Season 3 of Quantum Leap comes to an end this week with the stellar episode, Shock Theater. Written by Deborah Pratt (surprise, surprise, seeing how good it is), the season finale aired 22 May, 1991. And oh, boy… is it good.
It’s 3 October, 1954 and Sam (Scott Bakula) finds himself in the body of Sam Bederman, who is in a mental institution for his depression. Unfortunately when a sadistic orderly, Butch (Bruce A. Young) subjects Sam to shock treatments, it shorts out Sam’s own brain, and allows the personas he’s inhabited over the years come to the fore, rendering him useless on this mission, and in danger.
As his link with Al (Dean Stockwell) fades, it’s up to the holographic projection of his friend to find a way to save the time traveller.
It’s a smart, well-crafted episode with great performances from both Bakula and Stockwell. Dean gets to rap in this episode, the Alphabet Rap (as featured on the soundtrack) as he teaches Tibby (Scott Lawrence), a young mental patient who can see Al, his letters, and tries to figure out what Sam’s mission is.
This episode gives Stockwell a chance to shine, and he is more than up to the task, and there are some very nice moments for their relationship.
We also finally get to see Dr. Verbeena Beeks (Candy Ann Brown), after being talked about for so often. She shows up to help Sam through Al.
This is one of the episodes, much like The Leap Home, and the one that follows it, The Leap Back, that messes with me emotionally, and tends to wreck me. Not only because of the things that are happening to Sam, but because of the friendship the two men share, and the terrifying way mental institutions operated.
The climax is terrifying as Sam has to undergo shock treatment one last time… And the results of that leap take us right into the first episode of Season 4.
Season 4, The Leap Back, was written by Donald Bellisario, and saw Sam and Al changing places due to the shock treatment and simultaneous leap. The season opened on 18 September, 1991 and finds Al (in Sam’s body) back on 15 June, 1945.
Al has leaped into a vet and POW, Captain Tom Jarrett, returning from World War II, and it seems he is there to get he, and his lady love, Suzanne (Amanda Wyss) back together. Meanwhile, in the future, Sam (in Al’s body) gets to come home, and for the first time since the series opener we get a look at Project Quantum Leap from the other side of things.
The Imaging Chamber, Ziggy (voiced by Deborah Pratt), Verbeena, Gushie (Dennis Wolfberg), Tina (Gigi Rice) and the surprise of Sam’s wife, Dr. Donna Eleese (Mimi Kuzyk).
The episode has some fun moments, seeing Al and Sam in a reversal of roles is great – including a bit of one another’s minds, the letter, letting Sam enjoy some time with his wife, and poignant moments, as Sam reminds Al of his past, Sam gets his memories back, and in the end, Sam leaves the safety of the future to save Al, and continues leaping through time.
The episode ends with Donna and Al talking about Sam, as opposed to showing us who Sam leaped into. But next week, we’ll find out…