Growing up I was heavily influenced by mums taste in television and film. She would watch an awful lot of science-fiction, although would probably never describe herself as being a science-fiction fan, and didn’t always watch it for the right reason. One evening at dinner I found myself talking about space and as to whether it’s infinitely large, or unimaginably large. As in, does space go on forever, or is there actually an end to it – Incidently, the best answer I have ever heard to this question is “(that) it’s too far away to worry about,” – but my mum said, “Ooh don’t… It gives me goosebumps… I don’t like thinking about it…”
So I shut up, and carried on eating. After a while though, curiosity got the better of me, “What do you mean? That you don’t like the thought that space may come to a stop somewhere?”
“Don’t… I don’t like thinking about it-”
“Yes. Space. I don’t like thinking about space.”
“But why did you make me sit down and watch 2001 A Space Odyssey, when you don’t like thinking about space…?”
“I like all the colours.”
“And why is it that we’re not allowed to watch the end of The Wizard Of Oz?”
“Because I don’t like the flying monkeys…”
In fact, my mum would always turn off The Wizard Of Oz in slightly the wrong place. For the last thing Gillian and I would see, would be the flying monkeys flying off with Dorothy and co before she got the chance to go home. But I’ll return to this at a later date.
One thing we were allowed to watch all of however was Quantum Leap. From memory the first episodes that I saw were from the end of season 1, and, you know, it was alright. But then the BBC repeated the pilot, and I was properly hooked. It was fantastic. Granted, it looks like hokey nonsense now, but I couldn’t get enough of it. For those of you that have never seen it;
“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator, and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al; an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap, will be the leap home.”
I’d been introduced to ‘conscious time-travel,’ and ‘course-correction,’ some of the episodes were set in the 50s, Sam would do a roundhouse kick to the face pretty much every week, and he traveled through time a lot… how could I not like it? It’s lasting appeal for me however is the fact that Sam was a reluctant hero. Whilst it was his experiment that had sent him back in the first place, all he actually wanted to do was leap home. And at the very beginning of the fourth season he got to do just that. We got to see where Sam was from, and his home and wife that he’d left behind. Of course, the story then dictates that Sam must then choose to step back into the accelerator to right another wrong, and the two seasons that followed were the high point of the series. The few episodes with the ‘evil’ leaper trying to wrong rights, or simply trying to undo what Sam was doing were superb. As the weeks went by, the wrongs got more and more difficult to right, some of which he even felt that in which he’d failed. But then one week, at the end of the episode; he leapt into a body, looked into the mirror, and saw his own reflection. He said, “Oh boy,” the episode finished, the voice over man said, “join us here next week for the final ever episode,” and then I looked over to my mum, and said,”…” nothing, I didn’t know what to think. These were the dark days before the internet, I didn’t know it was coming to an end. What? So why- who said it could come to an end? At the same time the following week I was even more of a mess. After the episode came to an end there was an advert on BBC 2 for a new program called the X-Files which would be taking Quantum Leaps place, but I childishly dismissed this as looking rot – chiefly because it wasn’t Quantum Leap – and how could it take it’s place? Where was I going to get my time-travel fix from now? Years later I found myself attempting to tell someone about that final episode, and it only then hit me just how good – and how emotional* – that episode was. In my mind it has to be one of the greatest farewells to a television character of all time.