This article contains spoilers for Quantum Leap episode 17.Quantum Leap episode 17’s dramatic cliffhanger saw Ben finally arrive in the future – only to find it more dystopian than anyone had ever imagined. NBC’s Quantum Leap relaunch builds on the legacy of the original series, with Raymond Lee playing Dr. Ben Song, the scientist who follows Scott Bakula’s Sam Beckett into the Quantum Leap accelerator. But there’s a big difference between Ben Lee’s adventures and Sam Beckett’s; ben knew what he was getting into, and chose to begin a deliberate series of time travel adventures with a goal in mind. His adventures were not random; they were pre-programmed.
The entirety of Quantum Leap season 1 is essentially a mystery story, dropping clues to reveal just why Ben began traveling in time. It’s gradually been revealed another member of the project team, Mason Alexander Park’s Ian Wright, is destined to use the Quantum Leap accelerator to warn Ben of an impending disaster. At first it seemed as though this crisis was simply a personal one, involving the tragic death of Ben’s fiancée, Caitlin Bassett’s Addison Augustine. But Quantum Leap episode 17 has revealed the stakes are far higher.
Quantum Leap Episode 17 Sees Ben Finally Leap Into The Future
Unlike the original Quantum Leap series, NBC’s relaunch has made temporal mechanics central to its premise. While the project’s technology is usually used to enter the past, it has revealed Quantum Leap can travel to the future as well; in episode 6 the project team theorized it was possible to build up a sort of temporal momentum through visits to the past, in something loosely compared to the slingshot effect, where a spacecraft builds up momentum by using the gravity of a star or planet. This same technique allowed Ben to travel into the past beyond his own lifetime – but Ian theorized that was simply a pit-stop. The ultimate goal, Ian believed, was to arrive in the future.
The original Quantum Leap project did not possess the ability to program a series of leaps. Ben, however, has figured out how to do that – likely acting on information from the future. Quantum Leap episodes 16 and 17 stressed that Ben’s journeys are coming to an end, as he nears his final destination. It’s always been reasonable to assume this meant he would finally arrive in the future – but it had seemed likely he was simply going to save Addison’s life.
Quantum Leap Episode 17’s Apocalyptic Future Explained
Quantum Leap has been raising the stakes, with a previous episode in which Ben barely averted World War III. Given that’s the case, it’s not really a surprise the future Ben must ultimately avert is worse than any he’d ever imagined – because he emerges to find Los Angeles is in a nuclear winter. The camera pans around, revealing Ben is standing in the ruins of the Quantum Leap installation itself, and he’s greeted by Ian. This is probably the same older version of Ian who traveled back to instigate the time travel adventures in the first place – meaning this was never just about saving Addison. It was about saving the world.
Ironically, Ben is probably inside his own body – one that has lain in a form of suspended animation for years, perhaps even decades. Quantum Leap has revealed the bodies of time travelers are kept in a life support booth of some kind, and this may well have been tough enough to survive the nuclear apocalypse Ben awakens in. That may well be one reason Ian initiated Ben’s adventures in the first place; doing so preserved Ben’s body, keeping him safe.
How Can Ben Avert The Nuclear Apocalypse?
The cast and crew of Quantum Leap have promised season 1’s mysteries will all be answered in the finale. Now he’s in the future, Ben can learn all about the real cause of World War III. The problem, though, is that Quantum Leap typically divides its time between Ben’s journeys and the present day. That means it’s probable viewers will watch the seeds of the apocalypse sown in real-time in Quantum Leap‘s season 1 finale, appropriately entitled “Judgment Day.” It also means the Quantum Leap project is probably the cause of the disaster.
It’s difficult to imagine how Quantum Leap could actually cause such a nuclear apocalypse. The most likely explanation is that knowledge of the time travel experiments is somehow revealed to the world, and other countries react to the revelation by trying to destroy the United States before their own history can be rewritten. The oddest element, though, is that there is another leaper involved in all this – Walter Perez’s Richard Martinez. It’s currently impossible to say whether he is trying to avert this nuclear war, or somehow rewrite the past so the U.S. emerged triumphant. Whatever the case, Ben is sure to come against Martinez again in the Quantum Leap finale, and anything could happen as setup for season 2.
Episodes of Quantum Leap release on NBC on Mondays at 10 PM ET. Episodes are available for exclusive streaming on Peacock the next day.