How Quantum Leap Time Travel and Jump Works

The cult sci-fi TV series Quantum Leap is back, with Dr. Ben Song continuing Sam Beckett’s missions – but how does his time travel work?


WARNING: This article contains spoilers for quantum leap episode 1.The nature of time travel quantum leap was never fully explained, but the relaunch hinted at some new details. Few sci-fi franchises really manage to handle time travel consistently. To be fair, there’s a good reason for that; they are stories, not scientific treatises, and the mechanics of time do exist in the service of the plot. This means that it’s not uncommon for franchises to change the rules as the plot unfolds.

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quantum leap is a case in point. The original series of quantum leap featured Dr. Sam Beckett, who had theorized that time travel was possible in “jumpfrom one person’s body to another. His experience with the Quantum Leap Accelerator went awry, however, leaving him lost in time – with only a holographic projection of his best friend as a guide. NBC’s relaunch of quantum leap follows exactly the same format, with Dr. Ben Song literally following in the footsteps of Sam Beckett. quantum leap Episode 1 left Ben similarly time-locked, jumping from body to body, struggling to fix the crises in their lives.

Related: Quantum Leap: When & Where Ben Jumped At The End Of Episode 1

Any model of quantum leapThe time mechanics of must begin with the recognition that there is a pattern to time travel. The original’s cliffhanger ending quantum leap saw Dr. Beckett encounter a mysterious being who had directed his travels, strongly assumed to be God. On the other hand, the first episode of the quantum leap The relaunch implied that the jumps were initiated by an algorithm running when Beckett’s adventures began, and Ben ran a similar (but flawed) algorithm. This explanation seems rather unlikely, given that Sam Beckett got lost in time at the end of his show, presumably continuing his misadventures even after the Quantum Leap project was mothballed, and the algorithm would have stopped working.


How Quantum Leap Time Travel Works

quantum leap is a cult sci-fi TV show, but the series has never really explained explicitly how its time travel works – leading to different depictions in individual episodes and heated debates in fandom when novels and novelizations engaged the series on more precise models. The main characters of quantum leap generally seemed to jump from body to body, their consciousnesses projected through time rather than their physical forms. In the books, the spirit of Sam Beckett”hostThe bodies jumped into his, and his team interrogated them to find out where and when Sam was this time.

The first episode of NBC quantum leap The relaunch seems to be changing things up a bit, though, with a B-plot of Project Quantum Leap hinting at the series’ alternate take on time travel. Here, it currently appears that Dr. Song’s body has traveled through time as well as his mind, somehow merging with the host body. There’s no evidence that Ben’s body is still back at Project Quantum Leap, and the team certainly couldn’t have interviewed the host – otherwise they would have learned he was an undercover cop investigating the potential theft of the Hope Diamond. The explanation is probably thought to lie in some variation of quantum entanglement, but hopefully quantum leap will explain more as the show goes on.

Episodes of quantum leap out on NBC Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET.

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