Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Time Travel On TV: Quantum Leap vs. Journeyman

Quantum Leap (1989-1993) and Journeyman (2007) have a lot of similarities.

Quantum Leap is about a scientist, Sam Beckett, who creates a time machine which sends his consciousness back into the bodies of different people in the past who are in a position to right the wrongs of history. Once the wrongs are righted, his consciousness leaps into the body of another person and his next mission begins. Although he does not return to his original place in the timeline, he is assisted by his business partner, Al from his time who can appear to Sam in the form of a hologram.

Journeyman is about a newspaper journalist who also jumps into the past against his will to right the wrongs of history. He will jump back to pivotal point in the life of the person who he is trying to help and then return to his present for a time before lumping back to a different point in that person’s life. Once he has changed the past and “fixed” history, he returns again to his time for a while before it starts all over again.

A couple years ago I bought all of the seasons of Quantum Leap on DVD and watched them all over again. It was interesting at first, but after a while I found the premise and the characters somewhat grating – especially the character of Al. Also there were a lot of inconsistencies with the mythology of the show that I found disappointing. I ended up selling all of the DVDs on eBay and have not missed them since.

Journeyman on the other hand is possibly one of my favorite TV shows ever. The time travel was interesting and the stories were always exciting. Which is of course why it was canceled after the first season. The biggest strength of the show is the ongoing story about the lead character, Dan Vasser and his wife, Katie and how they deal with his time traveling and the effect his absences have had on his marriage. Although it never made it to DVD, the episodes are still available on Hulu.

Quantum Leap: 2.5 Stars (out of 5)
5 Stars (out of 5)


joN. said...

you don't want to elaborate a bit on the inconsistencies do you? i've only seen a half dozen or so episodes of quantum leap and i'm curious about what went wrong.

Jeremy said...

"The time travel was interesting and the stories were always exciting. Which is of course why it was canceled after the first season."

Truest line ever. What's up with smartly written and funny shows that get cancelled yet we are still subjected to Two and a Half Men?

Robert Vollman said...

Executives would green-light a time travel show if it fit today's "model."

That's why I propose some new shows:

Law and Order: Time Travel Unit
Survivor: Medieval Europe
CSI: Time-Space Continuum
American Time Idol
America's Got Time Machines
Who Wants To Be a Time Traveler?
So You Think You Can Time Travel?
Time Traveling With the Stars
Monday Night Time Travel

and of course

Two and a Half Time Travelers

Matsby said...

Those are great, Vollman.

JoN, there were a few things that bothered my on QL. Like they would set up certain things and then a few episodes, they would break their own rules.

Like they said when Sam would leap, it was his consciousness/spirit that would go into the people's bodies. And that Sam's body remained in his time - in the "waiting room" and the spirit of the people he was inhabiting would be in the present inhabiting his body.

And one episode Sam would be in a woman's body and Al would be ogling him and very attracted to him. Then in another episode Al would talk about how the person looked in the waiting room.


Also Ziggy was always revered to as a male and then then in the episode where we hear Ziggy speak, it has a female voice.

And there were a few more. Especially as the seasons went on. I can't remember them all, but I do remember being bugged when he leapt outside of his lifetime - because that shit all over his string theory.

I do admit I can be kind of particular about certain things like that.

Matsby said...

Yep Jeremy. As soon as I find a show I really like, I know it will get canceled early.

Other favorites over the last couple years include: Firefly (of course), Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Arrested Development, and Andy Barker PI.

My top two favorite recent shows canceled early are Journeyman and New Amsterdam.

New Amsterdam was really really great. And I think I liked it because it had a time issue to it too. He was basically immortal and had been around a couple hundred years. And he had had families and there was an old man who was his friend - who it turned out was his son.

It was really great. And neither of those shows has even got a DVD.

Yet bull crap shows remain on TV and terrible terrible shows get DVD treatments.

Robert Vollman said...

Did they ever explain why Sam Beckett didn't just write himself letters when he was in the past?

1. He could have told himself what happens when he steps into the machine.
2. He could have given himself stock tips (or made an investment in his name) so they didn't have to worry about government funding and rush the project.

Steve Evans said...

Matsby, you should try Life on Mars.