Sam leaps into Reginald Pearson, a valet for the wealthy and cold-hearted Michael Blake, whose new building development is going to toss a Salvation Army mission and the people it helps out onto the streets. Sam decides the way to help Blake to change is to take inspiration from A Christmas Carol and to help him reconnect with the past and to see the implications of the present. When that doesn’t work, he and Al resort to more drastic measures. Taking advantage of a fluke that allows Blake to see Al, they make him believe he is being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future to bring home to Blake where his current path is taking him, which leads to Blake becoming a changed man.
Teleplay by Sandy Fries and Robert Wolterstorff. Story by Sandy Fries. Directed by Michael Watkins
This just might be the most predictable episode of Quantum Leap ever produced. Right from the moment that “Scrooge” is first mentioned, the entire plot is laid before us, pretty plainly. Just like with most pastiches of A Christmas Carol, we know that we’ll see some tender revelations about the character’s past, and some conflicted responses to the difficulties of the present. But then for some reason it will all go wrong, and our Scrooge stand-in will retreat into his cold and bitter personality, until Sam and Al take advantage of the wacky coincidence that allows Blake to see holograms from the future. I even knew as soon as I saw the big star during the story’s final moments that we’d end with Al declaring that he had nothing to do with creating it.
But still the episode is a success because of how well Michael Blake is actually written and performed. Once we get into the meat of the story, we spend most of our time watching an extremely good performance from Charles Rocket that quite effortlessly gets us into the mind and heart of the character. It’s rare that an episode of Quantum Leap relies so heavily on a single guest performance for its success, but that is the case here. And because we know him so well, it becomes easy to track with his emotional journey, resulting in quite a grounded story, in spite of a lot of the silly stuff happening around him.
Of course the other memorable thing about the episode is Al’s “performance” as the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s silly and over-the-top, but that perhaps makes sense given the situation. It makes the whole last act of the story a lot more farcical than the rest of it, but perhaps that’s fitting given the fact that the episode is obviously a light-hearted Christmas romp.
• Charles Rocket (Michael G. Blake) shows up in a later episode called A Leap for Lisa, and also appears in an episode of Star Trek Voyager.
• Melinda McGraw (Captain Laura Downey) appeared in a few episodes of The West Wing as Arnold Vinick’s second campaign manager.
• Michael Dan Wagner (Lt. Porterman) was Old Fred (an early victim) in the movie Tremors
Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Reginald Pearson, the valet to Michael Blake, in New York City, on December 24-25, 1962.
What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to “save the soul” of Michael Blake, helping him to change his life direction so he will more compassionate and caring in his business dealings and relationships.
What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
When Sam was nine (at the time of this episode) his father gave him a sled for Christmas, and he and his brother Tom spent the day playing in the snow.
He is certainly familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, although he couldn’t remember Dickens’ name (although that was presumably an effect of his time travel.
What do we know about Al?
There’s not really anything new in this episode.
What about the experiment?
To everyone’s surprise, Blake can see and hear Al. This is explained by the fact that he his neurons and mesons are on a similar frequency to Sam’s. To deal with this, Al has Ziggy “shift his image” a little bit, after which Al is invisible like normal.
God or Time or Something
Several traditional Christmas songs are sung, which mention God and Jesus–like Silent Night, Carol of the Bells and Joy to the World. Captain Downey says that things are in God’s hands, but that she is going to do what she can to help. Sam refers to leaping around on behalf of a higher power. There is a lot of talk about saving Blake’s soul.
The catchphrase is heard once right at the start, after Sam has just arrived, and then again just at the end (in the teaser for Sea Bride).
Sam’s Complicated Love Life
This does not factor into the story this time around.
The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al leers at a couple of the 1962 women, including Captain Downey and Blake’s maid.
• Sam arrives into 1962 helping a naked Blake get dressed–certainly one of the most uncomfortable leap-ins that he has ever had
• It’s a cute, funny moment when Sam tells Al he could be a waiter at Trader Vic’s.
• It’s funny when Blake sends a message to the Salvation Army people: “Better yet, just tell them go invade a country”
• Blake has a number of good lines. Talking about his mother, he says, “Do you know that poor woman died on her hands and knees, cleaning someone else’s bathroom” And later, talking to Sam, he says, “You know what I am? I’m the living embodiment of the American dream.”
• Dean Stockwell is just darn crazy as the ghost. He has one red ear and one green ear, just to complete the Christmas theme.
• The ending credits run over Joy to the World from earlier in the story, and conclude with a Christmas voice over the show to us.
Sam Leaps To
Sea Bride (Season 2)
I guess my favorite bit is when the depressed and drunk Blake takes Sam to his building sight and begins to wax poetic. He asks Sam to touch the building and tell him what he can feel, to which Sam replies that it’s just brick and steel.
Exactly. No heat, no warmth, no love. I’ve had people that loved me, if that’s what you mean. And you know what happens? They die, or they walk out on me. But this never will. This is immortality.
Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.
The Best Moment
I like the scene just before the dialogue mentioned above, where Blake is drinking and depressed about what he’s seen in himself via his “Christmas Past” experience. Charles Rocket nails it, and Scott Bakula is good as well.