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Quantum Leap

Season 1 Episode 7

The Color of Truth

Aired Friday 12:00 AM May 03, 1989 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
100 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary


August 8, 1955: In the life of Jesse Tyler, an aging black chauffeur, Sam must face discrimination in the South while trying to prevent the death of an elderly white woman. Actions motivated by his own belief in equality cause violent reactions, as Sam tries to convince one of the pillars of the community to change her views on racism and the futility of trying to change a society for the better.


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  • We Shall Overcome

    Sam experiences racism when he leaps into elderly black man who is the driver for a wealthy white woman (whose late husband was the State Governor).

    The episode does a good job showing the many ways that racism -- both cultural and legal -- made life difficult (even dangerous) for black Americans in the American south.

    The episode does not shy away from the harsh and brutal realities, nor does it seek to exploit the situation for cheap, shock value.

    At its core, the episode is about Sam trying to save two women; the widower and the grand daughter.

    In the original history, the widower dies in a car accident and the grand daughter is the victim of a racially motivated murder.

    The widower knows that life is unfair, she tells Sam as much near the end of the episode, but does not want to get involved in changing unjust laws or racist attitudes. She wants to quietly live out her life and follow her daily routine, without facing the ugly realities of her Southern community.

    The grand daughter knows that life is unfair -- she has experienced racism and poverty first hand -- and is very eager to change the world, but knows that any effort to challenge the discriminatory attitudes and laws, will be met with violence.

    At the episodes end, the widower agrees to take small, but public, steps in favor of civil rights.

    The grand daughter lives, but (and this is a small complaint) does not go through any sort of character development. She is essentially the same character at the start of the episode as she was at the end.

    Granted, it would be difficult for her character to have much of a story arch and keep it accurate to the time period. In 1955, the career and educational opportunities for black women (especially poor black women in the south) were very limited.

    She would be alive to witness the slow pace of change brought about by federal civil right legislation and the federal war on poverty, but the odds are stacked against he getting a college degree and a white collar job.

    This the first episode in the series to confront the historic evils of prejudice within the society. Later episodes would deal again with racism as well as interracial relationships, women's rights, the rights of the disabled, and the gay rights movement.

    and (even today) the episode is powerful to watch.

  • Subtle Dukes of Hazzard reference in this ep.

    I was always a big fan of both The Dukes of Hazzard and Quantum Leap. I was recently watching this episode again and noticed the town at the beginning is the Warner Bros. lot they used for downtown Hazzard on the dukes. When Miss Melanie says "stop looking at me like a LOST SHEEP" she emphasizes those 2 words. That's what Uncle Jesse called Bo and Luke. That' can't be a coincidence.moreless
  • Sam leaps into the black chauffer to an elderly white widower in Deep South 1955. His goal is to save her from a being killed by a train, but by simply sitting down in a café, sets of racial tensions. Best of the season, and one of the best of the series.moreless

    This review contains spoilers.

    "The Color of Truth" is by far the best episode of 'Quantum Leap's short but enjoyable first season. Heck, scratch that, it's one of the best of the entire show's run!

    It is written by Deborah Pratt, a regular collaborator with creator Donald P. Bellisario (as well as his then wife), and as with most of her scripts, Pratt delivers a top notch tale, that strikes the perfect balance between enjoyable and thoughtful.

    The episode has some lovely guest performances, such as Kimberly Bailey as Jesse's granddaughter Nell; but undoubted star of the show is Susan French as the elderly Miz Melanie Trafford.

    The story highlights what black people had to put up with in this era; by simply, unwittingly sitting down at a café counter when he leaps in to the elderly Jesse, Sam sets off a string of events as local racial tensions rise. The combination of Deborah Pratt's perfect script and the wonderful performances make this one of QL's best episodes, with some great character moments, and highlighting the ridiculousness of colour segregation.

    Although a white male from suburban United Kingdom, this episode really made me relate to the struggles of the black folk of the Deep South in those times, and all they had to stand up to and fight for.

    There is the eerie moment where it seems that Al may somehow have communicated with Miz Trafford (which she believes to the voice of her deceased husband), saving her for the fatal collision with the locomotive; and I love the final scene, where both she and Jesse sit down together in the café that started all of the problems. Of interest to me personally production-wise, is that the town set used for this episode is the same one that was used for 'The Dukes of Hazzard', one of my favourite TV shows as a child (and unashamedly still is!); This set would be used again in several future 'Quantum Leap' stories.

    As I say, easily the best of the first season (it's only close rival in my book, is the next broadcast episode, "Camikazi Kid"), and one of the best episodes that 'Quantum Leap' ever produced. If someone is new to the series and you want to show them what the programme is capable of, point them in the direction of this episode. 10/10.moreless
  • Sam is driving miss daisy, sort of....

    This is a pretty funny episode with Sam trying to be as polite and proper as a black man should have been. Its also kind of interesting seeing a white character play a black character, and all of the actors play it off pretty well. This is a great example of how good a show Quantum Leap was, because it touches on some very important racial issues in a decent way without losing its way or becoming something it isn\'t. It’s not too serious or heavy about the issues, but still presents some intelligent points. The best episodes of Quantum Leap show a white man experiencing things that are impossible, as in this episode where he\'s a black man. Ziggy says he needs to save the white woman from a car wreck, but Sam wants to set off the civil rights movement. Is he wrong for wanting to jump start it early? “It’s the way things are” “maybe it’s time they changed.” GREAT scene. The plot for the whole episode moves really well with some big moments. A great all around episode.moreless
  • I love this episode. Ok. As he leaps in, Sam summarises all the previous leaps and then, when he sees that he has leapt into a diner, he decides, as he is hungry, he may as well grab a bite to eat. Where's the harm in that?moreless

    Sam has leapt into the Southern state of Alabama in 1955 before the Civil Rights movement has properly begun. He starts the leap by getting his 'new persona' into the bad books of all of the white folks in the little town he is in, by sitting down in an all white diner. Only after he notices that everyone in the diner is staring at him does he look in the mirror and realise that he has leapt into a black man.

    The issues touched on are, as always, serious issues and, as always, everyone involved in the creation of this episode did so with sensitivity.

    Sam's childlike enthusiasm for leaping is amusing and keeps the audience interested. While Al's experience and memories of those times keeps the episode from becoming a fantasy.

    Oh ye. The ending was supurb, it had me grinning like a cheshire cat.moreless
Dean Stockwell

Dean Stockwell

Rear Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci

Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula

Dr. Samuel "Sam" Beckett

Royce D. Applegate

Royce D. Applegate

Sheriff Blount

Guest Star

Michael D. Roberts

Michael D. Roberts

Willis Trafford

Guest Star

James Ingersoll

James Ingersoll

Clayton Trafford

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • In the leap in at the end of the previous episode Sam leaps into Jesse already sitting at the lunch counter.  At the beginning of this episode Sam leaps in at the door walking into the restaurant.

    • When Sam first enters the car, he gets up to see his new face in the rear view mirror. For a very brief moment you can see Scott Bakula's hat obscuring the person he has leaped into.

    • Trivia: This episode is the first in which Sam leaps into a black man.

    • In a nice touch, Sam forgets to turn off his turn signal. In this time period, most car turn signals did not automatically shut off.

    • When Sam comes out of the jail house the reflection in the glass is his not Jessie's.

    • In the cemetery scene, Al casts a shadow on the ground, which should not happen because he is a hologram.

  • QUOTES (17)

    • Sam: If the truth be known, once I got into it, quantum leaping turned out to be a lot of fun. So far, I've been able to save two lives, one ball game, and a pig. I fought for the faith of a nun and against the mob, put together three couples, a father and daughter, and the lyrics for "Peggy Sue." Like I said, stepping into someone else's shoes can be a lot of fun.

    • Sam: Of all the people I've leaped into, Jesse should have been the strangers. But there was something very comfortable about him-like putting on a pair of your favorite shoes or a jacket you've broken in just right.

    • (to Sam, as a black man)
      Al: I've seen things that would curl your hair. No pun intended.

    • Clayton: I swear, you got ears like a hawk.
      Ms. Melanie: I'm old, not dead.

    • Nell: I'm gonna sit at that counter some day... and I'm gonna drink from the white fountain and, and ride in the front of the bus and do all the things that make white folks mad.
      Sam: Is that why you wanna do it, to make 'em mad?
      Nell: Yep, and 'cause it's right.

    • Sam: I'd heard of chitlins, of course. I thought they were one of those rare Southern delicacies that taste as good as they sound. I never realized they were pig intestines. The smell was like something that had been kept around too long in autopsy class.

    • (reciting his chitlins recipe)
      Al: Now, uh, what am I forgetting?
      Sam: How sick this is making me.

    • Sam: (to Al) Are you crazy?
      Willis: (overhearing) Not as crazy as you are. Or at least that's what people are gonna say if they see you in here talkin' to yourself.

    • Sam: "Blacks." That's what we'll be called instead of "Negroes."
      Miz Melanie: What in God's name's wrong with being called a niggra?
      Sam: Maybe it's just a little too close to "nigger."

    • Sam: I've gone crazy? Miz Melny, I'm not the the one burning crosses in the front of people's homes.

    • Sam: You can't, it's too hot today
      Miz Melanie: I'm not gonna melt.

    • Doctor: I can't help her. It's against the law.
      Sam: To hell with the law!

    • Sam: Al, you're getting a little paranoid.
      Al: Sam, how do you think I've lived this long?

    • Al: Sam, she had to have heard me.
      Sam: That's great, Al.
      Al: Just think of the possibility. I mean, if I reached Miz Melany, then maybe, just maybe... I can reach other women. Younger women. What? What?
      Sam: Is sex all you ever think about?
      Al: Well, except when I'm pulling you out of the fire, yes.

    • Al: Pull off into the cemetery, dammit!
      Miz Melanie: Thank you, Charles. You didn't have to swear.

    • Ms. Melanie: My relationship with Mr. Tyler is my business. Now you go mind yours, and I'll see you for supper.
      Clayton: Yes, ma'am. (walks away)
      Sam: Thank you.
      Ms. Melanie: Sometimes I think they switched babies on me.

    • Sam: Miz Melny, once you have seen the light, you can not go back into the darkness.

  • NOTES (2)

    • The day Sam leaps in is his birthday. He was born in 1953 so he'd be two years old. Sam also leaps into this same date and year in "Trilogy (1)."

    • The house where Sam has parked Miz Melanie's car (at the beginning of the episode) is the same house used in exterior shots of the Seaver house on Growing Pains.


    • Al: It was incredible. Real Twilight Zone stuff.
      He is referring to The Twilight Zone show, a series with science fiction, horror or fantasy tales. The original Twilight Zone series aired from 1959 with host Rod Serling, and continued in 1985 with Charles Aidman and Robin Ward in 1985, and went back in 2002 for just one season, hosted by Forest Whitaker.

    • Sam: I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West
      Referencing L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz novel and the sequels, and the 1939 film version where Margaret Hamilton plays the Wicked Witch of the West.