This is a controversial choice, but my favourite final episode of a science fiction television show is Mirror Image, the last episode of Quantum Leap. This episode ends with the message that “Dr. Sam Becket never returned home.” This is seen as a bit of a cop out, but under the circumstances, it was probably the best way to end it.
And now for the history lesson…
Mirror Image was never made with the idea that it would be the series finale. It actually was a prelude to some major changes to the series. After the events of this episode, Sam would leap into the future, and Al would end up leaping after him.
For the previous couple of seasons, the existing premise wasn’t seen to be working. It’s why Sam suddenly found famous people to jump into during the fifth season. I’m not too sure if the new premise was going to work; Sam leaping within his own timeline was a concept from the very beginning. I suppose we’ll never know.
The funny thing is that I think that this works really well for a series finale. We get an explanation of why Sam continues to leap. His desire to help is greater than his need to return home. Most of the miners are men that Sam has interacted with during his travels. Al the barman, is played by an actor who appear in the very first episode bringing things full circle in a meta way.
It all cumulates with Sam helping his best friend, Al, by convincing his first wife, Beth, to wait a little longer. Al Calavicci was now never a womaniser, but a devoted husband with four daughters. You also know that he would be a complete terror to any partner his daughters brought home.
It’s bitter sweet, that everyone got a happy ending but Sam. For the era, I think that it is a powerful ending.
I watched Quantum Leap when it was originally broadcast on BBC2. These were the days where there weren’t even repeats never mind catch up TV. So, keeping continuity wasn’t a thing, and I was a teenager at the time and had other things on my mind. So, it wasn’t until I watched the DVDs when I noticed something. Dr Sam Becket had a wife!
I could easily go with the swiss cheese defense at this point. It wasn’t as if he had acted married in any other episode of Quantum Leap. It’s what made me go down the rabbit hole and found that this was never the intended ending of the series. I was convinced that if Sam remembered that he was married, then he would do something to fix his wife’s life.
I’m convinced that if the message that Sam never returned home wasn’t there, no one would have a problem with the episode. It’s a pretty good example of sometimes leaving things open ended being the better option. I think that in most fan’s minds Sam would have got home eventually.
While I’m writing this, there are rumours swirling around that they are going to bring back Quantum Leap. It raises it’s head every couple of years and normally disappears again just as quickly. This time though, the framework seems to be that Sam’s daughter would be trying to find her father.
So, you never know, Dr Sam Becket may make it home.