THE FUGITIVE AND QUANTUM LEAP:
MANY UNCANNY SIMILARITIES

by M. Wild

As The Fugitive was my favorite series of all time, until I discovered Quantum Leap, I found it interesting to explore their similarities. Some of these may be obvious to anyone familiar with both series, but some of these may prove surprising!



For those who haven't seen Quantum Leap --- it was about a time travel experiment, in which its creator, Sam Beckett, `leaps' into a new person each week, replacing them in whatever time and place they are then living in. Sam is still himself (and the viewer sees the real him), but everyone in the episode sees and hears him as if he were the person he replaced. Apparently, some `higher power' has taken over Sam's experiment, and is sending him to try to correct something that went wrong in these people's lives. When he corrects whatever the problem is, he `leaps out' into a new person in a different time and place. (The person he replaces `leaps' to the future, and is kept at the experiment site until Sam leaps again, at which time they leap back into themselves. A side effect of `leaping' is partial memory loss, so they remember little of what happened while they were gone.) Sam has help from his friend Al, who is here in the future, but whose `hologram' image is projected back into the past, in order to communicate with Sam. Al uses a highly sophisticated computer to provide information to help Sam accomplish his mission. Sam wants to help people, but he also hopes to one day be able to return home. The series first aired on NBC-TV from March 1989 to May 1993.

Both series had an `anthology' format, with each week's episode concerning a very different group of people, set in widely different locations. The main characters quickly became involved in the lives of these people, working to help them overcome their problems, despite dealing with their own serious difficulties. On very rare occasions, they were able to help someone from their own past, but most of the people were strangers who were part of their lives only for one episode. Their ultimate goals were to be able to return home (to stay), but that event would effectively conclude these series.

The new and unique premises of both series were explained for the audience in the introductions at the beginning of each episode (running longer the first season, shortened in later seasons). Additional voice-over narration was used as needed, to explain to the viewer the changing circumstances of each episode. Use of frequent establishing shots helped to further orient viewers.

The only continuing main character of each series had different identities for each episode. Their real identities had to be concealed from other characters, but viewers at home were kept aware of them, and therefore understood the special problems that they faced. Occasionally, the main characters were forced by circumstances to reveal themselves, and they were sometimes believed and sometimes not. The fact that they still helped others, despite their own troubles, made them very sympathetic to viewers. Their devotion to ethics and morals was so incredible, that it was remarked upon within both series.

Dr. Richard (Dick) Kimble and Dr. Samuel (Sam) Beckett were both doctors from small towns in Indiana. They were extremely intelligent, with a wide variety of skills, and were able to learn new things quickly. This was important, because it helped them deal with having a new identity, new job, and new situation each week. Their skills as doctors were also used to save lives in some episodes. They were tall, dark and handsome, but in a way that is `boy next door', rather than slick or `Hollywood'. The actors portraying them were in their thirties, but the characters were meant to be somewhat older. Attractive women fell in love with them, and they often fell for these women, but the demands of the series formats forced them to leave them behind at the end of each episode. They were capable in fights, but disliked guns and violence, trying to talk and reason their way through difficult situations whenever possible. They actively opposed discrimination of any kind, and truly respected and cared about people, regardless of age, race, sex, intelligence, disabilities, occupation or social class. They were fond of children and animals, and generally had a good rapport with them (however there were exceptions, as called for in specific episodes).

Details about Dr. Kimble's and Dr. Beckett's families would be revealed as the series continued. Both had a mother, father, brother, and sister. Their families were seen/referred to in only a few episodes, but it was clear that they loved them and missed them deeply. Their fathers would both die of heart attacks. Their brothers would be in danger --- because their brothers didn't believe them --- but by taking serious risks, they managed to save them. Their sisters were married, with two children. They had wives who were `lost' to them by the premises of the series. (Kimble's wife was murdered, Beckett's wife was forgotten due to the memory loss caused by leaping.) Dr. Kimble's sister and Dr. Beckett's wife were both named Donna. Their fathers were both named John.

Both series had only one major supporting character, Lieutenant Philip (Phil) Gerard and Admiral Albert (Al) Calavicci. They were both crucial in enabling the premises to succeed. They were both older than the hero and much less naive, although they also had their own strong sense of values and ethics. They were intelligent and knowledgeable, and the heroes respected them, even though they may not have agreed with them about everything. They had a high regard for the heroes, even though they may not have often shown it, and gave up much of their normal lives, because they felt responsible for the hero. (Gerard because he was guarding Kimble when Kimble escaped, and perhaps because he suspected his own failure to find the one-armed man. Calavicci because of his close friendship with Beckett, and his position as sole Observer for the project). They spent much of their time searching files and records, and trying to track the movements of the hero. In rare episodes, the hero played a part in some aspects of their personal lives, and encountered their wives in important and dramatic episodes of the series, at times when their wives had given up on them. The exact identity of their various wives is difficult to determine, because of incomplete/conflicting information in the series. (Gerard's wife/wives were `Ann' in one episode, `Marie' in another, and an unnamed woman in a third, portrayed by three actresses of very different appearance. He may have been married three times, or conversely, all three women could be playing a single `Mrs. Ann-Marie Gerard'! Conflicting information is given about Calavicci's five wives, partly because he tended to confuse them. In the final episode, he ended up having just one wife, Beth.)

Both series had characters who appeared in more than one episode. The Fugitive had Capt. Carpenter (Gerard's boss), Donna and Len Taft (Kimble's sister and brother-in-law), their two boys, Fred Johnson (one-armed man), Mrs. Gerard and Gerard's son Phil, Jr. Quantum Leap had Gooshie (programmer), Dr. Verbeena Beeks, (project psychiatrist), John Beckett (father), the LaMotta family (in Jimmy and Deliver Us from Evil), Alia and Zoey (the Evil Leapers), and Donna Elessee (Beckett's one-time fiancee/later wife). Different actors would play Len Taft, his sons, and Gerard's wife/wives and son. Different actors would play John Beckett and Donna Elessee.

David Janssen (Kimble) and Scott Bakula (Beckett) were/are both highly capable actors, with experience as performers beginning in childhood. Their careers included/include both films and television, with starring roles in several other series, but they had/have had their greatest success in The Fugitive and Quantum Leap, respectively. They were in first marriages (of some years duration) at the time of these series, but divorced after these series were over. Because they were the single main character, they were on screen nearly all of the time, and their shooting days often ran twelve to fourteen hours. They had stand-ins and stunt men, but did much of their own stunt work. There were warm `family' atmospheres on the sets and among the crews, and practical jokes were played, especially on the stars themselves. Despite the heavy demands placed on both Janssen and Bakula, they are spoken of fondly by all who worked with them on these series, cast and crew alike.

Both Barry Morse (Gerard) and Dean Stockwell (Calavicci) had decades of experience prior to appearing in these series --- including work on stage, film, television, and radio --- and they remained busy after these series ended. They are married and each has a son and a daughter. (Morse also has two grandchildren.) They were both found to be unfit for military service. (Morse tried to enlist in WWII, but was found to have tuberculosis, later cured. Stockwell reported when called in the mid fifties, but successfully rendered himself unfit by his behavior.) Despite their long careers and many other roles, they are best remembered by fans for these series.

Both Janssen and Morse, and Bakula and Stockwell became close friends during their series and remained/remain good friends afterwards.

Both series had premises that caused networks to doubt their value, but as they were produced by successful and respected men --- Quinn Martin and Donald Bellisario --- they were given a chance. Both had small audiences to start with, but built larger audiences as the seasons continued, finally becoming quite popular. Both ended after their fourth (full) season. (Fugitive ran four years and 120 hours; Quantum Leap ran four and one-half years and 97 hours.) Both series had significant changes in their final seasons (Fugitive went to color, added a reward for Kimble's capture, and greatly increased appearances by the one-armed man; Quantum Leap added celebrity leaps, `evil leapers', and a leap outside of Beckett's lifetime.) Their final episodes were eagerly anticipated, but were unsatisfying to some fans.

Both series have become even more popular in re-run/syndication, gaining new fans all the time, from all over the world. Despite this, only a limited number of their episodes have been released on videotape and laser disc.

Both these series gained recognition for their quality and high production values. Their strong acting, writing, and ability to deal with social problems without becoming preachy, would be especially noted. They featured many guest stars who would later have their own television series. Even though their performances were widely praised, both Janssen and Bakula would fail to win the Emmy award, despite multiple nominations. Both series would win a number of awards in other categories, however.

Nearly all the episodes in both series were set within the U.S., jumping around to different regions of the country. Filming was done for both on studio lots and So. Calif. locations. The pilot episodes were both set in the Southwest (desert areas).

Both producers Quinn Martin and Donald Bellisario would be fond of reusing some actors, recasting them in later episodes, but as different characters. They would also use them in other series that they produced.

Although he didn't appear in The Fugitive, Dean Stockwell would appear in some of Quinn Martin's other series: Cannon, The F.B.I. (2 eps.), and The Streets of San Francisco (2 eps.). Two of Stockwell's girlfriends from the late fifties, Janice Rule and Suzanne Pleshette, each appeared in two episodes of The Fugitive, and Pleshette would become one of Janssen's girlfriends.

Despite the twenty-plus years between the making of the two series, there were some actors who were involved in both. Veteran actor John Anderson appeared in COME WATCH ME DIE and SCAPEGOAT, and also played `Pat Knight' in Quantum Leap's The Last Gunfighter. Another veteran actor, R. G. Armstrong, appeared in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, CORNER OF HELL, and ALL THE SCARED RABBITS, and also played `Davison' in Quantum Leap's A Single Drop of Rain. Ivan Dixon appeared in ESCAPE INTO BLACK and DOSSIER ON A DIPLOMAT and directed Quantum Leap's How the Tess Was Won (as well as episodes of Bellisario's Tales of the Gold Monkey, Airwolf, and Magnum P.I.). Also, Lou Antonio appeared in SEE HOLLYWOOD AND DIE, A.P.B and THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLES, and directed Bakula's Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Space Flight Episode.

There are popular themes and subjects that are used in most long-running series, but The Fugitive and Quantum Leap have many in common, including some that are quite unusual. Among them:

They had many other subjects in common, including episodes regarding: nightclub comics, piano players, concert musicians, nightclub singers, traveling carnivals, veterinarians, blindness, orphans, pregnant women about to deliver, unwed mothers, runaway wives/mothers, traumatized women who were raped by respected men that they knew, murderers (would-be and actual), people falsely accused of murder, suspects being pursued by police, suspects who are holding hostages while under siege by police, convicts in prison, escaped convicts, motorcycle gangs, an attempted cover-up of a hazardous spill, the Mafia and a Godfather, gamblers, hit men, embezzlers, bank robbers, bad cops, joy-riding teenagers, veterans still suffering effects from war, wealthy men who are out of touch with their humble origins, ranchers, farmers, psychics, reporters risking themselves to get a big story, women who are thought to be jinxes, and courtroom trials.

All of the problems that Kimble and Beckett encountered were serious, and many were life-and-death. They were not able to save everyone, but did save most, and they were always able to bring the situation to a satisfactory conclusion, prior to moving on at the end of each episode.

Both The Fugitive and Quantum Leap were innovative series of remarkably high quality. This essay is most definitely not intended to suggest that they are copies of each other. It would fill another, very long essay to detail the differences between these two series! However, so many similarities --- occurring in two series made by different people so many years apart --- may be worthy of note. As for me, I think Quantum Leap is the best color television series ever made, and that The Fugitive is the best black & white television series ever made.



For further information on Quantum Leap, see The Quantum Leap Information Page. It includes summaries, episode guides, FAQs, and an extensive list of links to other Quantum Leap sites online, including a large FTP archive.

In the U.S., the series is currently shown on the Sci-Fi Channel on Mon. - Thur. at 6pm Eastern, 3pm Pacific.

There are several books available on the series, including:

There are nine episodes/eleven hours available on VHS videotape, and five of these were issued on three laser discs. They are available online, and can be ordered from your local video retailer. (I've seen the laser discs lately in clearance bins, so they may not be available for much longer). They selected some of the very best episodes, including the two-hour pilot, and the two-parter The Leap Home.


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