Who Did Dean Stockwell Play on ‘Quantum Leap’?
Dean Stockwell died on Nov. 7 according to reports from his family and agent. He leaves behind a long career of TV shows and movies. Movies include The Manchurian Candidate 2004 remake, 1984’s Dune and Married to the Mob. Television credits include Battlestar Galactica, JAG, Dr. Kildare and many, many episodic guest roles. However, one of his most beloved roles was on Quantum Leap. You can stream Quantum Leap episodes on The Roku Channel or NBC app, and purchase all five seasons on iTunes, Amazon or Vudu.
Dean Stockwell explained ‘Quantum Leap’ every week
Quantum Leap ran from 1989 – 1993. Scott Bakula played Dr. Sam Beckett, a scientist traveling through time due to his own experiment in the future. Every week, Sam would become someone else in the past. He would stay there until he was able to fix a historical injustice. Then he would leap into another time and another person and discover who he’d be next week before credits rolled.
Stockwell played Al, one of Sam’s team members in the future. Al appeared as a hologram so no one in the past could see him. Every week, Al would tell Sam who he was, and the computer Ziggy would estimate what he was there to fix. Often, Ziggy would be wrong and Sam would discover his real mission.
The quantum leap also caused Sam to lose his memory, so Al would fill Sam in on everything he needed to know up to that point. In the series premiere, Al did a lot of the heavy lifting explaining the entire premise of the show back to Sam. But, he was vital even as the show found its groove because every week was a brand new story.
Dean Stockwell was ‘Quantum Leap’ comic relief
A lot of Sam’s missions were pretty heavy, to quote another time travel classic. Some of them were larks, like one where Sam sings “Volare” at a mob wedding. But they also dealt with racism, sexism, the Vietnam War and other deep topics throughout history. Often, Quantum Leap would rely on Al to bring the funny.
Al often complained about his multiple ex-wives. See, in the future, Al was a ladies man who could never settle down, although that became something deeper too. He would also complain about Gooshie, Ziggy’s programmer, who had notoriously bad breath.
‘Quantum Leap’ gave Al heart too
Over five seasons, Quantum Leap explored Al as much as it did Sam. Al was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In one leap, Sam ended up in a troop that crossed paths with Al’s capture. Selflessly, Al didn’t tell Sam so that Sam would not interfere with history. Sam only found out about Al’s sacrifice after it was too late to change, and that led to more depth with Al.
The reason Al became a womanizer was because he lost the love of his life. His wife Beth was waiting for him back at home. When Al was captured, he was designated missing in action and presumed dead. By the time he came home, Beth had moved on. Sam did not exercise the same restraint with history. He changed the past every week, including one in which he rescued his own brother in Vietnam.
Al got to be an action hero in the future. When Sam leapt, the original person arrived in the lab in the future. When one person escaped, Al had to chase him through the future so he would return when Sam leapt out of him.
Will ‘Quantum Leap’ ever come back?
In the age where streaming services bring back every classic show, Quantum Leap is a title that always comes up. Decades ago there was a terrible idea by Syfy to reboot Quantum Leap with an all new cast. Nobody wants that. It’s gotta be Sam, and would’ve preferably included Al while Stockwell was still with us.
Head writer, and creator Donald P. Bellasario’s then wife, Deborah Pratt had an idea for a movie where Sam’s daughter would come looking for him in the past. Her idea was to cast a movie star as the daughter and keep the television cast. Alas, that never happened either.
Bakula was busy full time on NCIS: New Orleans for a while. In a recent appearance on Bob Saget’s podcast, Bakula said there are new conversations happening about it. A big question remains where it would air. Stockwell’s last credit was the 2015 movie Entertainment so he may have effectively retired before he died. He did appear with Bakula on NCIS: New Orleans in 2014.
In 2009, I interviewed Stockwell for Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. I was not the only one who asked him about Quantum Leap.
“You’re the fifth interview and each of the guys before you, guys and girls, have brought that up,” Stockwell said. “Is there any chance, have you heard anything? I haven’t heard anything from anyone that would be in a position to do anything about it. I’ve let that ship sail.”
As long as it’s still Sam leaping through time, we have every faith that a new Quantum Leap would honor Stockwell and Al’s legacy. If only they’d rebooted it while they could’ve gotten the band back together. At least now Sam could leap into the ‘90s and it would be a period piece.