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In Quantum Leap, Sam's theory of time travel explicitly put forth that one could "travel within their lifetime," but it doesn't explain how he "jumps" into other people's bodies/existences in that time stream.

What's more, it's not exactly "them", but Sam "projecting" their appearance. This was made clear when Sam "leaped" into the body of a man with no legs, but was fully able to walk normally. Now, some type of physical connection must exist [as when he was in the body of a pregnant woman, and when she went into labor, he felt the pain]... but it's not exactly made clear how.

Is there some canonical source that gives some idea as to how this works?

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The man he leaped into who lost his legs really lost his lower legs in a war. They had been blown off from the knees down. Sam got up and walked. It showed in a mirror what this looked like, and Sam appeared to be floating.

Also, did you see Trilogy, the three episodes where he got a woman pregnant, and her child was clearly, genetically his? Or the episode where he leaped into a teen girl and grabbed a grown man's arm, and the man was shocked at how strong "she" was? Or when he leaped into a young woman who had been raped, and at the end he figured out he was there not to make sure the rapist went to prison, but to beat the crap out of him as someone physically stronger than the young woman? There are many flat-out demonstrations that it's Sam's body there, and a lot of little reminders, too.

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No, their minds don't just switch. It's really simple.

Sam leaps into the other person's place, but he is physically there. And yes, though it doesn't explain how, he projects their appearance. That other person leaps into Sam's place in the waiting room at Quantum Leap and looks to everyone else like Sam.

At some point it explained how a hint of them remains, and he has a certain connection to the person. That's why he often acts a little differently, more how the person he leaped into would act, and why he felt the pain of the pregant woman, though since it was him physically there, he couldn't give birth.

If you watched the entire series, all this is pretty clear, and it bothers me when people who don't know what they're talking about say things like, "he's mentally time travelling," which was never the case. Screen Rant did that recently and ticked me off.

Anyway, that's how it works. I just hope that the new series gets it right.

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    If you could edit in some quotes that back up you assertions it would help improve your answer.
    – fez
    Sep 27, 2022 at 5:58
  • Also, this appears to be a comment on this answer, and should have been made as such, not written up as an "answer".
    – FreeMan
    Sep 27, 2022 at 16:39
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I thought their minds just switched so Sam took over the bodies and the other people took over Sam's body while he was in theirs. I don't remember the episode with the man with no legs. Did he not have legs at all or was he just not able to use his legs? If he had legs and couldn't use them then it could be for psychological reasons. Sam wouldn't have those psychological blocks preventing him from using the legs.

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  • Whilst a nice answer it would be good if you could edit in some supporting evidence for this. Your only supporting evidence, man who couldn't walk, you seem very unsure of. It would be best to check yourself to make sure this does support your theory and then edit your answer accordingly.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Sep 30, 2019 at 8:42
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    According to a fan wiki this was actually an "legless Vietnam vet", so not psychological: quantumleap.fandom.com/wiki/Nowhere_To_Run_(episode). Sep 30, 2019 at 8:55
  • To further complicate matters, the tie-in novels used actual mind-swapping. Sep 27, 2022 at 14:10

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