Why Journeyman is orders of magnitude better than Quantum leap

[This is further proof that I out-geek even the most vocal comics fanboy.]

*SPOILER ALERT*. Some plot details are spoiled below.

Each week, a man travels erratically through time, helping people and correcting large and small goofs in the course of fate. I wasn’t a big fan when it was called Quantum Leap, so I didn’t think it would appeal to me any better now that the formula is called Journeyman. The moment I knew I was hooked was when Dan (the Journeyman) was talking with his wife, they started kissing, then started throwing off their clothes and climbing under the covers in bed, at which point Dan disappears in a wavering point of light. This is not your father’s time travel fantasy. You’ve come a long way since Voyagers!, baby.

Let me count the ways:

7. Although his time travelling is unreliable, we know that Dr. Samuel Beckett has a vague idea of what makes him leap because he was trying to do it. Dan has no control over his time travel and no idea why it is happening to him. So there’s more and better long-term mystery.

6. The Quantum Leap process caused problems with Sam’s memory, so he became a sort of blank slate everyman trying to solve problems. Dan’s travels frequently put him in situations from his past, and cause repercussions in his modern life. Why were you late for work? How will your wife react if/when she finds out you’re uncontrollably zipping backwards and forwards in time? How will you explain it to your son when he sees daddy disappear in a wavering point of light? Sam has a nice long-term goal of trying to get back to his own life, but he never has to deal with modern complications on the job or with his family in between leaps like Dan does.

5. Romance. Sam leaps in and out of romantic stories occasionally, but Journeyman’s adventures put a constant strain on his marriage. Which makes it all the better when Dan talks it through with his wife and they decide this won’t come between them. (Even though it keeps coming between them in every episode, and even though they have romantic rivals who seem to be circling like wolves or tempting like vixens.)

4. Sam always leapt out of situations at the ends of episodes, creating a cliffhanger as he tried to figure out what was going on. Did he ever leap while hastily taking clothes off and jumping in bed with his wife? Did he ever got shot in his home, then leap away from a situation that he knew he would have to leap back to later?

3. Sam enters other people’s bodies like a demonic possession. Although we as viewers see him as Scott Bakula, he will inevitably look into a mirror at some point early in every episode and see the face or body of the person he has inhabited. Quantum Leap deserves some points for forcing Sam to act in character as a woman or a child or an oppressed minority. But it can cause interesting complications for a time traveler who stays in his own body. "You look really tired," says your boss when you appear in front of him looking five years older. Or you can interview the father who abandoned your family, or decide whether to let your late girlfriend ravish you in the past when you show up at your old apartment.

2. Sam’s holographic guide sidekick Al serves as a narrative device to dump exposition about history, and was apparently meant to serve as comic relief when people walked through him or when he slapped the beeping, boinking remote control pda that fed him info. When Journeyman attempts humor, it either works or it doesn't fail that spectacularly. When Dan wants to find out history of a situation, he has to research it himself and figure out how things are "supposed" to go. Usually Dan cheats by looking it up on the web when he gets back to his modern life...but at least we don’t have to suffer with Al.

Also notice that Sam gets constant reminders and corrections by Al about whether he’s on the right track. Dan usually stumbles through the past watching it go wrong, sometimes causing it to go wrong, and has to make several attempts to put things right. In one episode, Dan changes something in the past that makes it so his son was never born, but a daughter was born instead. His wife, stuck in modern "normal" time but knowing that he can travel back, objects to the idea of erasing their daughter just so he can have a hypothetical son that she has never known.

1. Sam’s mentor/guide on Quantum Leap is a hologram named Al (played by Dean Stockwell). Dan’s mentor/guide on Journeyman is Livia (played by Moon Bloodgood), an old girlfriend who he would have married if she hadn’t apparently died. Having her as a guide causes more tension among the regular characters and, more importantly, gives us frequent chances to see Moon Bloodgood.

So why did Quantum Leap last five years and Journeyman only one? Who knows. With any luck, some cable channel will pick it up and order new episodes.


  • At 8:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Quantum Leap lasted five years because it was a better show. To compare the premises isn't valid. They both involve time travel and that's that. Either you like one or the other or maybe both, but bottom line is this. Quantum Leap had more inventive writing, more variety in the situations they could get into and were able to play for humor or strong drama. Journeyman didn't know what it was and maybe we can thank the writer's strike for its demise. As for Moon Bloodgood (that can't be a real name), I'm sure she'll be on something else soon.

  • At 1:10 AM , Blogger Deidzoeb said...


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