Last weekend I attended The Leap Back 20th Anniversary Quantum Leap Convention. Having never been to any type of fan convention before I didn’t really know what to expect. Here are some thoughts:
“A Leap To Di For”
A brand new fan-made episode of the show. I admit I was a little skeptical about this going in, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. The story did a good job of following the blueprint of a Season 5 “historical” leap while serving as a potential reboot or revival. There’s a great scene featuring a blue screen of death that toys with QL mythology quite nicely. And the guy who played Sam really nailed it right down to speech patterns and mannerisms. I give it a strong B+ overall.
A work in progress Quantum Leap novel by executive producer and head writer Deborah Pratt. She read 3 or 4 chapters that told the backstory of how Sammy Jo Fuller (Sam’s daughter from the 3 part “Trilogy” episode in the final season) realizes her lineage and strives to restart Project Quantum Leap and bring her father home. Can’t wait for this to come out as a canonical story right from a primary source.
“Somewhere In The Night“
The first thing Scott Bakula did upon his arrival was perform this song live on stage with Velton Ray Bunch. Bakula wrote it for the episode “Piano Man” in the third season. It was probably the last thing I expected from this convention and thus a pretty cool surprise. And I’m still kicking myself for not making this a Local Boy tune in TP…
Fan Fiction Contest
I wrote a story for this while taking a break from my new novel Duty Calls. Came at a perfect time as I wasn’t really feeling the jury story so this gave me a new focus with a deadline. My submission was shortlisted as a top-10 finalist, but I didn’t win. (Seems I came in at #5 if this list ranks them in order, but I’m not sure.) Re-reading it a few months later I’m still proud of it which says something, thought I did notice a couple of annoying verb tense errors leftover from a last minute rewrite 🙁
All of the finalists will be published in an e-zine in a few weeks that I’ll link to when it becomes available.
Video Tribute to Dean Stockwell
Sadly, Al had to back out of the convention about a week beforehand for personal reasons. He did phone in during one of the panels which was nice, but the half hour compilation of his best scenes they put together might have been my favorite part of the whole weekend. Which is a nice segue into…
No episode screenings & minimal clips
When the preliminary schedule came out only 3 episode showings were listed. I was a little surprised since I was expecting a bit of a marathon, but these were 3 good choices (“The Pilot,” “The Leap Back,” and “Mirror Image”) and it made sense to go with the first, the last, and the convention’s namesake. Throw in some clips with commentary by the wealth of guest stars in attendance (over 50 of them) and it would be a great QL fix.
But for some reason all of these episode screenings ended up being scrapped, presumably for time when panels or auctions ran long. Aside from the aforementioned “A Leap To Di For” we didn’t see a single episode all weekend.
Clips were also few and far between. There was a nice tribute to the late Dennis Wolfberg (aka Gooshie) that compiled all of his scenes. Before each of the 6 guest star panels clips were shown from each actor’s appearance, but these clips were short and on some of the later panels they were not shown at all. A few times I had to Google actor names on my phone and share the results with people around me when we couldn’t figure out who someone was.
Perhaps my expectations were out of line, but there seemed to be a missed opportunity for more. For example there were 4 or 5 guests from the episode “Lee Harvey Oswald” present. Showing that classic ep either in its entirety or as a sequence of highlights interspersed with discussion would have been great!
Even the Stockwell tribute time-traveled around the schedule until fans (especially the ones in my row) were practically begging for it in the closing minutes of the last day. On one hand I can see how the majority of attendees probably own the DVDs and can watch the episodes whenever they want. But there’s something to be said about the camaraderie of watching your favorite show amidst hundreds of like-minded fans in one place. We got that in part during Al’s highlights, but it could have been so much more.
Too Much Non-QL Content
This was probably the part that annoyed me the most, primarily because it underscored the fact that we could have been watching episodes instead.
Sometimes it felt like I was at a Scott Bakula convention rather than a pure Quantum Leap Convention. Stories and anecdotes often meandered into Star Trek a bit too much for my liking. (I love Quantum Leap, but I loathe Trek in almost all of its incarnations.) Even the auction items were at least 40% related to other Bakula projects.
More off-topic content included a presentation on how TV shows are made that revolved around Enterprise (to be fair the guy presenting worked on both shows), a magic show (amusing at times, but the relevency is still a little lost on me aside from a season 3 episode called “The Great Spontini”), and a lengthy video presentation on Deborah Pratt’s new Vision Quest book trilogy (but I’ll give her a pass for her other contributions to the convention).
Nothing was particularly wrong or bad about any of these side events in and of themselves, but because they seemed to take away from time that could have been spent showing episodes or clips they became disappointments. I wish that the display room had a TV in it showing episodes the whole time as a compromise to my two objections.
But these quibbles aside, for the most part I enjoyed myself and was glad to have taken the time to reminisce about what was once my favorite show. It also lead me to have my own Quantum Leap screenings at home to re-watch some of the episodes the panelists starred in for the first time in years.
What has really stuck with me over the last week was something an audience member said before presenting a question to Bakula & Bellisario. Paraphrasing:
“Quantum Leap was my favorite show when I was 13, and to this day when I find myself in a tough situation I always ask myself ‘What would Sam Beckett do?'”
I hadn’t ever really given it much thought before, but I wonder if subconsciously I’ve done the same thing. I know Quantum Leap was directly responsible for fueling my time travel obsession and thus was a big factor in the path that brought me to Timely Persuasion. But was there more to it than that? Did watching this show religiously at an impressionable age help make me who I am today? In the words of Al the Bartender:
“The lives you’ve touched, touched others. And those lives, others! You’ve done a lot of good Sam Beckett. And you can do a lot more.”
Maybe there is a little Sam Beckett in me.
And maybe there’s a little Sam Beckett in all of us.