Quantum Leap

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Name: Quantum Leap
Abbreviation(s): QL
Creator: Donald P. Bellisario
Date(s): March 26, 1989 – May 5, 1993
Medium: television series
Country of Origin: United States
External Links: Wikipedia article

IMDB entry

fanzine info
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

A reasonably popular TV series, Quantum Leap still has an active fandom, with an annual convention and fandom awards.

It featured the characters Sam Beckett and Al Calavicci.


cover of an issue of the zine, Oh Boy

From the opening voice-over:

Theorizing that one could time-travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett led an elite group of scientists into the desert to develop a top secret project known as Quantum Leap. Pressured to prove his theories or lose funding, Dr. Beckett prematurely stepped into the project accelerator... and vanished. He awoke to find himself in the past, suffering from partial amnesia and facing a mirror image that was not his own. Fortunately, contact with his own time was maintained thorugh brainwave transmissions with Al, the project observer, who appeared in the form of a hologram that only Dr. Beckett can see and hear. Trapped in the past, Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap would be the leap home.

As with any time travel show, deciding canon can be tricky, because one episode might negate events of another episode. This is complicated by Sam's "swiss-cheese" memory - he doesn't remember a lot about his former life, so even if he changes his own history, he might not remember the differences. Take Donna Eleese, for example. In one episode, she stood Sam up at the altar. In a later ep, she's his wife, patiently waiting for him to come home. In most episodes, Sam appears to believe that he is single.

Canon also showed Sam leaping into the bodies of people of different ages, genders, and races, giving rise to a host of possibilities for fanfic.

See the Crack Van overview of the show here, Archived version.


QL was one of the earlier online fandoms, especially active in newsgroup communities, first on rec.arts.sf.tv, then, after years of fighting, rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap was created in early '94, just as QL was going off the air. The newsgroup (and its alt relation, alt.ql.creative) stayed active into the mid-2000s.[1] QL still has an active fandom, having a 20th anniversary con -- the Leap Back 2009 Quantum Leap Convention -- in March 2009.

cover of an issue of the zine Play It Again

QL always had a stronger gen fandom than slash fandom (possibly because a significant number of the fans and fan-writers on the newsgroups were male?), and early on, there was some friction between the two groups, the so-called "QL slash wars"; including some zine editors supposedly refusing to print gen stories by fans who were slash writers in other fandoms, and the by-then usual threats to "send slash to the actors, if people don't quit writing it."

Accelerate was a QL convention.

As an older show, QL was a big zine fandom, and there are still plenty of old zines available to buy.

Many fans of Quantum Leap refer to themselves as Leapers.

Fans of Al's character sometimes jokingly referred to themselves as Al-coholics (a double pun since Al was canonically a former alcoholic.)[2]

The Elusive "Anti-Slash" Rumor

Fans periodically bring up the Quantum Leap actors' supposed dislike of slash as warning to other fans to: a) not write Quantum Leap slash, b) keep fans from keep fans from showing slash fanworks to actors, c) control and shame fans for other things. While "proof" of this attitude popped up periodically, it has never been verified.

A fan in 1993 wrote:

What happened, via the rumor mill was this in QL...

First rumor: Scott read a story that was given to him on the set. Dean/Scott stuff. Turned blue and green and all kinds of colors. Went into fits. Told 'well known fan' that none of this kind of thing should be written in fandom because at one time he was accused of being gay, and didn't want that type of thing to happen in LA. (Aids scare, and all that...)

Second rumor: Scott saw a B7 slash story brought by stupid extra. She left said zine on the goodie table and he picked it up and went blue when he saw the lovely illos. (Nicely drawn I've heard. Quite DETAILED.) Asked said extra if this sort of thing was going on in Leap fandom and was told casually..."It happens in every fandom where there are two male leads in the show, Scott." Turned blue, ect. Went flip out.

Third rumor.... Don was sent story. Read it, then circle filed it. End of story. [3]

Fourth rumor... Dean was given slash story at Leap Con I by a brain-damaged slash writer. Freaked completely out. Broke things. Tore the manuscript up and flamed.

Just a little public service by the QL rumor mill. Of all these stories, the only one I've heard from the right places more than once, told the same way, was the one about Don. [4]

Another 1993 account:

...there seems to be something of a situation as regards straight vs. slash OL fandom. A few prejudiced folk in fandom have been making a huge stink about slash, and spreading rumors about lawsuits being pressed against editors of slash QL fanzines. For this reason, most of the OL slashfen are 'underground' -- going under pseudonyms and such. When I first got into QL and found out about this situation, I decided to take the question to Bellisarius Productions, and wrote a letter that, while not specifically mentioning slash, stated my intention of publishing a fanzine and inquired about the validity of the rumors I'd heard. The response I received, signed by the Great God Bellisario himself, stated that he was unaware of any legal actions, and if I heard about any, to let him know, because they value their fandom highly. So the rumors are completely untrue and merely the product of vicious, prejudiced minds — still, the paranoia persists.

The only rumor that seems to hold some truth is the one I heard about a copy of a Scott and Dean slash story finding its way onto the set, whereupon the above-named persons threw a major fit. Apparently, such a story was indeed written — no doubt some vindictive slash-basher sent it onwards — and yes, if I was either Scott or Dean, I'd have a fit about a story like that myself! But Sam/Al is a totally different subject, dealing with characters rather than actual people... and any attempt to limit slash legally would inevitably start a debate on the whole 'copyright infringement' matter, thereby jeopardizing all fanzines, even the newsletters... and in truth, the only part of the rumor I've gotten any confirmation on is the part about the story being written; the rest of it, I don't know about. As with all rumors, one never knows. [5]

Fandom Protesting Cancellation

As Quantum Leap ended its fifth year, fans worked closely with the producers on a protest campaign to save the show for another year. On May 5, 1993 fans scheduled rallies to take place in front of NBC Studios in New York and Los Angeles. Fans also raised funds to place an ad in US Today newspapers in the form of a 'coupon' they could be cut out and mailed to NBC.[6] The show remained canceled. Video footage of the Los Angeles rally can be found on the Internet Archive: here.

Fanfiction Trends

While most episodes of the show featured a new cast of characters every week, assisted by Sam & Al, much QL fanfiction focuses more on exploring Sam, Al, and the other members of Project QL than original characters. Other fics leaped Sam into historical or contemporary events.

Sometimes Al would leap as well as Sam, a rare event in canon but fairly common in fic.

The show finale, "Mirror Image," had a mixed reception, and inspired multiple "fix-it" fics[7] or denialfic ignoring the presented ending.[8]


cover of the zine, As Time Goes Bye

Much of the gen focused on the Sam-Al friendship dynamic. Some Hurt/comfort scenarios hinged on the dramatic element that Al could not physically touch Sam.[9]


The majority of het fanfic involved canon relationships, particularly Al with his first wife, Beth; and Sam with his sometimes-wife Donna. Sometimes these het pairings would appear as secondary elements of Sam-and-Al friendship-focused stories; whether such fics should be considered het or gen is a matter of debate.


Even a lot of fans who usually read slash seemed to prefer gen in QL, perhaps because the setup of the universe made slash so difficult. The three basic scenarios:

  • Pre-Leap--this is a little difficult if you go by the canon universe, since in the episode "Running for Honor" it's clear that Al is a bit on the homophobic side, but since the show deals with time and changing thereof, anything goes, really.
  • Post-Leap--This is by far the most flexible way to go. Sam comes home, finds Al and there's the rest of the story to write. But it doesn't let you use any of the fabulous canon that Sam jumps into.
  • In-Leap--
Possibility 1: Since they can't touch, you're basically talking Phone Sex: Sam prone in some way, and Al talking dirty to him.
Possibility 2: Yet another weird leap where they both end up back in time together. The problems there are manifold: too busy trying to fix what went wrong to get it on, the possibility of observers from the future watching everything, etc.

A fan in 1993 wrote:

QL Slash -- There ain't much of it, and what there is isn't convincing. How does a hologram make love to an almost mind-wiped time-traveler? (With purple prose and a lot of "I'm not gay, it's just the women I've been possessing me after the fact...") Doesn't help that Al has been portrayed as a homophobe in one of the televised episodes ("Running for Honor").[10]

A fan in 1995 wrote:

Take away the screen situation, or take away any regular possibility for physical sex. Since these constitute, roughly equally on average, the two reasons fannish slash is written, QL slash often has a sort of half-or-half appeal, being able to deliver one or the other component but not, usually, both, taking the characters outside the show's framework doesn't have to cancel the characterizations built by the tensions of the show's device, of course, and a/u's or the likes of PGP stories are popular in virtually all fandoms; but making little else possible does remove the main core of slash as written in the more apt fandoms, where the characters as we see them on screen (in all the various ways fans see them) fall in love and into bed. Or at least into bed.[11]

In the end, QL slash is not for the faint of heart.

The Little Black Dress of Crossovers

cover of a crossover zine with The Real Ghostbusters

Because Quantum Leap's premise made it easy to leap Sam into pretty much anyone, anywhere; the show was the little black dress of crossovers. Most of the shows that were fannishly active at the same time as QL have multiple QL crossovers, and plenty of more obscure shows, movies and books do as well.[12]

Slash and het QL crossovers tend to have Sam fixing whatever went wrong in the other series's relationships, putting the characters on track to get together romantically, which some fans find repetitive.

Below is a TINY sample:

art by Sherlock for "Partners in Time," a story by P.N. Elrod, crossing Quantum Leap with her own pro series, "Vampire Files" -- printed in the zine Good Guys Wear Fangs #1 (1992)


Oh Boy by California Crew was an early VCR vid that gently mocked Sam's habit of saying "Oh Boy" each time he found himself in a new body/situation, and showed amazing synchronization of the song's repeated "Oh Boy" line with Sam's mouth movements.

Virtually any multifandom vid featuring men crossdressing will include clips of Sam from one of the four episodes where he jumped into women (see Hot! Hot! Hot!, among others).

A list of VCR-era fanvids cane be found at the List of Quantum Leap Early Songvids. Other songvids by fans can be found under the vidder's name here on Fanlore. A few VCR-era songvids are listed below where the vidder's name cannot be identified

Notable QL Zines and Stories

This drawing of Sam Beckett is by Karen River. The art print is titled "Good Sam" and it is damaged.
  • The first Quantum Leap fiction fanzine, Quantum Beast was published in 1990.
  • The first fan produced publication was The Imaging Chamber, a Quantum Leap letterzine.
  • Probably the most recommended slash novel in QL was The Last Measure of Devotion by Sue Walker, a very complicated timetravel story wrapped around Al realizing that there is literally nothing he wouldn't do for Sam, and Sam realizing there is nothing he wouldn't forgive Al for. [13]

See also: List of Quantum Leap Fanzines

Fanwork Awards


Fan Clubs

Example Fanworks




Fandom Resources


QL Newsgroups and Mailing Lists


  1. ^ 2005 was the last year to average over 30 posts a month on rec.arts.sf.tv.quantum-leap (Accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  2. ^ See QLAA (Quantum Leap Alcoholics Anonymous): "An Unofficial fan site dedicated the character of Admiral Albert Calavicci from the cult television series Quantum Leap!" (Accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  3. ^ This story was reported to be in the zine, Leapin' Friskys #1 (May 1992), as per a comment on Virgule-L.
  4. ^ comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 23, 1993)
  5. ^ as per a fan on March 17, 1993, as per MPH's personal notes
  6. ^ The Monitor (McAllen, Texas), 01 May 1993, Sat, Page 21
  7. ^ "Whatever It Takes" by Debbie Martinez has Al leaping to change Sam's fate. (Accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  8. ^ "Not so much pre-MI as ignoring MI altogether..." - from the notes for "Lost Causes" by Anne-Marie T. (Accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  9. ^ Such as Katherine F.'s "A Time to Hurt, A Time to Heal," in which Al (literally) sees Sam through drug addiction withdrawal. (accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  10. ^ quoted anonymously from Virgule-L, (Feb 19, 1993)
  11. ^ anonymous quote from Strange Bedfellows, 1995
  12. ^ The archive for alt.tv.quantum-leap.creative has 6 X-files crossovers and 10 Star Trek crossovers, as well as crossovers with series as diverse as Forever Knight, Animaniacs, and Ranma 1/2. (Accessed 16 Sept 2009)
  13. ^ link to The Last Measure of Devotion (accessed 19 Aug 2009)
  14. ^ "The members of the Quantum Leap Revival Initiative are dedicated Leapers who are striving to "put right what once went wrong" by lobbying for Quantum Leap to be revived in a movie, series, or maybe even both!" - tina_als_girl on front page ((Accessed 18 Sept 2009)