DeFlip Side #196: Quantum Leap’s Lost Ending Found

DeFlip Side #196: Quantum Leap’s Lost Ending Found.mp3Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

“Theorizing that one could time travel within their own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap Accelerator — and vanished.”

Vanished. For close to three decades now, that has been the perfect word to describe the status of Quantum Leap — or maybe vanishing. As in vanishing are the chances that Leapers would ever see a revival of their favorite show. In this age of sequels, remakes and reboots, Quantum Leap has remained stubbornly moribund. The main reason for this basically boils down to creative differences between show creator Don Bellisario and NBC/Universal, which has left the potential franchise in limbo — and Leapers out in the cold.

But maybe God, Fate, Time or whatever has intervened to put right what once went wrong, because a lost ending to Quantum Leap has just surfaced online, giving Leapers the gift of new footage just in time for its 30th Anniversary.

What is it? Where did it come from? Well, to answer that, we need a lesson in the original history — a history of alternate endings, mysterious denials, detective work and fan dedication. And before we go any further it will involve massive spoilers for the Quantum Leap series finale “Mirror Image.” So consider yourself warned. I’ve also recounted some of this on a previous DeFlip Side, but it bears repeating.

So let’s start with that finale. You know, Sam, in a weird bar, as himself, talking to a bartender who could be God, being told that he’s in control of his Leaps — which culminates in Sam Leaping to save Al’s marriage to his first wife Beth, and the proclamation — delivered via white text on a black screen that Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.

Many Leapers are still up in arms over Sam’s fate, so you can imagine what it was like back then. There was a lot of fan anger and disappointment. So when a production script of Mirror Image surfaced with an alternate ending, many fans clung to it like a life preserver, buoying their hopes that Sam’s fate wasn’t quite so sealed after all.

The scene takes place in Project Quantum Leap in the then-future date of 1999. Al is in his study with Beth, lamenting the fact that they may never be able to find Sam again. Beth reassures Al, saying that Al will find him. When Al asks how she can be sure, Beth replies that that’s what friends are for. In a further gonzo twist, Al Leaps after Sam, and finds himself in a futuristic space bar. Fade to black.

So apparently, there were some kind of plans in place to reestablish contact with Sam and continue the show. But when asked about this alternate ending, show creator Don Bellisario insisted that it was fan fiction, and that the scenes were never written, much less shot. This, despite that fact that they were discovered in original shooting scripts which many fans still have. Don’s odd caginess about all this has baffled fans for decades, and it seemed like the mystery would never be solved.

Until Allison Pregler came along. Allison is a huge Quantum Leap fan and one of my co-hosts on the Quantum Leap Podcast. Last year, she bought a batch of behind-the-scenes set production photos on eBay. And discovered shots of Dean Stockwell who played Al and Susan Diol who played Beth in what could only be that alternate ending scene. We got Susan Diol on the podcast and asked her about it, but she had only hazy recollections at best, and wasn’t even sure if the cameras had actually been rolling. Allison also asked the person who took the photos, but she couldn’t recall either. So, tantalizing as the pictures were, we’d hit another apparent dead end.

Until a few weeks ago, when the actual footage itself surfaced online! A reddit user named Leaper1958 posted the scene — undeniably authentic — that tracked the production script word for word. The audio is a little rough, but here it is:

So much for Don’s denials! For the first time in 30 years, fans can watch brand new Quantum Leap. And not only that, a scene that casts the series finale in an entirely new light.

But the question remained? After all this time, where did the footage come from?

Well, my colleagues on the Quantum Leap Podcast did a little digging, and we discovered the fan behind the footage! His name is Roger, and while he insists that he was not the one who posted the lost ending, it did come from a tape he owns of show dailies. He explains how all this happened on the podcast, along with how he got hold of the tape in the first place. It’s a story that begins in the earliest days of Quantum Leap fandom and a must-listen for Leapers everywhere. Also, Roger is a really cool dude and a lot of fun to talk to.

You can hear his story right now on the Quantum Leap Podcast. Just search for the show on your favorite podcasting app and subscribe. You can also find it here.

In the days following its release, Scott Bakula weighed in on the discovery. In an interview with entertainment website The Blast he said:

“I remember that we shot different endings so that Don would be able to adjust accordingly. We wrapped before we knew if we were being picked up. Sadly, we were cancelled. I’m glad the fans get to see what might have been… or could be. I keep telling people, Sam’s still out there.”

Scott, that is a wonderful sentiment, and why I love the series finale. It was perfect that Sam chose to keep Leaping, putting right what once went wrong and helping as many people as he could.

But Scott also mentioned that they shot different endings, implying that there could be others out there. And we on the Quantum Leap Podcast are still digging. My co-host Matt Dale recently got a copy of the “Mirror Image” shooting schedule from QL guest star and legendary character actor Richard Herd. And it revealed a shooting day that was supposed to take place in the space bar, after Al Leaps. Needless to say, we’re beating the bushes, and seeing if anything else shakes loose.

But even if it doesn’t, Quantum Leap fans really couldn’t ask for more. Here we are 30 years later, and we’ve been treated to something new — not a remake or a reboot, but the genuine article. Maybe Sam is out there looking out for us, too.

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