Last week, the #EWCommunity published an article about “7 TV shows from the ’90s in need of an ‘X-Files’-style reboot.” On that list was the completely underrated and underappreciated Saturday-night classic, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. At first glance, DQMW is just a lot of girdles and bonnets and turn-of-the-century witchcraft disguised as medicine. But when you take a moment and dive into the world of Jane Seymour and friends, you realize it’s about much more than that. It’s about Joe Lando. I’m only kidding … it’s about Chad Allen. Okay, hold on. It’s about:
1) Joe Lando’s hair
2) Chad Allen
3) Fighting sexism, homophobia, and racism
4) And also, Joe Lando
But in actuality, DQMW is an important show—a ’90s weekend staple that really did get bold about issues concerning women and people of color (and homophobia, if you really want to try to work that Walt Whitman episode the right way). So it’s important for us to go back and revisit what happened in Colorado Springs for six years, and maybe even the two subsequent movies. Embrace the camp. Love the cheesy and get ready to schedule an appointment with the lady doctor—no, not that lady doctor. We’re talking about Dr. Quinn.
The series starts with a bit of a prologue. Jane Seymour’s beautiful voice tells us about growing up and how she became a doctor. It’s documented through photographs, which doesn’t make a lot of sense considering how expensive photographs were, but maybe her family was super-rich and could throw money at these kinds of things. I don’t know. Anyway, the important thing is that at the end of that, she arrives in Colorado Springs to start practicing medicine. She answered the advertisement (said in the annoyingly British way) for a doctor, and they were super-disappointed to find out she was Dr. Michaela Quinn, not Dr. Michael A Quinn. Honestly, I feel like it’d be a bigger disappointment to have a doctor who cannot properly punctuate his name, but then again, I’m in the 21st century, where all the women who are independent throw their hands up at you, and they’re not.
Unfortunately for Michaela, no one seems to be down with a lady doctor. Scratch that: No one seems to be down with a lady in general. Even as Michaela is introduced to Widow Charlotte (her husband is not dead, but the townspeople feel bad that she’s undesirable or something), the townspeople warn that they’ve never had a “lady tenant” at the boarding house. Anyway, Charlotte and Michaela become close friends real fast, and then we get to meet her kids: Matthew (#ChadAllenForever), Colleen #1, and Brian. Over the course of the first part of the pilot (because this bad boy is literally the length of a feature film), Michaela runs into two townspeople who need her help—a man who’s been shot and a woman with an arryhthmia—but they refuse her help because, well, woman. Instead of hanging out in the city, though, where sexism runs rampant, Michaela opts to ride her old horse she bought from Robert E. into the wild. There, she rents a house from Byron Sully, who is a total dreamboat-turned-Native-American whose house is available because his wife and child died/he’s got that semi-offensive-Urban-Outfitters-Native-American thing going on. #Swoon
In an attempt to prove her badassery, as if we ever questioned it, Dr. Quinn goes into the city complaining of a toothache and asks resident doctor/jerk Jake Slicker to remove it. Aggressively, he pushes her back in the chair, pushes his tooth-puller (scientific name) into her mouth, and removes her tooth—which, for the record, is totally healthy. She doesn’t scream or complain because she makes the rules and runs this town. Afterward, Charlotte and Michaela talk about why they’re single ladies, and Charlotte says, “You can’t depend on a man,” and thus the tone of the show is set. They’ve already been through a lot: lady talks, tooth-pullings, C-sections. Charlotte and Michaela are a strong duo.
Looking for more friends, Michaela invests time in someone who appears to be the only black man in town. After Robert E. shuts her down, Dr. Quinn pulls out a line that I think we all need to be considering in our 21st-century times: “Of all the men in this town, I thought you might understand what it was like to be judged unfairly.” Preach, sister. I love the solidarity. He decides to let her look at his arthritis, but it doesn’t last long, as the Reverend and Dr. Quinn have to rush off to Charlotte, who has been bitten by a rattlesnake. Long story short—Charlotte dies. Just like that. You’d think this was a Shonda Rhimes show, considering how cavalier this is. But if y’all remember, Oregon Trail doesn’t put up with the weak. If you die, you die, and that’s it. She leaves her children to Michaela, which makes you wonder … did Charlotte have any friends? Like, at all?
Dr. Quinn, clearly uncomfortable with being a mom, writes to her mother for advice on how to pull off this new gig. Coming into this series, I didn’t know that she was going to be a family woman. In the meantime, she royally pisses off the youngest son, Brian, after he spills candy at the general store. He runs away, as boys do, and that’s when the episode starts to spiral out of control. Dr. Quinn gets trapped in a bar full of men mocking her lady-doctoring. But it really gets out of hand once a man attacks Michaela, and then Joe Lando power-kicks a couple of them, sending a message that assault is NOT cool. He then throws a hatchet at a guy’s hand.
After that, Michaela goes in search of Brian and is captured by the Cheyenne Indians (!!), but it’s cool because Sully is there. Why is Sully there? Oh, just because he’s decided to forgo the spoils of town life and become an Indian, because I’m sure they’re super-chill about that. The next day, after the gang hunts for Brian, they come across a body of water, and I immediately wonder if he’ll be dangerously hanging on a branch or something. Then I hear a hawk, and I realize that if Brian has died, it will be at the hands/talons of this hawk. You have to wonder if from heaven, Charlotte was like, “OMG, YOU HAD ONE JOB, MICHAELA.” Instead, he’s casually lying at the bottom of a hill. Sully saves him, but not before we get a solid 30-second butt shot. Thanks, Beth Sullivan. Mike sets Brian’s leg, and honestly, Brian’s reaction to that was less severe than when I get a flu shot. Totes unbelievable.
In another blow to her credibility, her patient Maude dies of a heart attack following Brian’s return, and it’s like, “Dang, can Dr. Quinn catch a break?” The answer is: Yes. Sully brings in a few Cheyenne Indians following a shooting incident. Dr. Quinn performs a tracheotomy to help with Cloud Dancing’s breathing, and they all live. Super-pumped about her skill set, Chief Black Kettle gives her the Cheyenne name “Medicine Woman,” and thus the series is born. The epic pilot concludes on Christmas—Colleen #1 is quite upset that it’s snowing on Christmas (It’s Christmas?! Wasn’t it 500 degrees the day before?) and that she can’t go into town. No worries, though, because Sully brings everyone gifts and they sing carols and some of the townspeople are even kind of cool with Michaela being a town doctor, because who doesn’t love a successful tracheotomy?
Wow, that was a lot. A lot that I wasn’t particularly expecting. I came for frontier medicine, but I stayed for Chad Allen, which is what Dr. Quinn did, sort of. Luckily, not every episode is this long. We all have lives, Beth Sullivan. But this is going to be an exciting journey. For those of you who are joining in for the first time (like me), do you think there’s something between Sully and Michaela? That’s like … a duh, right?
There are so many questions, but we have time. I’ll see you next week for another Dr. Quinn Medicine Mondays #DQMM. Until then, properly medicate, and watch out for rattlesnakes.