With the first episode of NBC’s Quantum Leap reboot, viewers are introduced to a new leaper in physicist Ben Song (Raymond Lee) as he restarts the time travel project that sent Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) into his endless loop of leaping from body to body. The exposition-heavy start to the show that saw Ben thrust into the body of a getaway driver for a group of criminals with his fiancée Addison (Caitlin Bassett) there as a hologram to guide him wasn’t what was originally intended for the show, however. In an interview with Collider’s own Christina Radish, showrunner Martin Gero details why the pilot is what it is and how the old one was reworked into episode six.
Lee first brought up the sudden change in the pilot in an earlier interview with Collider, but Gero fully delves into the need for a “buzzier” intro to pull viewers in. When asked about adjusting the pilot and another episode to best introduce the series, he also explained a little about the process behind making television pilots and how it offers practice for making the rest of the show. He told Radish:
So, to clarify the timeline, we shot a pilot in March, and that pilot was finished in April and submitted for approval from the network. For a bunch of reasons, that pilot wasn’t right. And so, we had a big conversation. People give network TV a lot of shit, but one of the things that it does really right is make pilots. Pilots are very expensive, but they really do teach you an enormous amount about the show. So, after watching the original pilot, which will be a fantastic episode six, it just didn’t feel buzzy enough to be the first episode of the show.
While the pilot itself needed a rework, it was never in question whether or not they had the right cast in Gero’s eyes. “The cast is f—ing phenomenal,” the showrunner added. “We had this great cast, and we had this great premise, so we needed to rethink what the first episode should be.” Alongside Lee and the newcomer Bassett, Quantum Leap also brought in Mason Alexander Park and Nanrisa Lee as well as the beloved Ernie Hudson to reprise his role as Herbert “Magic” Williams from the original series. It even featured Deborah Pratt voicing the supercomputer Ziggy once again. It’s a bit of a bigger group of regulars than those that joined Bakula and Dean Stockwell in the original, though one full of promise.
In terms of how they were able to rework the reboot, Gero credited the leap-of-the-week format of the show for making it easy to slide in a new episode at the beginning without scrapping the original concept:
I brought up doing a brand-new first episode. Everyone was like, “Oh, God, are we throwing out this very expensive pilot?” And I was like, “No, because we can maintain the leap.” The show is pretty modular, that way. So, the majority of that leap is in episode six, with some of it being reshot to contextually fit in that spot. That then allowed us to take all the incredible lessons we had learned and write a brand-new pilot, and then shoot a brand-new pilot. And then, in the middle of shooting that brand-new first episode is when I stepped in as showrunner.
Quantum Leap airs on NBC on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 PM Central. Keep an eye out for Radish’s full interview with Gero here on Collider. Check out the trailer below.