"Black On White On Fire"

Leap Date:

August 11, 1965

Episode adopted by: Sherdran <aka> Eleiece
Additional info provided by: Brian Greene


Set during the racially charged Watts riots of 1965, Sam leaps into a black man with a white fiancée trying to protect her from being killed by his brother.


Audio from this episode

TV Guide Synopsis
Leap Date

Name of the Person Leaped Into

Music Artists
Project Trivia
Sam Trivia
Al Trivia

Al's Outfits Worn in the Episode
Miscellaneous Trivia
Kiss with History

Broadcast Date
Guest Stars
Guest Cast Notes
Guests Who Appeared in Other QL Episodes
Cast members who have passed away
Personal Review
Best Lines
Best Scenes
Say what?
Quotable Quotes



Production # 66403

TV Guide Synopsis (TVGuide.com):
Sam lands himself in a really gray area as a black medical student with a white fiancée in a racially tense city in 1965. Nita Bond: CCH Pounder. Lonnie Jordan: Gregory Millar. Susan Bond: Corie Henninger. BB: Sami Chester. Papa Dee: Ron Taylor. Sam: Scott Bakula.

TV Guide Synopsis (Original):
There’s black, there’s white; and in between there’s a gray area, which is where Sam (Scott Bakula) lands as a black medical student with a white fiancée in racially tense Watts in 1965.

Leap Location:
Los Angeles, California (Watts)

Leap Date / Day of the Week:
August 11, 1965 / Wednesday

Kiss with History:
Sam leaps in just as the infamous Watts Riots explode.

Original Air Date/Day of the Week:
November 9, 1990 (Friday)

Name of the Person Leaped Into:
Ray Harper

Family of Leapee:
Lonnie Harper
Papa David Harper
Mama Harper
Susan Brewster (fiancée)

Music by:
Mike Post
Venton Ray Bunch

"My Girl" - The Temptations
"Ooo Baby Baby" - Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
"Tracks Of My Tears" - Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" - James Brown
"Baby, I Need Your Lovin'" - The Four Tops

Project Trivia:
Once the riot was in full swing, Ziggy had some difficulty getting a lock on Sam.

Sam Trivia:
Sam didn't recall the Watts Riot. Also, his medical training gets a real workout, especially in the clinic scene.

Al Trivia:
Al did remember the Watts Riots, and had to fill in the gaps for Sam. ("...by the time it was over, 35 people were dead, hundreds were injured and the main drag was known as 'Charcoal Alley.")

Al's Outfits Worn in the Episode:
First - Green patterned shirt, green vest with a black back, narrow diagonally-striped purple & white tie, black pants.

Second - Dark lavender shirt and pants, light grayish-white nubby textured vest, silver-colored bar pin with 3 'coins' on it at the throat of the shirt, and black shoes. Black-banded watch on left wrist.

Miscellaneous Trivia:
There is a "Mandela Effect" with the title of this episode. Many fans remember it being called "Black & White On Fire" instead of Black On White On Fire." Perhaps it was typed incorrectly in a TV Guide or other publication. 

Deborah Pratt remembered about the production of this episode, "we had to go into the network and fight with Standards and Practices about this kissing scene. And we had sponsors pull and if I’m not mistaken a couple of places in the South didn’t air the show... black people, white people, everybody had a different attitude. There was anger and frustration, but no one really understood what was happening.”

Regular Cast:
Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett
Dean Stockwell as Al Calavicci

Guest Stars:
Gregory Millar as Lonnie Harper
Corie Henninger
as Susan Brewster
Sami Chester as Bebe
Ron Taylor as Papa David
Marc Alaimo as Captain Paul Brewster
Laverne Anderson
as Cherri Hill
CCH Pounder as Nita Harper 

Montrose Hagins as Matty
Cheryl Francis Harrington as Young Woman
Jon Berry
as Police Sniper
Garon Grigsby as Ray Harper
W.K. Stratton as Radio Dispatcher

Guests Who Appeared in Other QL Episodes:
In the riot scene when Captain Brewster is talking on the radio to the dispatcher, the voice of the dispatcher is that of W. K. Stratton. 

Note: W.K. Stratton's many appearances on QL -- actual physical appearances and voice only -- makes him the undisputed most frequent guest star on QL throughout it's entire run. He was in "Genesis", "Good Night, Dear Heart", "Trilogy Part I", "Trilogy Part II", and "Trilogy Part III". He also voiced the dispatcher in "Hurricane." 

Gregory Millar also appeared in "M.I.A."

Guest Cast Notes:

GREGORY MILLAR (Lonnie Harper): is Charles Elchanan Nickels. His and he maintains a steady career in film and television.

Greg has maintained a steady career in both film, TV movies and episodic television. He's also a veteran of the stage. Following graduation from the University of Michigan, Greg toured for a number of years with Billie Holiday Resident Acting Co. On Broadway he appeared in Inacent Black; in Off-Broadway and various regional productions gave him the opportunity to hone and sharpen his acting skills in productions of Our Town, The Tooth of Crime, Waiting for Godot and Black People's Party.

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
NYPD Blue (1998)
Murder, She Wrote (1997)
Diagnosis Murder (1996)
ER (1995)
The Adventures of Superboy (1991)
Jake and the Fatman (1988)
The Pretender (1997)
Matlock (1990)

CORIE HENNIGER (Susan Brewster):
Jake and the Fatman (1990)
Metro (1997)
Copycat (1995)

SAMI CHESTER ("Papa Dee"):
Contact (1997)
Born On The Fourth of July (1989)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1987)
NYPD Blue (1996)
Viper (1994)
Dallas (1985 & 1984)

Vinnie & Bobby (1992)
My Little Pony (1986)
City of Angels (2000)
Ally McBeal (1999)
NYPD Blue (1997 & 1993)
The Simpsons (1995 & 1990)- voice of "Bleeding Gums" Murphy)
ER (1994)
ST: Deep Space Nine (1994)
The George Carlin Show (1994)
Home Improvement (1991)
Twin Peaks (1990 & 1991)
Matlock (1990)
Miami Vice (1984)

MARC ALAIMO (Captain Paul Brewster):
Mr. Alaimo's acting career began in 1973 when he landed the recurring role of Virgil Paris in the soap opera, Somerset. His most notable movie appearance was as Captain Everett in "Total Recall." He has also made numerous guest star appearances in a couple of the Star Trek TV programs: STY: The Next Generation, and STY: Deep Space Nine. In all he has 7 Star Trek characters on his resume: A furry Antican, the Romulan Commander Tebok, gambler Frederick La Rouque, Gul Macet, Gul Dukat, Anjohl Tennan and Ryan.

ST: The Next Generation (1987, 1988 & 1991)
ST: Deep Space Nine (1993 - 1999; in all he made 37 appearances)
Walker, Texas Ranger (1998)
Diagnosis Murder (1996)
Hill Street Blues (he made 8 appearances between 1985 - 1987)
The A-Team (1987)
T.J. Hooker (1986)
The Fall Guy (1986)
The Incredible Hulk (1980)
Quincy, M.E. (1980)
Charlie's Angels (1980)
Wonder Woman (1979)
The Six Million Dollar Man (1977)
Starsky & Hutch (1976)
Gunsmoke (1974)
Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)
Total Recall (1990)
Tango & Cash (1989)
The Last Starfighter (1984)

LAVERNE ANDERSON (Shari Hill - the party girl):
Sugar and Spice (1990)
A Different World (1991)
Murphy Brown (1990)

CCH POUNDER (Mama Harper):
Ms. Pounder's first film appearance was in Bob Fosse's 'All That Jazz' in 1979. Along the way in her impressive career, she has also received 2 Emmy Award nominations: 1995 - Best Guest Drama Actress Emmy Award for her role as Agent Lucy Kazdin on 'The X-Files'; and, 1997 - Best Supporting Drama Actress Emmy Award for her role as Dr. Angela Hicks on 'ER'. Currently, she can be seen on F/X's hit show 'The Shield'; reruns of the first season are presently running.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2001)
The District (2001)
The Outer Limits (2000)
The West Wing (2000)
Millennium (1997 & 1998)
ER (1997 - 1997)
The X-Files (1994)
Sisters (1993)
The Cosby Show (1992)
L.A. Law (1986/1990/1992)
Hill Street Blues (1986)
If These Walls Could Talk - (1996)
White Dwarf - (1995)
RoboCop 3 - (1993)
Benny & Joon - (1993)
The Importance of Being Earnest - (1992)
Murder in Mississippi - (1990)
Postcards from the Edge - (1990)
Psycho IV: The Beginning - (1990)
Third Degree Burn - (1989)

MONTROSE HAGINS (Matty, the Brewster's maid):
Coming To America (1988)
Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)
Critters (1986)
Moesha (1996)
Chicago Hope (1994)
Touched By An Angel (1994)
Seinfeld (1990)
The Golden Girls (1985)
Hill Street Blues (1981)

CHERYL FRANCIS HARRINGTON (Young Woman with injured child):
Sgt. Bilko (1996)
Babylon 5: Chrysalis
Perfume (1991) 
Boston Public (2000/2001/2002)
The District (2000)
Diagnosis Murder (1999)
Sister, Sister (1995)
Mancuso, FBI (1989)
The X-Files (2001)
Babylon 5: Chrysalis (1994)

JON BERRY (Police Sniper):
As well as being an actor, Mr. Berry also founded and is the Artistic Director for Woodland Hills Community Theater (WHCT) of Woodland Hills, California; he has directed all but six of their productions. He has won multiple awards: Artistic Director Achievement Award for Excellence in Live Theatre for 1998 by the Valley Theatre League; also in 1998 he won the best director award for The Fantasticks and best supporting actor for A Tale of Two Cities, Parts I & II; in 1996 Jon won best director for Gigi.

He has worked on stage professionally in New York, Kentucky, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. Jon had a recurring role on the Fox's Network's series, Mr. President. He's also appeared in many nationally aired television commercials.

He made appearances in Matlock and Doogie Howser, M.D.

GARON GRIGSBY (the 'mirror image' of Ray Harper):
Beverly Hills 90210 (1995)
Disaster In Time (1992)
Slumber Party Massacre 3 (1990
Across The Tracks (1989)


Deborah Pratt

Joe Napolitano

Supervising Producer: Harker Wade
Co-Executive Producers: Deborah Pratt and Michael Zinberg
Co-Producers: Paul Brown and Jeff Gourson
Producer: Chris Ruppenthal

Cast members who have passed away (as of the date the synopsis was written):
Ron Taylor (Bebe) died of a heart attack on January 16, 2002. He was 49 years old.

Personal Review:
Taking a moment from history, especially history so recent as 1965, and attempting to condense it down into a one-bite morsel in order to give someone a taste of the things that were melded together to bring that particular moment into being is, at the very least, a daunting idea.

One has to balance the reality of that historical moment with how to tell it, how to present that moment in a one-hour storyline (the morsel). How to, on one hand, do it without glossing it over or, on the other hand, trying to cram too much bitterness into that morsel to make it what the presenter thinks the viewer 'ought' to 'taste', instead of letting the viewer make up their own mind about what it is they've tasted.

A delicate balance must be struck if that 'morsel' has a chance of being considered by the viewer as worthy to have been partaken of. In this particular viewer's opinion, that's just what Donald P. Belisario, Deborah Pratt, Joe Napolitano, Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, the guest stars, the crew and everyone who had a part in the making of  'Black On White On Fire' did.

They carefully blended just the right amount of the necessary elements to create "Black On White On Fire" so as to give us one small taste, presented it to us, the viewers, to consider that taste, leaving each one to decide for himself or herself about the flavor.

In my humble opinion, that's what the cast and crew of Quantum Leap did with 'Black On White On Fire'. When they found just the right blending and balance, they knew when to stop and did. And it worked. And even after watching it numerous times, it still works.

Best Lines:
"Seems no matter where we go, we can't get away from the hate." (Mama Harper to Sam)

"Fools! You boys, you're all fools!" (Mama Harper to Bebe)

"You don't make it real easy to wanna help you, Bebe." (Sam to Bebe)

"Daddy, the only difference between you and Lonnie is the color of your skin!" (Susan Brewster to her father)

"It's 1965, Sam. California maybe as far left as you can go without leaving the country, but there's still a lot of ignorance and bigotry." (Al to Sam)

"This match has been burning a long time." (Al to Sam)

"Lord, have mercy on my soul. Dr. Strangelove has come to party." (Shari Hill to Sam)

"Raising your children is gonna be hard no matter where you do it." (Mama Harper to Susan)

"I can't go through life fighting people who hate me for the color of my skin!" (Susan to Sam)

"Mama Harper was right. We'll never be just a husband and wife. We'll be a black husband and white wife, and neither race will let us forget it." (Susan to Sam)

"Papa Dee didn't go with you and Lonnie. He went because he believed in you. But you were wrong." (Sam to Bebe)

"You were wrong and he's dead." (Sam to Lonnie)

"Be more just and more right, and stay alive to make sure that what happens out there never happens again." (Sam to Lonnie)

"Is it enough, Al? Is it enough?" (Sam to Al)

Best Scene:
Sam (Beaten and bloody, barely visible at the nearly closed door): "Lonnie? I'm coming in."

Al: "He's right behind the door."

(Sam enters, goes to Susan and kneels down.)

Voice of policeman from outside: "There's no way out. We have the building surrounded."

Lonnie: "Traitors get shot.

Sam: "I didn't betray you, Lonnie."

Lonnie: "Yeah? What do you call it then?"

Sam (begins to untie Susan's hands): "It was the only way I could get to you."

Lonnie: "Get to me? You can't get to me, nig***."

Susan (hugging Sam): "He doesn't want to be stopped, Ray. He wants to die."

Al: "I think she's right, Sam. I think he wants to be a martyr."

Sam: "Is that right, Lonnie?"

Voice through bullhorn: "Put down your weapon. Let the girl go."

Sam: "You want to be a martyr?"

Lonnie: Me? A martyr? Oh hell, man, Watts is full of martyrs. They don't need me to join 'em."

Sam: "Then why?"

Lonnie: "I'm tired of talking about why."

Sam: "Tired or scared?"

Lonnie: I ain't afraid of nothin'!"

Sam: " 'cept livin'."

(Scene cut to outside to Captain Brewster then to the police sniper getting into position on the roof then back to the apartment.)

Sam: "You can die for Watts, but can you live for it?"

Lonnie: "You're talking like a fool."

Sam: "You're acting like one!" -he pauses then continues- "I need you, Lonnie. Mama needs you. We all need you. We need you to make people listen."

Al: "I...think you're reaching him, Sam."

Sam (pleading): "Give me the gun, Lonnie. Please."

Lonnie: "Her daddy's killer is out there!"

Sam: "Then be better than he is. Be more just and more right. And stay alive to make sure that what happens out there never happens again."

(TV announcer's voice talks, telling about 2 black men being shot and taken to a hospital, their condition unknown)

Lonnie: "Unknown? Those brothers are dead!" (He looks at Susan then cocks the gun [it looks to me like a sawed off shotgun] then lifts it and aims at Susan. Sam steps in front of Susan. -- Scene shift to the sniper and his view through the scope.)

Sniper: "Come on. Come on, move your head."

(Scene shifts back to the apartment.)

Sam: "I love her, Lonnie. And I can't believe that my brother would murder what I love."

Lonnie (Beginning to have a change of heart as looks at the TV): "So much pain." (He begins to cry then drops the gun.)

Al: "Thank God!"

Lonnie: "Get out of my face. Both of you. Just get out of my face."

(Sam and Susan move slowly out of the way, and the sniper shoots. Susan screams then rushes to the window.)

Susan: "He let me go! He let me go!"

(Sam catches Lonnie as he falls, lowering him to the floor, cradling him in his arms; Susan hurries back to them.)

Susan: "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

(The police break in and Captain Brewster rushes in.)

Susan: "You didn't have to kill him!"

Captain Brewster: "He...he was going to shoot you, Susan."

Susan: No! He let me go!"

Captain Brewster: "We didn't know that."

Sam: "Why? Why does he have to die?"

(Al looks on sympathetically.)

Susan: "I don't know."

Sam: "It can't be for nothin', Al. I can't let his death be for nothin'!"

(Al just watches and listens)

Sam: "I have to stay in Watts...be a doctor." (Susan nods.)

Al: Ray has to stay in Watts, not you."

Sam (fervently): *I* have to stay!"

Susan: No. *We* have to stay...together."

Captain Brewster: "Susan!"

Susan: "I'm staying!"

Al (checks handlink then looks to Sam, his voice solemn when he speaks): "Sam...you did it."

Sam (his eyes closed, gently rocking Lonnie's lifeless body, a sob catching in his throat): Is it enough, Al? Is it enough?"

Quotable Quotes:
"Seems no matter where we go, we can't get away from the hate."

How are we going to get in? Only Dr. Michaels has a key.
The one thing we don't need in Watts right now is a key.
-- Susan and Papa D. about a local medical clinic, "Black on White on Fire"

Raising your children is going to be hard no matter where you do it.
Because wherever you go, they won't fit in. They won't be black and they won't be white.
They'll be human.
Of course they'll be human, child, I'm talking about race.
I know, but maybe if we teach our kids to say that they're human instead of black or white or red or yellow, maybe race won't matter.
-- Mama Harper, Susan and Sam, "Black and White on Fire"

Sam, you did it.
Is it enough, Al, is it enough?
-- Al and Sam, "Black On White On Fire"

Say What?
Al states that 35 people died during the Watts riots. It was actually 34.

This is the third episode to show the gummi-bear handlink before its official introduction in "The Great Spontini."

Al tells Sam that Ray lives in apartment 218, but when they arrive it says 217 on the door.

LAC+USC Medical Center Hospital is about eighteen miles away from Watts. Lonnie states that "L.A. General" is only five miles away.

In the clinic scene, when the frantic mother rushes in with her injured son - a severe gash on his leg from flying glass - the child was absolutely calm; didn't make a sound or gesture, not so much as a tear on his face. Anyone, and even more so a child, with an injury such as he was supposed to have, would be screaming, crying, etc.

This episode received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series in 1991.

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