Journeyman 1.1: Leap Before You Look

It’s of course easy to compare “Journeyman” to “Quantum Leap”, since both have the same apparent basic premise: A man jumping around through his own timeline, aiding those who need his help. Television has changed a lot in the nearly 20 years(!) since Scott Bakula made his first leap back in 1989 as Dr. Sam Beckett, and it’d be unfair to both shows to compare the two outside of the basic premise over the long haul. But for the purposes of discussing “Journeyman’s” pilot episode, it can’t hurt to at least talk about what makes the new show different from the old.

Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) is not a scientist; he’s a newspaper journalist. His time traveling escapades here are shrouded in much mystery. Whereas Beckett nabbed his “gig” in the name of science, Vasser isn’t yet quite sure why this is happening to him. Both men have their contact person: Sam had Al (Dean Stockwell), a fellow scientist, and Dan has Livia (Moon Bloodgood), his dead girlfriend. Or is she dead? Seems not. Dan had believed Livia to be dead, thanks to an airplane crash, but she indeed alive and shrouded in mystery. Clearly, “Journeyman” is going for a deeper arc than “Quantum Leap” was allowed.

Also unlike “Leap”, Dan jumps back and forth numerous times during the episode, hitting various points within Neal Gaines’ life. Once Beckett leaped into a time zone, he was there linearly until the end credits. (“Leap” devotees will surely point out that the formula had minor alterations over the course the series’ long run, especially in the cases of two-parters or “very special” episodes, but I’m speaking of the “Quantum” norm.)

Of course, the biggest dramatic difference between the shows is that Dan doesn’t end up in someone else’s body; he time travels and is still Dan, and must therefore deal with Dan’s problems in any given time zone. It’s going to be interesting to see how this series plays out over the long haul, as this situation looks as if it will get very convoluted.

The pilot episode is an excellent piece of speculative fiction and what makes it tick is its emotional core. In the final moments, thanks to Dan having the smarts to bury his wife Katie’s (Gretchen Egolf) wedding ring under their back patio during one of his travels, she now knows that he isn’t lying or a drug addict or just plain nuts. The show has also set up a complex present day structure, which continually echoes in the past and then back in again in the present through the intricate weaving of the lives of Dan, Katie, Livia and Dan’s brother Jack (Reed Diamond). If the production team can sustain a believable ongoing storyline, “Journeyman” will undoubtedly end up being a time travel series for the ages, and end up trumping “Quantum Leap” on numerous levels.


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