Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Sleazy Professor

Quantum Leap
Season One, Episode Two

Star-Crossed is the first regular episode of Quantum Leap, and so we are treated to the first proper use of the delightful themetune (after a rather lift-musicky arrangement in the end credits of Genesis).  We love this themetune.  Unfortunately this week the clips are so few that quite a lot of the title sequence is filled with ghastly eighties-oh-we-mean-futuristic strobe lines, but even this cannot diminish our love for a themetune that means Quantum Leap is on and everything is going to be okay.  Doo, doo-dee-doo-doo, doo, doo, dee-doo!

So it’s a pity this episode isn’t actually that great.  Sam leaps into a sleazy English Lit professor (and Sam hates English Lit).  According to Al and Ziggy he’s here to stop the sleazy professor and his young female student from a shotgun wedding that ruins both their lives.  But Sam’s more interested in another student, Donna, the woman who jilted Sam twelve years in her future.  (Yes, one episode after establishing Sam’s amnesia he remembers tons of stuff about his life with Donna, apart from who jilted who.  That’s Swiss cheese for you, apparently.)

And here’s the problem.  Sam gets headstrong; all he’s interested in is Donna and fixing her problems so she won’t jilt him in the future, which seems awfully out of step with the compassionate guy we met in the previous episode.  He also completely forgets that he is not Sam but a sleazy old guy.  All those scenes of Donna building a relationship with Sam work less well when you remember the creepy old pervert she’s actually looking at.

Sam is completely selfish here.  He’s not that bothered by Donna’s feelings: his plan is to reunite her with her father, thus instantly curing her relationship-ruining fear of abandonment (as Al reminds him, Sam is not a psychiatrist, but then whaddya know, he’s right anyway), but only because it suits him.  And here the episode feels like it’s missing something.  Sam uses time travel for personal gain, we spend the whole thing waiting for some comeuppance, and there isn’t any.  Why set this up as Rule Number One if it doesn’t actually matter?

He isn’t even that bothered by what he’s actually here to do.  He is repeatedly surprised and grossed out that young women are attracted to his host, but not really concerned about it.  (And he does nothing to change it.)  In the end, the sleazy old guy gets no comeuppance either.  He comes off as a benevolent uncle figure in order to take advantage of his impressionable students.  As soon as Sam leaves, he’ll go straight back to his kinky ways.  Great.

The fun bits are Sam’s efforts to get the innocent student and her brute boyfriend back together, and these scenes really are a hoot, but there aren't enough of them and it all gets resolved practically instantly.  (Just saying ‘breathless’ instead of ‘horny’ does the trick.  And just reuniting girls with their long-last dads means bingo, no more runaway brides.  Good thing Sam's got six doctorates, this stuff is hard.)

Al’s half of the episode is very interesting.  The ‘committee’ are angry with Sam for breaking time travel rule one: Don’t change history for your personal gain, and they want to fire Al and close down the project (although what that actually means, what with Sam being lost in time and all, is unclear).  Al’s attempts to thwart them are enjoyable and there’s a brilliant scene in which the entire committee are in the imaging chamber with him, but Sam can’t see or hear them and they can’t see or hear Sam, so we get a game of charades and then Al being hoisted out by invisible beings.  This bit’s in the title sequence, and it looks great.

Despite Sam being a bit annoying this week, Scott Bakula is still amazing.  (Just wait for his puppy look.)  Teri Hatcher on the other hand, who we generally love, has very little to do other than get teary.  She does it well of course, but Donna is hardly the most riveting character to watch, and there’s no evidence of her and Sam’s apparent love, and nowhere in the episode for it to go.  It’s an interesting time travel idea, meeting your intended in the wrong order, but there isn’t any way for the episode to exploit it.  (And after three years of River Song, we don't really want to.)

Overall, we’re not sure that episode two is the place to explore your protagonist’s weaknesses.  How about some actual helping-people-out stories before you start on the personal gain corruption?  Or at least, if you have to do it so early, maybe deal with this problem instead of just throwing it in there for a laugh.  Speaking of which, Star-Crossed also includes the Watergate scandal as a comic footnote.

All things considered, it doesn't really tackle any of its ideas properly, but a bad episode of Quantum Leap is generally still a rollicking 45 minutes.

The Sam Beckett Genius Tally
  • Has a doctorate in Ancient Languages, and can read hieroglyphics.

1 comment:

  1. Doo doo-dee-doo doo doo!

    You should review more stuff that isn't Doctor Who. Because Quantum Leap is better.