in Review, Shocktober

“The Boogieman” – Quantum Leap (1990)

Season 3 – Episode 5
Air Date:
October 26th, 1990

When I was a kid Quantum Leap was the show I watched when I was sick. I never sought it out. I would just be there on the couch, flipping channels, only to stumble across another one of Sam Beckett’s time-traveling adventures. What’s great about Quantum Leap is every episode is an easy-in. You can watch basically any random episode and enjoy the show. You can just watch the opening credits and you’ll get it.

If somehow you’re one of the few who doesn’t know about Quantum Leap let me give you the short version. Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) is a physicist who in the not too distant future builds an accelerator called the “Quantum Leap” that can give people the ability to travel to any time in history within their own lifetime—a clever way to give the show boundaries.

With little to show for the project, the government threatens to pull the plug on the program. So in a last-ditch attempt, Sam tests the device on himself and is thrown back in time. Not only that but he wakes up in someone else’s body! Luckily, Sam’s friend Al can appear to him as a hologram and help Sam make the leap back home. The way to accomplish this is to leap from time to time and person to person to repair the timeline. Kind of like Back to the Future but with more drag.

It’s a great premise. Who doesn’t love a good fish-out-of-water story? And yet I’ve always felt that Quantum Leap’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Granted I haven’t seen many episodes, every episode I have seen has been almost identical. Sam appears as a new person in a new time, has slight amnesia, pieces together who and where he is, Al appears and tells him what he needs to do, he tries to do it one way (he fails) only to realize he needs to accomplish his task in some other way. Things are wrapped up nice (maybe he meets a famous person before they get famous) and then leaps to a new time as the episode ends on a cliffhanger.

Every episode has so much table setting in the first fifteen minutes. Which is fine if you only watch it every once in a while but if you watch even a couple in a row you’ll get sick of the show fast. But I figured it had been long enough since I’d watched the show to revisit it for Shocktober.

In this episode, Sam finds himself in Conventry, Maine in 1964, on Halloween. This time he’s a second rate horror writer named Joshua Ray. The episode opens with a good gag as Sam wakes up in an old gothic room with a book called “1879, Witchcraft in America”. At first Sam thinks he’s in 1879 because of the book only to realize he’s just a dude who likes old creepy shit. Sam is greeted by his fiancé Mary (Valerie Mahaffey) and his assistant Stevie (David Kriegel), an aspiring writer. The group is making arrangements to decorate the town church as a spook house as Sam tries to find his bearings.

Al appears to tell Sam that he’s been brought to this time and place to stop a murderer. Ooh, spooky! Except Al can’t provide most of his usual details. The first murder occurs when Sam watches his handyman Tully (Donald Hotton) fall to his death after a goat knocks over his ladder. So… mystery solved, right? It’s this evil goat. Except no one believes Sam. Not even Al! And Al’s always got Sam’s back. Naturally, the local sheriff (Paul Linke) thinks Sam is responsible. He doesn’t much care for Sam’s horror books and assumes he’s a devil worshipper.

The town gossip, Dorothy (Fran Ryan), shows up to talk about the murder but of course the second she’s out of sight Sam finds her dead. The weapon? Sam’s own pet Black Mamba. This leads Al to believe that the killer is Mary as she was within close proximity of both deaths. Sam starts to believe that Mary is evil and might even have telekinetic powers courtesy of Satan. Sam and Mary argue only for her to be knocked out when a skull is knocked off a shelf by an unknown force.

Mary is taken to the hospital while Sam investigates Mary’s home for clues. There he finds a board with pictures of victims; Tully, Dorothy, and…. Mary? The connection between the three is that they are all deacons of the local church. But why would Mary target herself? Unless the killer is someone else!

Some other filler shit happens with the sheriff—an obvious misdirect as the most obvious person is never the killer in these kinds of stories. Later, Sam and the sheriff face off only for the sheriff to reveal his true identity as… Al? No, not Al. It’s Evil Al! Or possibly Satan. It’s never entirely clear nor fully satisfying. Though I will say I did not expect this kind of twist.

The real Al shows up and tells Sam “Sorry I’m late” but Sam is already in a choking match with Evil Al. At one part Evil Al turns into the evil goat. So I like to believe the true villain of the story was Goat Satan. Evil Al throws Sam down the stairs just as the clock hits midnight and Sam finds himself back at the beginning of the story. This is when Al gives Sam his actual mission to save a “Tully…”

Sam runs to the window where Tully the Handyman originally fell off his ladder and rescues Tully. Wow, what an adventure! Then in possibly the dumbest reveal one could imagine Stevie’s mom comes to pick him up and we learn that his name is Stevie…. King. Stevie gets in the car with his pet dog “CUJO” and they drive off. I don’t even know what to say.

Fans of the show theorize this episode is supposed to be a nightmare that Sam enters after falling down the stairs. If true there are few things I hate more. The “It was all just a dream” trope has to be the laziest possible way to write yourself out of a corner.

Though the end was a let down I will say I had a fine time for most of the episode. The setting and atmosphere gave me strong Halloween vibes. Also, I love Scott Bakula on this show. He brings the perfect amount of innocence and naivety to the role. Dean Stockwell is cool too. He’s always cool.

I’m yet to see an episode of Quantum Leap that’s great but the show is at least consistently good. Maybe I just need to give it another few years and try another episode. Maybe then I’ll finally be able to make the leap home.