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NBC's New 'Quantum Leap' Wants to Lead With Empathy — and Possibly Bring Back Scott Bakula?

Showrunner Martin Gero said the tenets of the show are 'hope, heart, humor, and history.'

Danielle Turchiano
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Raymond Lee in 'Quantum Leap'

NBC

Almost three decades after the original Quantum Leap came to an end on NBC, a new one will begin, but as new series star Raymond Lee put it during a Television Critics Association press tour panel for the series, they're not looking to replace the original, but rather expand the universe and tell new stories for a new time.

"I think at the core of it what connects Ben Song and Sam Beckett are the main tenets of their belief in doing good and what it means to be empathetic. And through that, as they pass through bodies, they'll have the joint experience of agreeing they're doing right with what went wrong," Lee said.

The original Quantum Leap centered on Scott Bakula's Dr. Samuel "Sam" Beckett who obtained support from the government in order to build the titular project, which was designed to kickstart time travel. He used himself as a test subject and was then thrown back in time, retaining most of his own self but appearing to everyone else around him as someone else. He works to try to correct problems in the past, hoping that each time he "leaps" he will get closer to getting back to his own place and time.

Lee plays Dr. Ben Song in the new version, which is technically a continuation, not a reboot, because Bakula's character is still very much a part of the story, even if he is not set to revive his role in the new series (at least not yet). Ben leads a new team that has been assembled to restart Sam's project in order to get to the bottom of the mystery of the machine and the man who created it and has been missing all this time.

"The four tenets of Quantum Leap are hope, heart, humor, and history. And Ben really inhabits the first three of those," said showrunner Martin Gero. "The show is about empathy at its core and he has a ton of that to give, but more importantly now is the humor. ... I think this entire cast, Ray especially, has taken that on."

When Ben leaps, he first forgets who he is and where he is from, which means he at first thinks what he is experiencing is just a dream. Luckily, he is working in 2022, when the technology is advanced enough that another team member named Addison (played by Caitlin Bassett), who he happened to be in a romantic relationship with, can find ways to guide him on his leaps, even though she can only appear to him as a hologram in the past. Like Sam, Ben leaps into others' bodies and need to solve issues in their lives in order to try to find his way home.

Ben can leap into anyone, Gero confirmed, including non-Americans and women. "Our first women that he'll jump into will be Episode 4," he revealed. But whether he may eventually leap into Sam Beckett, Gero would only say he "didn't want to get into" that because it's "too deep in the season." So, while it's not officially confirmed that Bakula will guest star, signs seem to point to them working toward that.

"It's not like we're solving just a murder every week. The show is truly like a 52-pickup of television: What are the shows we've always wanted to write? What are the movies we've loved? What are the stories we want to tell? Everything has a place here," Gero said, noting that is "rad" from a creative level. "We're basically making a pilot every episode. A perfect example is we're doing a Western in Episode 5."

Quantum Leap also stars Ernie Hudson, Mason Alexander Park, and Nanrisa Lee who work back at headquarters and are left in surprise when Ben disappears. The balance of episodic stories, Gero explained, would be mostly focused on the "leap of the week," so to speak, although there would be time spent back at headquarters as they try to figure out "Why did Ben leave? What's going on? Why didn't he tell anyone? That mystery pulls through week to week without alienating casual viewers."

"That serialized mystery is not carrying the weight of the show. The fun of the show are these leaps, and then the serialized aspects are just the glorious icing on the cake. For us, why Ben left is the serialized question we will absolutely answer by the end of the season," Gero continued. "Ben will slowly get his memory back pretty quickly when it comes to at least remembering [Addison and] that he's in love with Addison. ... And from that point on, their relationship gets more complex because they're separated by time and space."

The original Quantum Leap has a 61 Metascore, but this new version has not yet been sent out to critics for review. Watch a trailer below.