Quantum Leap – Future Boy [3.13]

Sam leaps into Kenny Sharp, an actor in the 1950’s who works on a popular children’s science fiction series as Future Boy, sidekick to Captain Galaxy, as portrayed by veteran actor Moe Stein. Moe’s mental competence is under doubt, and Sam must prevent him from dying in an accident that occurs when Moe runs away from a competency hearing. In trying to help him, Sam learns that Moe believes he has built a working time machine in his basement, using a theory similar to Sam’s own. When the time machine fails to work, Moe breaks down about the past mistakes he was hoping to rectify. This softens the heart of his estranged daughter, and the two reconcile, allowing Moe to grow old with his family rather than in an institution.

Written by Tommy Thompson. Directed by Michael Switzer

Previous Episode: 8 1/2 Months Next Episode: Private Dancer

Quantum Leap continues its run of strong episodes with this entertaining story about a man who may or may not be out of touch with reality. Interestingly, if Moe had any obsession other than time travel, or if it had been anyone but Sam making the decision, it would be a fairly open and shut case–Moe Stein is clearly out of touch with reality and unable to take care of himself. But Sam, obviously, cannot just write Moe up as being crazy just because of how much Moe reminds him of himself. It’s a great personal hook for the story, even beyond the basic question of compassion and care for the elderly.

Richard Herd is very good as Moe, bringing out both the charming and the tragic aspects of the character. He and Scott Bakula work well together, with all of their scenes having an emotional authenticity that is part of the episode’s strength. Sam’s warmth to Moe and his general optimism about the whole situation are fitting, and really makes us cheer for our hero, even in opposition to Al’s more pragmatic approach.

Another highlight of the story is the fun it has with its period setting. It’s always fun to see Sam be uncomfortable and uncertain in his environment, and the days of cheesy live-TV is a great way to explore this. The episode of Time Patrol that we see is a lot of fun, and the live commercial is hilarious. The coda of the story is also charming, with Sam’s own childhood letter being read out loud, and Moe sharing back to him some of Sam’s own time travel theories. But this does bring up some interesting questions about how Project Quantum Leap itself might have been changed.

This is becasue presumabley, the reading of the letter is a result of Sam changing history, and not something that “originally” happened (Moe was supposed to die after his hearing, sometime after 12 noon, and the final Time Patrol episode is read is certainly after that). Plus, history must have been changed because Moe begins to include elements in his answer that the adult Sam led him to think about earlier in the episode. It even seems that a condition of Sam leaping might be the reading of this letter, as it’s Sam’s decision to let Moe do the ending of the episode alone that allows the letter to be read as it is. So it doesn’t make sense to say that this moment is what originally inspired Sam Beckett to come up with his “string theory”. But what impact, if any, does this have on Project Quantum Leap in the new history that is created. It’s the sort of thing we can theorize and guess at, but which is never directly explored.

Cast Notes:
• Richard Herd (Moe Stein) is a well known character actor, who I am most familiar with from V and V: The Final Battle, where he played the alien commander John, and from Star Trek: Voyager, where he appeared as Admiral Paris.

• George Wyner (Ben Harris) is another well known character actor, who I am most familiar with from Hill Street Blues, where he regularly showed up as Assistant District Attorney Bernstein.

• Alan Fudge (Dr. Richard Sandler) is yet another familiar character actor, who I know from an episode of M*A*S*H as a wounded captain who had a break with reality and come to believe himself to be Jesus Christ.

Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Kenny Sharp, television actor, in St. Louis, Missouri, from October 6-7 or 8, 1957.

The uncertainty about the date comes from the fact that the last scene of the leap is the recording of Time Patrol, taking place after Moe was fated to die in the original history. If the broadcast of the program was later the same day, it could be that it all wrapped up on October 7th. If not, one presumes that the last episode was done on October 8th.

What does Sam have to do?
Sam apparently has to prevent Moe Stein from dying when he attempts to hop a freight train in order to avoid being institutionalized. However, he doesn’t leap until Moe has read a letter on live TV from a young Sam Beckett, and begun to explain Sam’s own time travel theories back to his childhood safe.

What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
Sam apparently watched Time Patrol as a small child. Presumably, it helped to inspire his interest in time travel. In the revised history that existed after his leap, Captain Galaxy’s description of time travel may have helped to inspire Sam’s specific theories on time travel, or perhaps to arrive at them sooner than he would have otherwise.

Sam used to memorize time tables for trains. He references The Three Stooges and may recognize the names “De Niro” and “Soupy Sales” when Al mentions them.

Sam used to memorize time tables for trains. He references The Three Stooges and may recognize the names “De Niro” and “Soupy Sales” when Al mentions them. Sam also references Columbus, the Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong in a very positive way, as dreamers–though he gets Armstrong’s name wrong and calls him Neil Diamond by mistake.

What do we know about Al?
Al is being sued by his fourth wife (who drives a Mercedes) for more alimony payments, but it gets settled out of court.

What about the experiment?
Project Quantum Leap is based on Sam’s “string theory” of time travel, which has been mentioned in the series before but which I have not detailed. Here, the idea is described as imagining that your life is a piece of string, with your birth on one end and your death on the other. If the string was balled up, the different points in your life would then touch each other, and one could theoretically “quantum leap” from one point to another, allowing you to time travel within your own lifetime.

In the early days of Project Quantum Leap, the government tried to shut down the experiment because they thought it was too dangerous and that Sam was crazy. Sam and Al did not allow them to do this, because they believed in their work.

God or Time or Something
Moe prays before his meal, but other than that there is no explicit reference to God or the force that is moving Sam through time.

“Oh Boy”
The catchphrase is heard in the typical places–once at the start after Sam arrives, and once a the end when he arrives into the next episode.

Sam’s Complicated Love Life
There’s nothing happening this time around–except for at the end when he leaps to the next episode, but we’ll deal with that then.

The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al’s court case with his ex-wife gets dropped when they temporarily hook up together again.

Al agrees he might hop a freight train if a pretty girl was involved.

Other Observations
• Captain Galaxy’s “gyrograph” looks a fair bit like Al’s handlink.

• Sam’s limping is because apparently Scott Bakula hurt his leg while filming a previous episode.

• Moe Stein has got some funny lines at the start, when dealing with his daughter. “There’s a peculiar grating tone to her voice, don’t you think?”

• Al upon seeing Sam in his costume: “Don’t tell me. Let me guess. You’ve been invited to a costume party and you’re going as a baked potato.”

• In addition to the letter about Superman, Sam also makes a reference to the comic book character: “Al, what am I here to do? Race a speeding bullet, leap over a tall building in a single bound? What?”

• Sam argues against institutionalizing Moe: “No, Al, come on. We don’t know that this guy is crazy. Right? I mean, look at me, I’m standing here, I’m dressed like a giant TV dinner, talking to a hologram. Now, what does that make me?” Al replies, “Eccentric.”

• Moe’s supposed time machine is called a “time-o-nometer”, which is a pretty bad name.

• Nice scene when the young boy asks Captain Galaxy about going back in time and saving his dog, which Sam covers up as well as possible with his talk of doggie-heaven. It nicely brings up Moe’s own motivations for time travel.

• Sam says “Moe is me,” and Al amusingly corrects him by saying, “Woe is me.”

• Moe asking Sam to act as his lawyer is contrived, but convenient for the episode. “I can’t. I mean, I’m…I’m just an actor,” Sam protests. “So, you’ll act like a lawyer,” Moe replies.

• The judge has got that sassy attitude reserved for people in his profession (at least, in movies and TV): “Now, Mr. Sharp, as Future Boy, I’m sure you’ve already seen in your crystal ball that I am going to give you an opportunity to speak so you don’t mind waiting for it, do you?”

• Sam references Columbus, the Wright Brothers and Neil Armstrong all in glowing terms–some modern historical perspective definitely disputes some of those opinions.

• Intentionally or not, Sam’s defense of Moe is a lot like the defense of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street

• I like Sam’s summing up line during the hearing: “Your Honor, Moe Stein is a dreamer. Are we going to
punish people for that? Because if we are, you’re going to need a much bigger room than this.”

• Moe leaps out the window! That was dramatic!

• At the climax of the story, as Moe is attempting to use his time machine, it’s pretty funny when Al cries out, “Sam hurry up, before he turns himself into a French fry!!”

• Moe’s “confession” to his daughter is pretty affecting: “

• In explaining Ziggy’s error at the end of the episode, Al says, “Yeah, well, Ziggy had a sloppy floppy on this one. But it all worked out, right, didn’t it?”

Sam Leaps To
Private Dancer

Favorite Dialogue
I think I like best Moe’s final “confession” to his daughter…

I wanted to… to change things. I wanted to make it up to you. I wanted to give your mother some calla lilies.

And then, after he got his good review:

And all of a sudden these offers started pouring in. National tours and revivals and the next thing I knew, 30 years had gone by. Well, I want those 30 years back…Crazy, huh? An actor in search of a bad review. But I figured if I could change that one moment, I could change it all. I could have been the father I never was, the husband I should have been. We could have been a family.

Pretty affecting stuff, delivered in a lovely manner by Richard Herd.

Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.

The Best Moment
There are a few good moments, but I especially enjoy the whole opening, while Sam is still trying to figure out what’s going on and to act his part as Future Boy on live TV. It’s pretty funny stuff, with the fake aliens and the letter about whether Captain Galaxy could beat Superman in a fight (obviously, he couldn’t).

Previous Episode: 8 1/2 Months Next Episode: Private Dancer


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