My mom, little brother, and I first started watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman during its third season, in 1996. We became devoted fans, and watched it every week until it ended in 1998. (And I'll have you know I was a proud part of those viewer protests about its cancellation.) It was the first modern TV show I'd ever watched, other than kids shows like Reading Rainbow. Thanks to reruns on another channel, we did get to see a lot of the older episodes once we were fans, but I never saw the pilot until after I went to college and found it on VHS. And it's the pilot I'm going to review here, as it's as long as two episodes and basically a little made-for-TV movie, very self-contained.
At first, only two people take her seriously. One is Charlotte (Diane Ladd), the local midwife -- she calls Dr. Quinn in to assist with a difficult birth, and Dr. Quinn performs an emergency C-section and saves both mother and baby. She also helps Dr. Mike (as she comes to be known) learn how to survive and prosper without servants and other trappings of her privileged Boston upbringing.
The other person who takes Dr. Quinn seriously from the first is a man named Sully (Joe Land), a miner whose wife died in childbirth because the town had no doctor. After his wife died, Sully went to live with the Cheyenne and now serves as an interpreter for them during parleys with the local Cavalry contingent. He rents Dr. Mike his cabin and helps her out of several scrapes.
The pilot is very episodic, with Dr. Mike having adventure after adventure. This helps introduce various townspeople, several of whom are not played by the same actors as they would be in the rest of the series. Dr. Mike attends a few patients, and loses a couple of them because of lack of time or supplies, things she would have had plenty of back in Boston. One of her patients, while dying, entrusts her three children to Dr. Mike's care, which thrusts her suddenly into the role of mother, one she's woefully unprepared for.
The whole series, but especially this pilot, reminds me of some of Janette Oke's books, though it's not as overtly Christian. Still, in this episode alone, Dr. Mike leads her new family in prayer at the table and refers to Christmas Eve as the eve of Jesus' birth. One of the main characters is a preacher, and Christianity is treated respectfully in the series as a whole. However, the Cherokee religion is also treated respectfully -- this is a Hollywood production, after all, so you get about what you would expect.
|Dr. Quinn with Colleen, Matthew, and Brian Cooper|