Movie: Westerns fall in and out of favor with television and movie audiences on a regular basis. Part of that is due to the highly romanticized version of the old west we are force fed and part of it is that the genre usually relies far too heavily on cliché's and stereotypes that we all "know" (regardless of their truth or not). In 1993, a television show premiered that was one part romance novel, two parts western and three parts revisionist history. The name of that show was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
In the show, we see the rigors of the old west simplified, sanitized, and even updated with modern liberal thinking. Keep in mind that this is a common occurrence in the way Hollywood treats material and no one should expect a whole lot of historical accuracy in a television show. If you're looking for a history lesson, you can read a book or watch the History Channel. If you're looking for a family show that is about as liberal as MASH, as innocuous as Little House On The Prairie, and as wholesome as apple pie, you aren't going to find a better candidate than this one. The story details a fictional female doctor in the 1860's who leaves Boston for a little western town called Colorado Springs when no one will take her seriously. Here's a brief episode guide to the first season dvd set which is on 5 discs. Except for the 94 minute long pilot episode, the shows run about 44 minutes each and they are suitable for all ages.
Pilot (1/1/93): This one sets up the premise of a female doctor who finds that few people believe women should be doctors in the mid 1800's. It introduced the characters and general time from the intelligent doctor herself, Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour, to the loner Sully (Joe Lando), and a host of others. It also started off some of the ongoing subplots about the Cheyenne Indians and US Calvary.
Epidemic (1/2/93): Lots of people get sick, including the doctor. The Indians, you know, the ones who died off in huge numbers because they couldn't cure various diseases, came to the rescue.
The Visitor (1/9/93): The doctor's Mom visits the town and doesn't like what she sees. Jane Wyman guest starred.
Law of the Land (1/16/93): Some poor, misunderstood cattle thieves, oops, I mean poor, misunderstood immigrants, are held accountable for stealing cattle. The doctor convinces the town it needs a Sheriff to stop the lynch mob. In the real old west, he'd be the one bringing the rope to the tallest tree but it was pretty well done and Johnny Cash guest starred.
The Healing (1/23/93): This episode focused on Sully and Loren (his former father in law) getting over their animosity towards one another with the help of Dr. Mike and Loren's failing health.
Father's Day (1/30/93): The father of Dr. Mike's adopted kids comes back into their lives and appears to have cleaned up his act. This being TV, we know it's only a matter of a commercial break or two that his real motives will be uncovered (or at least strongly hinted at).
Bad Water (2/6/93): In an episode about mean old corporate greed, the doctor uncovers a mining operation's pollution of the town water supply. Of course it all works out in the end, this is family TV. It was cute though. (Okay, I'm a softy at heart.)
The Great American Medicine Show (2/13/93): In a guest appearance by famed actor Robert Culp, we get to see a medicine show doctor clash with the scientific mind of Dr. Mike. The outcome is inevitable but it was also well done.
A Cowboy's Lullaby (2/20/93): John Schneider (Dukes of Hazard, Smallville) plays a cowboy unable to care for his baby. He leaves it with Dr. Mike until shown that a Dad is important in raising a child.
Running Ghost (2/27/93): Dr. Mike and Sully thwart a con man who tried to steal everyone's property under the guise of working for the railroad. We also learn that hunting buffalo in large numbers is environmentally wrong.
The Prisoner (3/13/93: General Custer, known Indian lover and sympathizer, comes to town for some medical treatment. We all know what happened to him, yes?
Happy Birthday (3/27/93): Dr. Mike had a birthday and got depressed about getting old. To pass the time, she helped the barber with his alcoholism problem.
Rite of Passage (4/10/93): One of Dr. Mike's adopted kids, Matthew, wanted to shack up (marry) with a gal but everyone thought he was too young. To prove them wrong, he decided to undergo an Indian manhood ritual that probably would've killed him in real life.
Heroes (5/1/93): Colleen falls for Sully and she schemes to snare him. Of course her plan backfired and she nearly died-this is television.
The Operation (5/8/93): The title refers to a brain surgery that Dr. Mike must perform to save Brian. The subplot was the schoolhouse project that started in earlier episodes.
The Secret (5/15/93): All small towns have secrets, including Colorado Springs. This one related to a small child who was apparently the son of one of the local prostitutes and Hank.
Portraits (5/22/93): Kenny Rogers played a photographer suffering from diabetes. I actually liked this episode a lot and only wish he had played a gambler.
Picture: The picture was presented in it's original full frame ratio. It looked very clear compared to the cable station playing the series at this time. I'll admit my eyes were getting bloodshot after seeing so many episodes and if I recall correctly, there were a couple of moments when some shimmer was present (out of hours and hours of shows). I think the grain was pretty minimal as was any video noise too.
Sound: The sound was presented in Dolby Digital Stereo but I didn't notice any major separation in the two channels (if any existed). It was generally clear and well done.
Extras: There were some pretty good extras here. The first was the A&E biography of Jane Seymour which covered her marriages, her James Bond movie, Battlestar Galactica, Somewhere In Time, and the Dr Quinn series among other things. The next extra was an interactive tour of the town where you could select different buildings in the town and get everything from medical tips circa the 1800's, a guide to money and wages, how to make drink specials, selections from Montgomery Ward's 1872 catalog, and Morse code tips and guide. The next extra was the biographies of Jane Seymour and Joe Lando which gave an overview of the two. A list of awards and nominations for the show was next. It got a lot of them and I'm sure they were not related to the politics the show espoused (cough cough). Lastly, there was a photogallery and dvd credits.
Final Thoughts: Okay, obviously my political leanings are very different from those the show embraced but if you can overlook that, the historical fallacies, and the saccharine sweet tone of the show, it was pleasant enough to watch (or I'd have sent them back). If you liked the show, you'll definitely want to own this set. I'm writing this review's recommendation for that crowd rather than the Young Republicans club or fans of accurate historical presentations in television. As such, it rates a high recommendation even if, as a friend pointed out yesterday, the show is "hokey". It's not for everyone and I'm sure that future seasons will be well accepted by the large fanbase that demanded the show be brought back (it was one of the largest letter writing campaigns to do so according to a network source) and spawned two TV movies (so far).