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A&E Home Video presents
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Season One (1993)

"You have ranching expertise, I have medical expertise. I don't tell you how to work your cattle, so don't tell me how to treat my patients."
- Dr. Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: May 27, 2003

Stars: Jane Seymour, Joe Lando, Orson Bean, Gail Strickland, William B. Shockley, Chad Allen, Erika Flores
Other Stars: Shawn Toovey, Larry Sellers, Jonelle Allen, Frank Collison, Jim Knobeloch, Henry G. Sanders, Geoffrey Lower
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, adult themes)
Run Time: 13h:53m:23s
Release Date: May 27, 2003
UPC: 733961707410
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+BC+ A

DVD Review

The Family Western drama is an established genre and some of the most memorable shows in the history of American television have emerged from it. The Waltons, Gunsmoke and Little House on the Prairie are just a few examples of series that emphasize values in the stories along with action, adventure and humor. The stories in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman are occasionally uneven, but at its best, the series is an exemplar of what can be achieved in the vulgar medium of weekly television and even at its worst, the show is imminently watchable with earnest performances and a decent attention to period detail.

At the heart of the show is Jane Seymour, a well established star who brings a luminous quality to Dr. Michaela Quinn. Again and again, it is just amazing how beautiful Seymour is in the perfectly framed shots of her, with her hats and without. However, Seymour does not shy from the thorns found in the frontier physician's character. Almost as often as Dr. Quinn is noble, sensitive and compassionate, she is also found to be selfish, nosy and indifferent. It is the human side that keeps this show watchable and not just the story of angels in a western utopia experiencing the miracle of the week.

Joe Lando epitomizes the taciturn man of action, but Sully is the most poorly written characters on the show in this first season. Like the Incredible Hulk, he often pops up at the right moment just a little too often and is just a little too perfectly mystical;. however, he brings a sublety to his often thankless tasks in some of the stories and it is often in the moment you least expect it that he provides an emotional punch with just a reaction or a glance.

Many times the charm of an episode can be found in the supporting characters. Orson Bean and Gail Strickland are often on the opposite side of the issue from Dr. Mike and, even though there is occasionally a "when will they ever learn" moment, they provide a well-drawn and mostly thoughtful perspective. Tarred with bigotry in many episodes?against the Native Americans, against the immigrants, and against the new-fangled ways of Dr. Quinn?it is a tribute to the actors that we still care about these characters and their foibles, ones we recognize in those around us and in ourselves.

The creator of Dr. Quinn, Beth Sullivan, was a unique figure in the television industry as a woman at the head of a weekly prime-time series. She manages to create a premise that stands with the best of television history. Sometimes, it is just nice to watch a show that touches the heart.

Pilot
Airdate: Jan 1, 1993

Guest stars: Guy Boyd (Loren Bray), Colm Meaney (Jake Slicker), Ivory Ocean (Robert E.), Diane Ladd (Charlotte Cooper), Adrian Sparks (Colonel Chivington), Verna Bloom (Maude Bray), Larry Sellers (Black Hawk)

The pilot episode is essential as it lays the groundwork of the series, but it is one of the most boring entries as it is padded with a lot of repetition to fill out the 2 hours. It is as if they had two first shows and used both, one of which requires the death of the mother of the three children who will become Michaela's wards, and also of the wife of the storekeeper in the same episode. Two parallel stories will become a trademark of a typical Dr. Quinn episode, and it is consistently the weakest aspect of the story in any given week. The opening moments tells of Michaela "Mike" Quinn, who follows in her father's footsteps by becoming a doctor. Dr. Mike worked side by side with her father in Boston until his sudden death, and the lack of job opportunities for women doctors leads Michaela to answer an ad for a doctor in the Colorado territory. The people she meets there are less than accepting, but she is befriended by Charlotte Cooper (Diane Ladd), who owns a boarding house and has three children. When Charlotte is bitten by a rattlesnake, she leaves her three children?Matthew (Chad Allen), Colleen (Erika Flores) and Brian (Shawn Toovey)?in Dr. Mike's care. As the town continues to mock Michaela for expecting to be the town doctor, she meets Sully, a white man "turned" Native American, who lets her live in his old house. As with many pilots, different actors, lack of focus and other factors show potential, but not the quality of the later shows. This episode gets two and half medicine bags because it is just endless.





Epidemic
Airdate: Jan 2, 1993

Guest stars: Gail Strickland (Olive Jeanne Davis), Ashley Jones (Ingrid)

A flu epidemic, brought in from Mexico by a sick cowhand, attacks Colorado Springs and Dr. Mike must attend the sick townspeople and protect others from getting the deadly disease, but being a lady doctor has people questioning whether she can handle the fatal epidemic. A precursor appearance is made by General Custer at the height of the epidemic as he is searching for renegades. Very intense and very medical, this story has suspense and a tension that makes it one of the best of the first season, this episode gets four medicine bags for the intensity of drama.





The Visitor
Airdate: Jan 9, 1993

Guest stars: Jonelle Allen (Grace), Jane Wyman (Elizabeth Quinn), George Furth (Jedediah Bancroft)

Mike's estranged mother (Jane Wyman) visits, but she and Mike are still miles apart. Meanwhile, Robert E. is injured in a fire. Good if typically stiff acting by Jane Wyman, as she demonstrates the source of the worse of Dr. Mike's pedantry. Not much suspense in the main plot of this episode, but there are definitely some charming scenes, especially when the prim Mrs. Quinn from Boston is confronted with the injured black livery stable owner in Dr. Mike's living room. This episode gets three solid medicine bags for triumph of the performances over the cliché of the storyline.





Law of the Land
Airdate: Jan 16, 1993

Guest stars: Johnny Cash (Kid Cole), Jeremy Brown (Louie The Kid), Christopher Keene Kelly (Jon), David Brooks (Cowboy), Endre Hules (Immigrant), Byron Hays (Bearded Guy), Steven Hack (Doofus)

A gunslinger (Johnny Cash) arrives looking for a quiet town in which to settle down and avoid the chase of gunmen looking to make their name at his expense. However, friendly little Colorado Springs is itching to lynch an immigrant (Christopher Keene Kelly) for cattle-rustling (to feed his starving family). Good humored menace in Cash's performance and the message of tolerance of diversity that is such an important theme in Dr. Quinn is on full display. This episode gets four medicine bags for a dynamic guest shot and a powerful story.





The Healing
Airdate: Jan 23, 1993

A bitter Loren (Orson Bean), the local shopkeep who blames Sully for his daughter's death, maliciously tries to repossess Dr. Mike's cabin when he learns he still owns the actual deed despite an oral transfer of the property. New science rears itself in the form of a blood transfusion between the two men. Dr. Mike notes that sometimes tranfusions don't work and they don't know why. This episode gets three medicine bags for the advance of science and for sensitively exploring the difficult relationship between two men.





Father's Day
Airdate: Jan 30, 1993

Guest stars: Ben Murphy (Ethan Cooper), Deka Beaudine (Harriet)

As Dr. Quinn is trying to persuade the townspeople that smallpox vaccinations are necessary, the father of Brian, Colleen, and Matthew arrives. Ben Murphy gives a solid and charming performance as the shiftless father who raises the hopes of his children. Fine emotional performance from Jane Seymour as she displays a broad range of emotions relating to the children, their father and her friend Sully. This episode gets four medicine bags for another advancement of science, a fine guest portrayal and for Jane's Seymour's well-rounded performance as Dr. Quinn.





Bad Water
Airdate: Feb 6, 1993

Guest stars: Michael Cavanaugh (Mr. Craig Harding), Jared Rushton (Calvin), Michael Shamus Wiles (Ben), R. Leo Schreiber (Ezra)

When several townspeople come down with mercury poisoning, Dr. Mike forces a reluctant Sully to guide her to the high mountain stream that is being polluted by an arrogant local mine owner whose process is dumping mercury into the stream. The trek is difficult for her, but she ultimately earns Sully's respect and gratitude after saving his life twice, despite a broken wrist. There is very good interaction between Lando and Seymour as she struggles to maintain a lady-like demeanor and he is determined not to cut her any obvious slack. In the interim, worried townsfolk send out a humorously inept posse to try to locate the pair. Colorado Springs begins to grow more as Olive backs Grace's new venture?Grace's Café. This episode gets four medicine bags for humor, romance and adventure.





Great American Medicine Show
Airdate: Feb 13, 1993

Guest stars: Robert Culp (Doc Eli), Pato Hoffmann (Franklin), Seth Dillon (Lucas), Jack Ray Stevens (Emmett), Christopher Kriesa (Myra's Customer)

Doc Eli is a Civil War surgeon who turned to peddling an all-curing elixir used by the fabled Kickapoo Indians in a Medicine Show. Although she does not trust him as a doctor and tries to be a good sport about his enterprise, when his "medicine" interferes with the proper care of patients, Dr. Mike has to draw the line. In a crisis, he is needed to help her remove an ovarian cyst from Myra. Sully's tries to convince the disillusioned Cheyenne Franklin to join his own people in their continuing fight for survival. The focus on Native American issues is a unique and refreshing part of the history that the show tries to portray. This episode gets five medicine bags for excellent guest performance and a powerful, full-bodied story.





The Cowboy's Lullaby
Airdate: Feb 20, 1993

Guest stars: John Schneider (Ted McCall), Scotch Byerley (Man #1), Charles Gunning (Man #2), Kort Falkenberg (Eddy), Elizabeth Reilly (Wife)

This bear of an episode finds Dr. Mike taking in Red McCall (Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider), a down-and-out cowboy, and his ailing half-breed infant child. McCall reaches the end of his rope trying to care for his baby, so after robbing Loren's store, he leaves the baby in Michaela's care, sensing she could find a suitable home for his child. Dr. Mike soon finds him badly mangled from a bear attack. Her horse is frightened off by the bear, and she's marooned in the cabin until Sully shows up looking for her. They narrowly escape being the rabid bear's next victims. This episode has a disconnected quality that makes it seem to have been cobbled together to take advantage of the popularity of the guest star. Although the bear sequence is oddly planted in the middle of the story, this episode gets three medicine bags for the best bear work since Gentle Ben.





Running Ghost
Airdate: Feb 27, 1993

Guest stars: Andrew Prine (Sadias Birch), Don Stroud (Tate Rankin), James Burgdorf (Iron Knife)

Very strong episode in which Sully ends up badly beaten and partially paralyzed following a run-in with buffalo hunters who were hired by the railroad to clear the buffalo and Indians out of the planned train path. Don Stroud is outstanding as the menacing buffalo hunter who cares nothing for anything or anybody. A con man who's passed himself off as an advance man for the railroad is in the process of swindling the townsfolk out of the deeds to their property. Sully recovers and Dr. Mike unmasks the con man's plan thereby saving the town. This episode gets five medicine bags for the performances and the powerful Native American mysticism.





The Prisoner
Airdate: Mar 13, 1993

Guest stars: Darren Dalton (General George Custer), Tim deZarn (Sergeant Dixon)

After ambushing Black Kettle's camp, General Custer exudes pure evil as he enters the town carrying wounded soldiers and Indian prisoners, including Sully's friend, Cloud Dancing. When Custer brutally hauls Cloud Dancing before a firing squad that fires blanks, Dr. Mike and Sully plan Cloud Dancing's escape. Clumsily planted into this terrifying story is the semi-humorous subplot of Olive opening a Hurdy Gurdy (dance hall) in town. This episode gets four and a half medicine bags for a powerful story that attempts to touch on the horror of the treatment of Native Americans in the Old West.





Happy Birthday
Airdate: Mar 27, 1993

Mike's children try to help her deal with her loneliness on her 35th birthday by conspiring to find her a proper suitor before her surprise party. There is some nice humor at Dr. Mike's expense in which she is irritated at their attention to her unmarried state. A patient dies of blood poisoning and Dr. Mike harshly accuses Jake the barber of infecting the man with his dirty razor. Although not known as the most sensitive guy in Colorado Springs, her accusation throws Jake into an alcoholic binge. Dr. Mike tries in vain to pull him out of it, but finally realizes he must be the one to want to stop drinking. This episode gets three medicine bags for its interesting attempt to tell a modern story of substance abuse in Old Western terms.





Rite of Passage
Airdate: Apr 10, 1993

In an effort to prove he's man enough to make his own decisions and marry the young immmigrant Ingrid, Matthew convinces Sully and Cloud Dancing to allow him to partake in a four-day Cheyenne ritual. Ingrid suffers asthma attacks, and her treatment is undermined by Dr. Mike's disapproval of their marriage plans. Dr. Mike comes upon Matthew going through the rite of passage and seeming at peace with himself, so she lets him finish uninterrupted. This episode gets four medicine bags for humanizing the Cheyenne and bringing to life their culture.





Heroes
Airdate: May 1, 1993

Colleen develops a teenage crush on Sully, imagining herself as a damsel in distress and Sully as her knight in shining armor like the stories in Harper's Weekly she and her friends are reading. When she purposely sets out to get lost in the woods, a freak cold snap blows up and she almost freezes to death before Sully and Dr. Mike find her. Dr. Mike works hard to save Colleen's badly frostbitten hands, and Sully ultimately has a heart-to- heart talk with Colleen. The unrelated secondary plot has tension between Hank and Grace involving apparent food poisoning at Grace's Diner. This is one of those episodes that seems to be mix and match plotlines, in which neither is really powerful enough to support the episode. Erika Flores gives her best performance of the first year as she is allowed to be more than just a reflection of Dr. Mike's emotions. This episode gets three and a half medicine bags fr the sensitivity of Flores and Lando and for the uniqueness of the the story of young love.





The Operation
Airdate: May 8, 1993

While Brian and Sully are out hiking, Brian climbs a tree and jumps out before Sully can stop him. Brian lands hard, hitting his head. Dr. Mike, angry with Sully for not watching Brian more carefully, is relieved to find no signs of injury. The townspeople demonstrate their racism again by refusing to allow the most qualified builder in town to work on the new school house, because none want to have a black man in charge. While watching Loren futilely work on a new blueprint for the building, Brian demonstrates symptoms of something being very wrong. Dr. Mike tries to get a specialist in brain surgery to Colorado Springs, but when his stage is delayed, she is forced to do the operation herself. This episode gets four medicine bags because it manages to make you feel the anguish of the danger to the youngster and a real feeling of satisfaction as the town pulls together for the schoolhouse and the operation.





The Secret
Airdate: May 15, 1993

Guest stars: Melissa Flores (Missy), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Zack), Matthew Speare (Boy)

When Mike and Sully stop to check on old Mrs. Johnson, they discover her dead and a young boy, Zack, hidden in the closet. Mike takes the child in and confronts the townsfolk, who are acting strangely and are very closed mouth about the boy, who seems to be "simple." Meanwhile, Brian seems to be the only one to get the boy to exhibit his artistic abilities, and he is mistakenly given credit for a drawing that Zack has done. This episode gets three and a half medicine bags for the fine supporting cast work, especially William Shockley, which raises the story a cut above the typical "orphan with a talent" story.





Portraits
Airdate: May 22, 1993

Guest stars: Kenny Rogers (Daniel Watkins), Rosemary Murphy (Horace's Mother), David Tom (Louis), Cathy Worthington (Mrs. Eckland), Jeff Ramsey (Emily's Husband), John Sexton (Immigrant Photographer)

Kenny Rogers gives a good-natured and earnest performance as David Watkins, a civil war photographer who arrives in Colorado Springs on a tour of the West. Dr. Mike diagnoses diabetes as the source of his health problems and is frustrated that he refuses treatment that might keep him from ultimately go blind. David suggests taking a portrait of the town and an argument ensues over who will be in it, with the typical racism of the "right" people at issue. When the camera equipment is destroyed, the whole town must pull together to create a camera and take the photo before David's eyesight fails. Nice, subtle work by Lando as Sully becomes an important helper in Watkins' attempts to keep photographing despite his illness. In the somewhat clunky subplot, Mrs. Bing, Horace's mother, is brought to town, seriously ill. Mrs. Bing disapproves of Myra until she learns how much they love each other, and on her deathbed bestows her blessing on their odd relationship. Despite the harshness of the Bing story, the finale for the season gets five medicine bags for it's fine performances and the artistry of interweaving the photography and the storyline.




Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame video transfer is okay for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, although it won't set any standards. Overall pretty good but fairly typical for the transfers of television series, despite the fact these are only a decade old.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The audio transfer is fairly disappointing as it is rudimentary stereo from the original broadcast. Most televsion shows would not benefit from a 5.1 transfer, but Dr. Quinn would. The town and nature scenes would lend themselvs to ambient sound and the cry of the hawk that pops up every now and then would be cool in the back channels. Still, there is little hiss and most dialogue and sound effects are audible enough and, overall, it is quite sufficient.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 100 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interactive Tour of 19th Century Colorado Springs
  2. Series Awards and Honors
  3. Photo Galley
Extras Review: Jane Seymour: Hollywood's English Rose episode of A&E Biography (50m): A nice look at the intriguing life of the popular star. Although it seems a typical "I always knew she would be a star" story, there are interesting looks at her unconventional lifestyle and sometimes less than stellar career choices (Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders anybody?)

Interactive tour of 19th-century Colorado Springs: This is a very nice extra, especially for families. The information provided gives a good picture of life in a frontier town like Colorado Springs just prior to the turn of the last century. Featured is information from the different parts of town about workers wages, catalog prices, natural cures, and Morse code. Not necessarily for the kids are the drink recipes. Forgotten was the price of a prostitute at Hank's Saloon, unless that is in an easter egg I missed.

Series awards and honors: A list of recognition that Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman received for quality television.

Jane Seymour and Joe Lando biographies: Short bios for the series stars are provided. The one for Seymour seems superfluous with a full A&E biography show included. Attention to the supporting players would have been the order of the day here.

Photo gallery: Forty low-resolution stills from the show include a nice selection of shots from the seventeen episodes of the first season. Amazingly, only a small percentage focus on Jane Seymour as Dr. Mike.


Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is that rare television show that provides meaninful and enjoyable stories. Although the values are a little close to the surface sometimes, these tales of post-Civil War Colorado Springs are suitable for and will be enjoyed by the whole family.

 


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