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Quantum Leap Writers' FAQ


This "mini-FAQ" is intended to be specifically directed to those interested in writing QL-related fiction, either as fanfic or as profic (professional novel guidelines from editor Ginjer Buchanan can be found here). The questions tend to be centered on hammering out what is canon and what is not.

Contents

  1. What is canon?
    Technical Questions
  2. Does Sam's body physically Leap?
  3. What does Al see?
  4. Who can see Al (and Sam as Sam)?
  5. Can Sam Leap outside his own lifetime?
  6. Can Sam Leap into the future (after his first Leap)?
    At the Project
  7. Who are some of the other people at the Project, and what do we know about them? Personal Information - Sam and Al
  8. Where are Sam and Al from?
  9. How old are Sam and Al?
  10. Does either Sam or Al have children?
  11. What are Sam's degrees in?
  12. What are the names of Al's wives (before "Mirror Image"), and what do we know about them?
  13. link to timeline of back stories, possible parallel histories, and Leap dates. (Link here, or at the bottom of this document.)

  1. What is canon?
    Canon is the body of knowledge we have from the aired episodes of Quantum Leap, which we are bound by in derivative writing. It is in the writer's interest to limit canon as much as possible, since it leaves us free to fill in blanks as we choose, so it is generally limited to information gathered from NBC's original airing of the series. The novels, other fanfic, informational books (though these are very helpful, and Julie Barrett's upcoming "Quantum Leap: A-Z" is supposed to be the best of them), and even comments from the producers are not binding (though, if they are accepted by enough fans, they are conventions and you're likely to get flamed for breaking them...)

    Technical Questions

  2. Does Sam's body physically Leap?
    Yes. Fifth season included some neural melding, but the body Leap was never compromised. There was, at one point, some controversy on the issue, but episodes in which Sam (a) saw through a blind man's eyes, (b) walked on an amputee's absent legs and (c) fathered a child with his own DNA, made the canon very clear on this angle. There are, of course, complications. Why does his clothing fit? The most common answer is that his molecules are projected into a smaller space, but that is not universally accepted. By "never compromised" I mean that Sam is never put into a situation in which it is required to be the Leapee's body, whereas he is often required to have his own.
  3. What does Al see?
    There is an inconsistancy here. In "What Price Gloria?" he clearly sees Sam as Samantha, but that seems to be an aberration, since he recognizes Magic in the Waiting Room in "Pool Hall Blues" (establishing that he sees the Leapee in the Waiting Room, not Sam's aura) and makes a comment about "Scarlett O'Hara on steroids" when he sees Sam in a ball gown in "Miss Deep South." Since both are canon, both could technically be used, but there is a commonly accepted "repair" for this that claims the Imaging Chamber was re-configured after WPG. This is not commonly accepted enough that stories in which Al sees Sam as the Leapee (and vice versa) would be at all likely to be flamed for it. But this brings up a point about canon: Quantum Leap has a lot of concordance gaps. Some can be bridged, but others can't. On those that can't, you're justified in choosing whichever suits your story -- the producers sure seemed to!
  4. Who can see Al (and Sam as Sam)?
    Small children, animals, the "mentally absent," and blondes with very low IQs (Al's wishful thinking). Also, people whose brainwaves are very close to Sam's can see Al, but apparently can't see Sam. "Hurricane" had a drunken man start to see through Sam's aura, but that might have been the electricity from the storm, since Cissy saw it, too. Al's voice and Sam's brain patterns can be picked up by some electronic equipment ("A Portrait for Troian"), but it doesn't make them visible. There's some suggestion (specifically in "Color of Truth") that Al can make his presence known on some level, but it's not explained how this works. Two other strong possibilities are psychics (in both "Temptation Eyes" and "Leaping in Without a Net," psychics are able to sense when Al is near, and in TE, Tamlyn can actually see through Sam's aura after a time; it is quite feasible that a more powerful psychic or one with a direct connection, like a family member or loved one, would be able to see them) and a younger version of Sam (who would presumably have the same brain waves to tune into). And, of course, if he touches another Leaper, the aura is disturbed for both of them, though it doesn't make the holograms visible.
  5. Can Sam Leap outside of his own lifetime?
    The canon clearly says yes ("The Leap Between the States," "Play it Again Seymour," and "The Americanization of Machiko" are all set before August 8, 1953, though the latter two would fall during his mother's pregnancy, if his life is started at his conception), but most fans are a bit uncomfortable with it. The justification used in "States" was similar DNA to his great-great-grandfather, who he Leaped into.
  6. Can Sam Leap into the future (after his first Leap)?
    Theoretically, there's no reason why he couldn't. The string goes from his birth to his death, so the future should be open as long as Sam is alive. Why he might do that, since his advantage is 20/20 hindsight, is open to question, but a good story could be written with this as a premise. Some people do think he's limited to his life before his first Leap, since according to "Mirror Image" he never Leaps home, and so does not actually "live" after 1995.
    At the Project

  7. Who are some of the people at the Project, and what do we know about them?

    Personal Information - Sam and Al

  8. Where are Sam and Al from?
    Sam is from Elk Ridge, Indiana, a small farming community. His father owns a dairy farm. The series is quite coy about Al's hometown; it's name is never mentioned, and in fanfic Al seems to be from every major city from sea to shining sea. He mentions having been in New York in the sixties, but he was an adult by then. He also mentions having been at the Regal Theater (Chicago) in its heyday. All we know for sure is that he grew up in an orphanage in an urban area (whether the orphanage is public or private is never revealed). His father is an immigrant, from Abruzzi, Italy, so it might be fair to think he'd seek out an Italian neighborhood (always easier to enter a new country if there's someone to translate, and Al does speak Italian fluently), but (a) that's not even close to a "given" and (b) it doesn't narrow the field much.
  9. How old are Sam and Al?
    Sam was born on August 8, 1953, and his age is never significantly altered (though a couple of Leaps take place a bit before the date), so, by the end of the show, he's 47. Al has an irreconcilable concordance gap here. In "A Leap for Lisa," which takes place in 1957, he claims that he was 23 years old, placing his birthdate in 1934 and his age at the end of the series at 66. But the date of "Lisa" is irreconcilable with "Rebel Without a Clue," which places Al's plebe year at Annapolis in 1958, making it impossible for him to be an ensign in '57. The '58 plebe year implies a 1940 birth date, making him 60 (or almost 60) at the end of the series. This is most likely a mistake, but both ages are canon, and you can legitimately use either. (Personally, I like the "Rebel" dating, since it's closer to Dean Stockwell's real age, and puts Al more firmly in the rock-n-roll era, and so far have gotten no complaints, though it's considered a less supportable date.)
  10. Does either Sam or Al have children?
    We know that Sam has Sammy Jo. No other children are mentioned, but it is not specifically denied either, so it's fair in fanfic (though profic won't allow it). Generally, if an issue is not directly addressed in any way, a writer can assume what s/he needs (that's why it's so handy for writers to limit canon to "only what aired on NBC, no more, no less"). There is a vague possibility that Sam and Donna have a son after "The Leap Back" based on an offhand comment from Deborah Pratt at QuantumCon '94, but that isn't canon. The closest Al came to saying he has no children was "Another Mother," when he said, "You know, I never really wanted children of my own -- " but he's interrupted before the end of the sentence, so it's not confirmed that he doesn't. Of course, after "Mirror Image," Al and Beth have four daughters (no names or ages given).
  11. What are Sam's degrees in?
    Sam has seven degrees; we don't know all of them. We know he is a medical doctor, and that he has a PhD in music, and another in ancient languages. His primary degree is in physics. We know his degrees are not in law or psychology. He also has a black belt in tae kwon do.

  12. What are the names of Al's wives (before "Mirror Image"), and what do we know about them?

      Beth		second wife		Ruthie		Maxine
      
      
    1. Beth. Beth is Al's true love, the "only woman [he] ever really loved; the only one [he] wanted to grow old with" ("M.I.A."). She is a nurse, with the Navy as of 1969, though it's not clear if she was always a Navy nurse, or if she joined because Al was in the Navy, or if she did it because she missed him when he disappeared. We don't know much of their back story. When Al was missing in action in Vietnam, she had him declared dead, and married a San Diego lawyer named Dirk Simon. We know nothing of Beth and Dirk's life together. Episode reference: "M.I.A." Referred to in "Sea Bride," "The Leap Home: Pt. 1," "Star Light, Star Bright." Beth is the only one of Al's wives to appear on the series; she was played by Susan Diol. She is about an inch taller than Al, and has dark brown hair and eyes.
    2. No name is given for Al's second wife. We know very little about her. She is most likely Hungarian ("Leaping in Without A Net"), though even this piece of information might be wrong, since Al mixes up which wife he got his information from (he says "second or third"). But, probably since this is only information we have about Al's second wife, it is generally assumed that she is meant.
    3. Ruthie. We know more about Ruthie than we know of any of the other unseen wives. She is a Jew, probably of Ashkenazi (Northern and Eastern European) descent, since Al picks up several Yiddish words from her. She and Al honeymooned on the train to Niagara Falls, which is the same honeymoon Al took with Beth. At some point Al and Ruthie visited Cleveland together, and had a Massage-o-Matic bed running for nine hours straight ("There was nothing else to do"). In "Thou Shalt Not," Al makes the interesting comment, "I never really appreciated family until after Ruthie was gone." He usually speaks of her affectionately, and with a rather regretful tone, leading some fans to hypothesize that their marriage ended in her death rather than a divorce. This is contradicted in "Raped," when Al tells us that his third wife divorced him for mental cruelty (because he sang "Volare" in his sleep), but it is possible that he got his numbers mixed up again, even though it isn't accompanied by any of the hesitancy of his usual mix-ups. Episode reference: "Thou Shalt Not." Referred to in "Nuclear Family," "Raped," "A Tale of Two Sweeties," "Honeymoon Express."
    4. Sharon. Not much is said of Sharon and Al's marriage, though they had a dog named Chester who Sharon won in a custody settlement. She wears teddies. Referred to in: "Honeymoon Express," "The Great Spontini."
    5. Maxine. Maxine is the only one of Al's wives that we know he instigated the divorce proceedings against ("A Hunting We Will Go"), though it's not out of the question with any of others. Al believed that Maxine was cheating on him with a Marine, and feels guilty about their divorce because it turned out he was wrong. (Note: there is a concordance gap about Maxine -- in "The Play's the Thing," Al said their marriage ended when she ran off with a bricklayer. This part of Al's life could conceivably be in Sam' range of influence, but it also just might be irreconcilable.) They met in a tattoo parlor in Atlantic City, and Maxine flavors her toes with mint leaves. Her life's ambition was to be in the roller derby, but she kept falling at tryouts. She tried a little ice skating, but it wasn't the same. Episode reference: "A Hunting We Will Go." Referred to in "Honeymoon Express" (she also got the Niagara Falls honeymoon), "The Play's the Thing." Al is reminded of her because Sam's prisoner in "A Hunting We Will Go" (played by Jane Sibbet) looks exactly like her -- so she is a blond with blue eyes, medium to tall in height.

    Parallel Timeline

  13. The timeline includes Leap dates, from the episode guide in the archives, paralleled with a primary back story timeline, and a secondary timeline which includes irreconcilable dates (like Al's age) and added history (like Sammy Jo's birth).