Essays

Quantum Leap – Last Call at Al’s: A Tribute to Dean Stockwell

One of the best actors in Hollywood passed away in the past couple of days at age 85. Dean Stockwell, the actor/artist/environmentalist/cigar-enthusiast, is notably remembered for his role as Al Calavicci in the ’80s/’90s TV time travel show Quantum Leap. I had always intended to talk about Quantum Leap here somewhere since it is one of the most influential productions I have ever spent time with, “within my own lifetime.” With the news about Mr. Stockwell, I guess maybe this is a good time.

Here in the Waiting Room

First of all if you just need to know what Quantum Leap is, check out the Quantum Leap wiki.

So, when I was a kid, I mean like as young as Mr. Stockwell was when he was a child actor in the 1950s, somehow I was able to get to know the adventures of Al and Sam in the epic Quantum Leap while it was on primetime TV. Not sure if my parents watched it or what, but we all know about it, and those who bless it are like family! As I went into my teens, I could often catch Quantum Leap re-runs on cable TV.

I was old enough to be nostalgic by then, and it just seemed like such a gem amongst old shows. It was initiated into a hilarious T-Shirt I’d seen with a quote by Samuel Beckett (classic British poet) juxtaposed with a picture of Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett from the quantum leap project. I cannot express how hilarious I thought this shirt was. It also re-kindled my interest in the show and the characters.

Then somewhere in my twenties during the next rung to the future, Netflix posted every single episode streaming for free. “Oh boy!” Actually, just for the record, there were a few episodes that weren’t included for some bizarre reason that I had to track down. Aside from that though, I binge-watched every episode and it changed my life! For good!

Ziggy

Al and Sam weren’t just sci-fi TV show characters. They were practically prophets. I mean that in the most respectful way. By the way, Don Bellisario was as much a visionary in the whole thing as well, having created the series. The plot of the show is about a scientist “leaping” into people who were alive in his lifetime, never stopping, with the only help of Al, a companion from the future who shows up from time to time to give Sam advice. Sam and Al try to make a change to each host stranger’s life so that the decider, whatever force it is, will send him on. Does this sound epic? Because it is. This is a really amazing type of story that practically no other show has rivaled, and nearly all influenced by in some degree.

When I watched that show, it was like something embedded into some part of my foundation. If you’ve ever watched the show, you’ll know that Sam and Al never rest in this broad objective of helping people somehow. If we all could do that, our world could thrive. Maybe not by time travel, but always looking how to help I don’t know, kind of a sad era to think about that right now, but there is good out there (like this show and these people.) If imagining what it might be like if a fictional character was a real character and that this changes your life, that story contains wisdom. Quantum Leap, I’m telling you, this is relatable spirit-boosting genius. I realize it is about 30 years old, but it still entertains.

Dean Stockwell as Al Calavicci

One of the many plots of Quantum Leap, was about Al’s military history serving in the Vietnam War, where he became a prisoner of war. It was an incredible dramatization about something that was very heavy in expressing a traditional sentiment of the horrors of war. Sam himself ends up a few times serving in the war, once in a situation where a photograph of Al shows up on a war journalist’s film reel right before a leap. As the show wraps up, things go into bonkers/woah, cry-your-eyes-out land. It is not to be missed.

Aside from all the seriousness though, Al is an extremely colorful (literally), often hilarious, very charming character. Every time he shows up, he’s got some crazy futuristic tailored suit on there, ranging from yellow zoot’ish style to iridescent light-up ’80s cheezy-goodness. Also, he’s usually smoking a cigar. This is no act. Stockwell loved cigars and worked it into this character. Al wasn’t perfect either, his character usually was discussing beautiful women he was dating. This actually ends up having a wholesome turnout toward the end. Did I mention that this show was majorly popular not just even though it was so wholesome, but also because of it, for anybody who respects the show for what it is?

The Final Leap Home

Stockwell and Bakula have been extremely loyal to their fans. Some have loved it so much they had hoped for a movie or a reboot. I don’t know if that could ever happen with something so good. Now I suppose an original cast is shelved for good. Bakula still continues to relish fans and recently was described as one of the most influential actors in Hollywood. I believe it. At least for myself.

Oh yeah, one other thing. This past spring, the show’s producer Don Bellisario made his way onto YouTube with a very amusing interview about unsolved questions regarding Quantum Leap. I highly recommend watching it if you’re a fan.

Rest in peace, Dean Stockwell. Thank you for helping us with your craft.

Thank you for reading Mr. Dave Pizza. I am a writer and gamer who likes to talk about interesting things. If you like games or essays like this. Please have a look around!

P.S. The title is a reference to the last episode of Quantum Leap and a bar called Al’s Place. One last time, this show was amazing.

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