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"Genesis: Part I"
Sam in the accelerator.

Sam in the accelerator.

Episode No.   Season
1 1x01 One
Episode Information
Original Broadcast Date March 26, 1989
IMDB: IMDb logo.png Genesis: Part I
Written by: Donald P. Bellisario
Directed by: David Hemmings
Leap Information
Leap Date: September 13, 1956
Place: Edwards Air Force Base, Blockfield, CA
Leapee: CAPT Tom Stratton, USAF
Chronological Information
Preceded by: None - Series pilot
Return to: Mirror Image
(final series episode)
Followed by: "Genesis: Part II"

Genesis: Part I was the premiere story arc of the NBC-TV series Quantum Leap. Directed by David Hemmings, the episode, which was written by series creator and executive producer Donald P. Bellisario, made its first airing on NBC on March 26, 1989, along with "Genesis: Part II" as a special two hour episode.


Sam prematurely steps into the project accelerator and vanishes... September 13, 1956: Suffering from partial amnesia, Sam cannot remember his own identity, nor Al's. There are two things he is sure of, though: He is not who everyone thinks he is (Tom Stratton, an airplane pilot), and he cannot fly.


Al Calavicci is driving along an isolated highway in the New Mexico desert. He stops his car to flirt with an attractive female standing at the side of the road and offers her a lift. The woman notes distant blue flashes in the sky and remarks that this was the same location where the first atomic bomb was tested. Al attempts to distract her attention until he is interrupted by Gooshie, who frantically informs him that Sam has stepped into the accelerator and is "leaping". Al says Sam cannot do so, as the project isn't ready. He warns Gooshie not to interfere with the process as this could kill Sam, and races back to the project. Sam meanwhile revels in the moment, just before disappearing.

Sam awakens in the year 1956, suffering from total memory loss. He is confused to discover that his name is "Tom" and that he has a pregnant wife named Peggy, or "Peg" for short, as Tom calls her (played by Jennifer Runyon) and a son named Mikey (Christian Van Dorn). He is further shocked by his reflection in the mirror which he insists is not him. Sam begins to convince himself that he is dreaming and that, as long as he goes along with the dream, he will soon wake up.

Sam further discovers that his complete identity is Tom Stratton, an Air Force test pilot, and that his best friend is Captain Bill "Bird Dog" Birdell (John Allen Nelson), a cocky, womanizing pilot. Birdell pulls over the side of the road to chat to an attractive young woman and brags about how he and Sam are the only pilots "brave enough to fly the X-2". Sam tells Birdell he cannot fly but Birdell thinks he is playing a gag and decides to go along with it. When they reach the Air Force base, Birdell and the other pilots pretend that flying has affected their memory, convincing staff Doctors Ernst and Berger to conduct a research project studying the matter.

Al shows up as the meeting disperses, but Sam does not recognize him. Sam and Birdell suit up into their pilot outfits and prepare to take off. Sam notices Al standing at the back of the plane and asks Birdell if everyone on board is secure. Birdell looks around but cannot see anybody. Birdell leaves Sam alone in the cockpit and Sam begins to panic, unable to steer the plane. The plane spins on its side and begins to descend. Birdell returns to the cockpit and resumes control. Sam insists he cannot fly, but Birdell is still convinced that he is joking.

A third pilot, Tony, enters the X-2, which is lowered from the plane Sam and Birdell are piloting. Tony intends to race the X-2 up to Mach-3. However, before it is able to reach the desired speed, the X-2 spins out of control and prepares to explode. Moments before the X-2 erupts into flames, Tony is able to eject and safely glide back to land.

That evening, the pilots and their spouses socialize at a local bar. Peg notes that Sam is uncharacteristically quiet and is puzzled when he asks her to dance, something Tom cannot do. Sam notices Al yet again, standing at the other side of the room. Sam asks Peggy is she can see him but she is unable to. Sam realizes that Al must be the key to finding out who he really is and approaches him. He asks Al if he is dead and has been reincarnated as Tom Stratton. Al cannot believe that Sam has no memory of who he is, though when Al calls him "Sam" he knows that's his real name, but nothing more. Al leaves the bar and walks outside, disappearing into thin air through an invisible door.

Driving back home, Peg is worried about Sam, as he is behaving oddly. Sam tells her he is not Tom Stratton and that he is not a pilot, nor does he have any recollection of her or Mikey. Peg becomes upset, and Sam decides to recant his confession, pretending that, in fact, it is all a joke he is perpetrating. Peg is relieved, but Sam remains unsure of what to do.

Sam awakens in the middle of the night and recovers a portion of his memory. He recalls that he grew up on a farm in Elk Ridge, Indianna with his parents and sister, Katie. He also remembers that his father died in 1974, but that being 1956, his dad must still be alive. Sam attempts to phone his family but he cannot remember his last name, thus is unable to reach them.

Mikey enters the room carrying a fishing rod and reminds Sam that they had a fishing trip planned for the day. Sam takes Mikey fishing and, while leaving him to fish further upstream, encounters Al again. Sam tries to touch Al, but his hands go through him, as Al explains that he is a man in the present day but appears to Sam as a neurological hologram. Al also explains that Sam is part of a time travel experiment that "went a little caca" and that he has traded places in time with Tom Stratton. He says Ziggy attempted to retrieve Sam in the morning, but Sam was unreachable. In order for Sam to leap, everyone in this time zone must believe he is Tom Stratton. Ziggy will next attempt to retrieve Sam on Tuesday, however, this is problematic for Sam as he is scheduled to fly the X-2 on Monday.

Sam is enjoying a family barbecue with friends. He notices that Peg appears nauseous, but she insists that she is fine. Sam is called away and summoned to the Air Force base where a Dr. "Weird Ernie" Ernst (Bruce McGill) and a Doctor Berger (W.K. Stratton) have designed a memory test questionnaire for Sam to take both before and after he flies the X-2 so they can gauge whether flying is affecting his memory. Ernst and Berger muse over whether their test will turn out to be a monumental discovery, or a monumental joke...

Sam makes a phone call and speaks to his father under the guise of being a long-lost relative. They speak of a father's love and understanding of an adult child who cannot make it home for a visit. Young Sam talks to his dad after the call. The two share a friendly, jovial relationship.

Peg goes into labor nine weeks early. Sam remembers that he is a doctor (among other titles) and tells the obstetrician how to stop labor. Now Peg can be transferred to a better-equipped hospital. The couple hugs and Sam leaps into a baseball player's body. Sam learns from Al in the next episode that Tom and the baby died in the original timeline. Thanks to Sam not flying and assisting the doctor, Tom and baby Samantha survive.

Air Dates and Titles[]

This episode originally aired in a 2-hour format, simply under the name "Quantum Leap." When the episode was rerun on Sep. 13, 1989, just before the second-season premiere, it was edited down to 90 minutes and retitled "Genesis." When released on home video in 1992, the cover read "The Pilot Episode." When the episode was shown in reruns on the USA Network and the Sci-Fi Channel, the show was called "Genesis" again, though much of the missing footage was restored, and the episode aired in 2 parts.

Video Availability[]

In 1992, MCA/Universal Home Video released a VHS of the full, uncut premiere episode. At the advent of DVD, Universal released this episode as a stand-alone purchase. It is also available as part of the first-season DVD box set.

In spring of 2009, nbc.com added this episode and several others to its online streaming video site.

Brushes With History[]

Sam leaps into Tom Stratton exactly 2 weeks before the Bell X-2 crashes on September 27, 1956.


  • As one watches this episode, the scenes that show the actual planes flying, one can tell that stock footage from old film reels, as the quality is not as good as the rest of the episode.
  • Tom Stratton is loosely based on two Air Force Test Pilots CAPT Milburn G. "Mel" Apt, who died during the actual testing of the X-2 crash in 1954 at Mach 3, and CAPT Iven C. Kincheloe, who was another X-2 test pilot, who later died testing the F-104A, leaving behind a young son, pregnant wife and unborn daughter.

Actor Notes[]

Actor W.K Stratton, who plays Doctor Berger, appears in four more Quantum Leap episodes; playing Sheriff Lyle in Good Night, Dear Heart, and Attorney Larry Stanton in the Abigail Trilogy.

Actor Bruce McGill, who plays Doctor "Weird Ernie" Ernst appears in the final Quantum Leap episode, "Mirror Image", as Al the Bartender.


  • Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera) (performed by Doris Day)
  • Hound Dog (performed by Elvis Presley)
  • Moonglow (Theme From 'Picnic')
  • Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love) (performed by Pat Boone)
  • Ooby Dooby (performed by Roy Orbison)



Audio Commentary[]