Leap Date: January 24, 1961
Written by: Paul Brown
Directed by: Joe Napolitano
Original Air Date: November 6, 1991
This time: Sam leaps into a space shuttle cockpit counting down to launch. With his vitals all over the place, the mission is aborted. It is revealed that Sam was in a simulator. He is led away from it where he is disrobed down to a diaper and finds out that he has leaped into a Bobo, chimp. His main handler is chimp veterinarian Dr. Leslie Ashton, under the supervision of Dr. Tucker. Dr. Frank Winger is introduced as a neurologist. Per Al, in the next couple of days, there are two selected to go into space and Sam has to be one of them so that he does not get forgotten by history.
The next morning, Dr. Winger flirts with Dr. Ashton hard. She politely declines (and hopefully reports him to Human Resources!) as the two talk about their careers. Things do not go well as Sam is put in a chair for a test. Given no instructions (and not liking the treat), nuclear scientist and pioneer of time travel Dr. Beckett does not do well. Al looks into the records and finds out that originally, Bobo dies of massive head trauma. With Sam, they find out that Dr. Wigner is working on effects of head trauma by using chimps.
Sam’s ‘girlfriend’ Corey is taken to do tests by Dr. Winger, infuriating Dr. Ashton. She confronts him and they have a ‘measuring’ contest. Dr. Ashton tries to keep her chimps safe, but Dr. Tucker authorized the testing. Soon, Sam is tranquilized and taken for testing. He is able to free himself before being hit by five thousand pounds of pressure. He takes Corey and they make their escape holding Dr. Winger and crew at bay with a tranquilizer gun. Why they only have one is an exercise for the viewer as is why they are all worried about one non-lethal weapon with only one bullet.
In the chaos of The Great Ape Escape (a title not copywritten for some reason), Dr. Winger falls into a river but is saved by Sam, to the amazement of the doctors as chimps cannot swim. Dr. Wigner stops testing on chimps, Dr. Ashton has an excellent career and Corey has a baby with Bobo. Sam leaps …
… into Jack Stone, a cop, investigating a home with his partner, Pamela Roselli. He finds a grisly murder scene.
Stop talking to yourself: Accompanied by stock footage of disastrous space flights, Sam gives a lesson in early American space flight that you probably did not get in history class. Also, life as a chimp is not as bad as you might think.
Only Sam can see and hear: Sam gets the brilliant idea to write a note so that the scientists know he is a person. Al says that is a great way to get his brain dissected. Plus, Al was part of the Apollo program.
Mirror images that were not his own: Stripped down to a diaper and called Bobo, Sam looks in the mirror and sees a chimp. The leapee effect is well done, considering.
Brush with history: John Glenn gets a name check as Dr. Ashton hopes that Bobo beats him to space. Not to be outdone, Dr. Winger name drops Chuck Yeager.
Something or someone: After saving Dr. Wigner, Sam gets to stick around to see Corey shoot him in the behind with a tranquilizer dart.
It’s a science project: A light-based test with electroshocks, an equilibrium test and a centrifuge; Sam gets put through a lot of testing in this episode.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow: We are denied seeing Scott Bakula pretend to be a chimp in the Waiting Room!
Let’s up the rating: Sam spends most of this episode in a diaper. It would be less, but Sam draws the line at that. Given that this episode lasts multiple days, one hopes that he does change it at some point.
Oh, and most of the chimps have tags numbered in the sixties. Director Joe Napolitano made sure we saw the one with 69!
One more time: “How are you doing today, Bobo?” “Pretty miserable. Yourself?”
Sam and Dr. Tucker exchanging morning pleasantries with the former having the smarm usually associated with Al.
Trivial Matters: The title spoofs the classic film, The Right Stuff, about early spaceflights. It was remade as a miniseries in 2020.
The teaser in the aired episode has more material than it did in the preview a week prior. Here, we see the control room and the scientists working while monitoring Sam’s bio signs.
Disneyland’s Teacups get a name check as Al “spilled his cookies” on them.
This is the only episode where Sam does not leap into a person.
Dr. Ashton is played by Caroline Goodall. There could very well be some relationship to the famed Dr. Jane Goodall but I am unable to confirm.
Put right what once went wrong: “If you want to study human head trauma, study it in a human.” “Well, that would be irresponsible.” The chimp episode. You will either love it or hate it, but it is memorable, not just for opening possibilities not fully explored as one wonders how the goldfish episode would turn out.
It works amazingly well. Sam is able to remark on things usually reserved for Al, allowing Bakula to show off his comedic chops. Usually, Sam has to hold it in or wait for Al, and then probably talk in hushed tones, but this week he has a lot of snark. Speaking of which, Stockwell has a little more to do in this hour as the only person that can have meaningful communication with Sam. This is one of the few instances where they can pretty much talk freely for the entirety of the episode.
I love how an actual astronaut has no idea how to complete any of the tests. As with his first leap into an African American and a woman, we get to see Sam adjust.
The other humans in the cast are well acted. As Dr. Ashton, Caroline Goodall plays a caring compassionate doctor caring for her simian patients. She knows that Corey and Bobo will get it on, Bobo’s favorite treat, etc. Best of all, she does not have to look at their tags to know that Cathy is in Corey’s cage. As the time goes by it becomes clear she is truly at comfortable around primates while doing her work.
Gary Swanson does have evil villain moments but also gets to present the other side of the case. This was years before test dummies were anywhere as good as we saw on Mythbusters and he does show his work. It is great to show dimensionality. Albert Stratten plays Dr. Tucker as the adult in the room, supervising and moderating disputes.
Not something that should be overused but this is a good hour. It showed that the rules of the series could be stretched to tell a greater variety of stories, and we would see that down the road but not to this extent.