“The Boogiem*n”: October 31, 1964
Original airdate: October 26, 1990
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It’s trick or treat, Quantum Leap style, in an episode that drops Sam Beckett into the shoes of a small time horror novelist, Joshua Rae, and then knocks him down a staircase for good measure. Rae is decorating his home for the upcoming October 31st holiday; he and his fiancée Mary are hosting a haunted house on behalf of her church. It all seems like harmless fun, but no sooner has Sam arrived than a bizarre accident claims the life of one of the church deacons.
For Sam, to have time and a chance to save someone and then to fail is almost worse than having no chance at all. He is deeply upset when Al arrives, and it doesn’t help that Ziggy has nothing to say about the dead man or the accident that claimed him. When another church deacon falls to a freak accident, Al points out the obvious: only Mary had access to both victims.
Sam, however, isn’t buying Mary as a murder suspect, especially since, according to Ziggy, she’s going to die next. As he tries to figure out what is going on, the mysteries and odd occurrences keep piling up. There’s a disappearing and reappearing goat causing trouble, a poisonous black mamba snake on the loose, and mysterious descriptions of each death appear on Joshua’s typewriter after they occur. Sam tries mightily to figure out what’s going on while Al continues to cast doubts on Mary, and neither of them makes any progress.
In time, where all of this leads Sam is into a direct confrontation with evil itself.
If this episode’s script isn’t as strong as most other Quantum Leap stories, it nevertheless is significant in several ways. For one, the show’s creators strove to include a “kiss with history” in every episode. Over the course of Quantum Leap’s run, Sam teaches Michael Jackson to moonwalk, Chubby Checker to twist, makes a crucial edit to the lyrics of “Peggy Sue,” performs the Heimlich Maneuver on Dr. Henry J. Heimlich and gives the word “awesome” new meaning in popular speech.
This leap is perhaps the biggest kiss of them all, because Stevie the sidekick is none other than horror author Stephen King… and references to King’s work abound within the episode, with sight gags and drive-by mentions of Cujo, Carrie, and Christine.
Another element of the episode that is especially interesting to fans in the know is that the show does some creative staging with Al, to address the troubles that are keeping him and Ziggy from being their usual aid to Sam. (I’m doing a careful dance here to keep you all somewhat unspoiled, so if you haven’t seen it before, watch closely!) I have always had mixed feelings about this particular story. For spooky goodness, I rather prefer “Blood Moon,” where Sam may or may not be a vampire. And though I love it when the show breaks its usual pattern, I always find I want a little more from the mushily resolved throwdown at the end of this one.
What we have in this episode is a declaration of war, a storyline that plays out as a bunch of weird events, followed by an argument, followed by a brawl that neither party wins. Though Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell give this scene everything they’ve got, I find myself wanting something more decisive from this clash. There are so many great folktales where a clever adventurer outsmarts Evil, essentially conning the ultimate con artist. In others, heroes manage to defeat bigtime evil through purity of spirit alone. Sam could pull off either option beautifully! The non-existent episode where one of these outcomes came to be… that one could have won my heart, bigtime. This one just doesn’t quite grab me.
But then, a lot of things connected with this episode don’t quite work. It’s sometimes referred to by Leapers as “The Halloween Episode,” because it is reputed to have the highest incidence of technology failure when viewed. VCRs and DVDs are supposed to die or glitch when you try to play it; TV stations are struck by lightning. The words “curse” are often bandied about, and dedicated Leapers generally spell the episode title thusly: “The Boogiem*n.”
Glitches aside, what is most important about this leap is that it establishes that a certain evil someone would prefer that things that originally went wrong in the past should stay that way. It sets out that there is a conscious and malevolent presence, an antagonist, an actual person who’s opposed to the force leaping Sam around. This is important. It means Sam is not merely remedying the universe’s random cruelties… he is actively fighting cosmic malice.
And it is the acknowledgment of this antagonist that is the seed for another of the fan-chosen stories I will be reviewing in upcoming weeks, namely, “Deliver Us from Evil.”
A.M. Dellamonica writes novels and short fiction and teaches writing online. She is passionate about environmentalism, food and drink, and art in every form, and dabbles in several: photography, choral music, theater, dance, cooking and crafts. Catch up with her on her blog here.