & 2, but are still quite linked to the episode that preceded it which is…
2. MIA – Sam leaps into a cop in California, but Al points Sam to help a woman who is currently grieving over her missing husband.
1. Shock Theater – This is the third season finale and is a great culmination of the previous three seasons. He leaps into a psych ward patient just as he receives electroshock therapy. This causes Sam to breakdown mentally and begin reliving the lives of those he’s leaped into. Hands down the best episode of the series.