Quantum Leap is one of the most beloved cult sci-fi shows ever, but it famously ended on a cliffhanger, and here’s why that ended up happening.
Quantum Leap is one of the most beloved cult sci-fi shows ever, but it famously ended on a cliffhanger, and here’s why that ended up happening. While never a ratings juggernaut for NBC, Quantum Leap was a critical darling, winning multiple Emmy and Golden Globe awards in various categories, including Golden Globes for the performances of stars Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell. Quantum Leap was even an early show that managed to cultivate an online following in the infancy of the internet, back when TV was discussed on newsgroups.
A big part of Quantum Leap’s appeal was its simple but ingenious premise, which allowed the show to dip and out of various genres, change its setting and supporting characters every week, and incorporate intriguing sci-fi elements while not getting so technical about it that the more mainstream crowd was turned off by them. While Quantum Leap is indeed about a man traveling through time in order to help people, above all else it’s just a really well-done alternately dramatic and comedic look at American history, albeit a romanticized version.
Quantum Leap has only added to its cult of followers in the decades since it went off the air, with Bakula still often asked about a potential revival. If there’s one thing that annoys fans the most though it’s that Quantum Leap ended its five-season run on a cliffhanger, denying them a satisfactory conclusion.
Why Quantum Leap Didn’t Get A Proper Series Finale
As mentioned previously, Quantum Leap, while a critically acclaimed and respectably popular show in its day, was not a ratings champion for much of its run. In fact, it’s a minor miracle fans even got five seasons to enjoy. Quantum Leap came very close to being canceled partway through season 3, but word of its impending doom leaked out, and an early example of a fan campaign – via old-school written letters – helped convince NBC to stay the show’s execution. By the time it came to film Quantum Leap’s season 5 finale, NBC was once again teetering on the edge of canceling it. The problem was, they kept creator and showrunner Donald P. Bellisario and the rest of the Quantum Leap team on the hook until the very end.
Eventually coming to believe it was likely a Quantum Leap season 6 would probably be ordered, Bellisario set out to craft a season finale that would seem somewhat like an ending for the story so far, but also serve to setup another round of episodes. The ideas teased in “Mirror Image,” that Sam’s leaps would soon get tougher, and that he would now be leaping as himself instead of into other people’s identities, were planned to be explored in season 6. There was even an alternate ending shot teasing Al’s continuing search for Sam. Then, NBC decided to drop the cancellation axe on Quantum Leap after all. Since the season 5 finale was already completed, the tag with Al was removed, and a hastily made – it actually misspells “Beckett” as “Becket” – text screen was added saying Sam never returned home. No one involved with Quantum Leap was happy with how things turned out, which explains why talk of some type of continuation has been steadily discussed by fans ever since.
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