A western TV show starring Jane Seymour Dr. Michaela "Mike" Quinn, who takes a post as a doctor in a frontier town. As a woman doctor in a post-civil war time, she often faces prejudice against women being licensed M.D.s. This was part of the reason she moved away from her hometown of Boston in the first place.Once in the town of Colorado Springs Dr. Quinn becomes one of its prominent citizens, although she still has to fight for her reputation as a doctor. She meets Sully (Joe Lando), a Mountain Man, and Charlotte, a midwife who in the pilot dies and asks Dr. Mike to raise her children. Michaela thus becomes a mother to three children, Matthew, Colleen, and Brian to provide further storyline fuel and to make the doctor more appealing to Sully, who seeks a family to replace the one he never had.The series was a success for CBS, where it anchored a Saturday night line-up of family friendly shows like Touched by an Angel. However, behind the scenes, Joe Lando's dislike of how the show had effectively typecasted him, led to the series being retooled with John Schiender of Dukes of Hazard being brought in as Seymour's new love interest after Sully was presumed dead, to write him out of the series. The loss of Lando killed the show, but several TV-movies were put together to provide closure on the series.
Adorkable: Horace. He's quite awkward, pays Hank just to be able to talk to Myra, and has jitters during his wedding night. He's also a pro at telegraphy, making him (more or less) the 19th century equivalent of an IT specialist. He's a nice man and Myra likes him, but other than that he's not seen as extra cute or attractive.
Aesop Amnesia: Repeatedly. The townspeople would learn a lesson in one episode (usually about bigotry or superstition), then would fall right back into their old ways in a subsequent episode.
Baseball Episode: "Traveling All-Stars". The whole town becomes obsessed with the game, and women have to fight for their right to play as well.
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Averted. Miss Olive's will specifically states that her body actually be buried on the lone prairie rather than carted hither and yon.
California Doubling: The show was filmed at the Paramount Ranch in California, where the landscape isn't particularly like Colorado Springs at all.
Character Development: Dorothy is a relatively nice person, but in earlier seasons, she still displays some of the bigotry quite common to the time and place—abhors the idea of Michaela using Native American medicine to treat her son, and disapproving of Grace and Robert E.'s plans to buy a house in town (she does NOT, however, condone the Klan's terrorizing of them, though she does downplay it). By the series' end, Grace is one of her best friends and she's begun a friendship with a hint of romance with Cloud Dancing.
Cheerful Child: Brian, much of the time. He tends to be this in contrast with Loren.
Clip Show: The episodes "Ready Or Not" and "To Have And To Hold", reviewed Sully and Mike's relationship, while "Colleen's Paper", reviewed Dr. Mike's interesting cases.
Culture Clash: A major part of the series, with civilized, forward-thinking Michaela constantly running up against the deeply-ingrained racism, misogyny, bigotry, etc. of a backwoods Western town.
Cut Short/Grand Finale: The series was swiftly cancelled after its sixth season, but they had enough lead time to put together a nice enough finale. It ends with Colleen and Andrew's wedding, right before she leaves for medical school. Grace tells Robert E. that she's pregnant with their child. Jake shows Teresa a sketch of a house he plans on building for them. Loren and Dorothy enter into a business arrangement. Preston sells the Chateau.
Darker and Edgier: The last 1.5 seasons certainly took on a darker tone than the previous seasons, which admittedly had some dark moments of their own.
The reverend goes blind and shakes Brian's faith in God in the meantime during the fifth season's Christmas episode.
Johnny Cash 's character Kid Cole takes a turn for the worst with his consumption and plans to divorce his Real-Life Relative wife. They reconcile at the end, however.
Horace attempts suicide after receiving the finalized divorce papers.
In the final season, an epidemic hits, killing Colleen's best friend and Dr. Mike's sister. A man who hates all doctors shoots her in her office and the rest of the episode deals with her post-traumatic stress. Sully is almost killed, Dr. Quinn miscarries their second child and Ill Child Anthony dies, leading his parents to nearly split up.
Dark and Troubled Past: The Reverend, of all people. He's revealed to have once been a thief and a gambler when a former cohort shows up in town and threatens to reveal this to the townspeople.
Frivolous Lawsuit: One episode revolved around these. Horace sued Hank for punching him and breaking his nose, and Loren sued Preston for injuries sustained after slipping into a hot spring at Preston's resort (though in Loren's case, he was faking injury just to get back at Preston).
After rescuing Mike from the gang of dog soldiers who kidnapped her, Sully gently asks if they "hurt" her. Just as gently, she tells him "no". Their mutual tones and his relief indicates that he was actually asking if they had raped her. The Fridge Brilliance of this is that "hurt was in fact often used as a euphemism for "rape" back in those days, so it wasn't simply a case of Sully trying to avoid saying the word.
Horace complains about "losing the mood" when his and Myra's romantic evening is interrupted. The Reverend assures him that "all men lose their moods sometimes". Three guesses what they're really talking about . . .
In the first episode, Myra asks to see Dr. Mike about a "female problem". After treating her, Mike advises Hank that Myra needs to be "chaste" for several weeks. When Hank complains about the loss of revenue, Mike warns him that he'll lose a lot more if she has to end up treating his customers as well, thus heavily implying that Myra has contracted an STD.
Another STD plot, when Hank points out to Mike that her sister Marjorie is ill, citing her fevers and headaches. "I've seen it in my girls plenty of times. That husband left her with more than a broken heart". The symptoms coupled with the knowledge that her sister's husband was frequently unfaithful to her leads Mike to realize what the problem is.
Probably the most famous case, Colleen gets involved in juvenile delinquency because Mike is too busy thinking about all of the hot sex she and Sully have been having since they got married, now that she's legally and socially able to have sex.
Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have: Dorothy is an older woman but she's still very much admired. Much younger Jake Slicker likes her a lot and initiates a May-December Romance with her. note It isn't a case of Likes Older Women because his next Love Interest was a young woman. Loren tried to court her and start a relationship with her as well, though he could remember her as a young woman from their youth. At the end of the series, she's romantically pursued by Cloud Dancing.
He Cleans Up Nicely: Sully whenever he ditches the buckskins for a nice suit, particularly when he's in Boston. Not that there's anything wrong with the buckskins, of course.
Hollywood History: The historical consultant stopped showing up when it was clear they weren't really listening to her.
Sully is a Mountain Man, though the fur trade, and the mountain men who made it possible, had disappeared decades before the setting of the show. There were still some former mountain men around (such as Kit Carson and Jim Bridger), and a few stragglers WAY out in the wilderness, but they were at least a generation older than Sully. Sully dresses like a Mountain man but in actuality he lives and works with the local Native Tribe rather than trapping or trading. Once he and Mike get married he's actually a farmer mostly.
Hot Springs Episode: They had one when Preston decided to open a spa in his hotel resort. He thought he found a gold mine and an attraction for tourists, but it was most enjoyed by local ladies who went and enjoyed a bath, mostly just to mess with him a bit.
Humans Are White: Subverted; the blacksmith and local restaurateur are both black and have to deal with the expected racism. There is also a Mexican schoolteacher in the later seasons. Black cowboys come through town with the cattle drives, too, as well as Asian men with the building of the railroad. There is an Indian reservation and black ghetto-like colony not far away from the town.
Hank is the local purveyor of whores and booze, a racist, and a bigot, but he occasionally goes out of his way to help someone or show that he cares; i.e. when he comes to Myra and Horace's wedding. Or despite his racist tendencies, is one of the few people who doesn't shun the Jewish family who comes to town (he reveals that a group of Jews once saved his life). And despite his frequent clashes with Mike, he completely freaks out when she's shot.
Last Name Basis: Everyone calls Sully by his last name—even his love interest, (and later wife) and their children! His full name is Byron Sully, but he appears to have abandoned his given name around the time he deserted the army.
The Lost Lenore: Sully's wife Abigail, who died, along with their daughter, in childbirth. And Dr. Mike's fiance David, who she thought was killed in the Civil War, only to have him resurface years later.
Averted. Horace is nervous on his wedding night as it is his first time. Especially so, since his wife is Myra, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold, who has had lots of experience. When she tries to reassure him, stating that "I've had plenty of fellas who haven't. . ." her voice trails off as she realizes she's just pointed out the very reason for his anxiety.
When Matthew starts coming of age and goes into the Saloon for his first official drink of whiskey, the various patrons decide he needs to get laid to be a man. He's whisked off to Myra's room, but just so she can help him climb out the window.
Subverted with several of the other male characters. While not virgins, it's strongly implied that they've been celibate for a long time, despite the presence of prostitutes who could have tended to their needs.
Loren and Mike's sister Marjorie (the two actors are married in Real Life).
Jake and Dorothy could count as well.
Mr. Fanservice: Sully. Oh, Sully. Shirtless and bathing scenes... More please.
No Periods, Period: Averted. Colleen gets hers and is frightened and confused as neither her real mother nor Dr.Quinn have explained it to her (her mother died before she could give her "the talk" and Dr. Quinn assumed she was too young to have started). In another episode, Dorothy's stops and she thinks she's pregnant when she's in fact beginning menopause.
Not in Front of the Kid: Loren often finds himself cleaning up his language whenever Brian is around. One episode had Loren telling some friends about a burlesque house where the girls lift up their...voices! To sing so beautifully!
Old Maid: Dr. Mike refers to herself as this, with her 35th birthday looming and no husband in sight.
Picnic Episode: The characters often enjoyed their meals outdoors, for example after the Sunday masses in the meadow near the church.
Loren's sister Olive abruptly disappears between seasons without any explanation (although several years later, we learn she moved even further out west). In her place, Loren's sister-in-law (whom he had a romance with before marrying her sister) comes to town, fleeing an abusive husband and assumes the same role as Olive had as Mike's friend and confidante.
The Talk: Sully awkwardly tries to give one to Matthew when he begins courting immigrant girl Ingrid, Dr. Mike attempts to give her son Brian the talk by reading him an anatomy textbook, and with her wedding night looming, the virginal Dr. Mike needs one herself from the more experienced Dorothy.
They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Dr. Quinn frequently needs to remind people to address her as "Dr." instead of "Miss", several of whom deliberately call her "Miss" in an effort to needle her and demonstrate their lack of respect.
Tomboyish Name: The writers felt it was necessary to explain why the townspeople accept the woman who is coming to be their doctor: they thought she was a man. Communication being what it was, her name was telegraphed to them, as telegraphs were, with no spaces, upper and lower cases, or punctuation. They're expecting "Michael A. Quinn." If her name had been Alice, or something, the viewer is meant to presume they would have cabled back saying "Forget it."
verySpecialEpisode: Many. This is probably the only Western to ever have an episode about the dangers of gun violence (the people end up voting that no one can carry firearms inside their city limits). There's also a two-for-one that covers both Child Abuse and Evolution vs Creationism (it turns out that there're no child abuse laws in their territory, but there are animal cruelty laws, so the town votes that evolution is true, thus making the girl legally an animal, so animal cruelty laws apply).
Western Union Man: Horace Bing, although he doesn't explicitly work for Western Union.
Where Da White Women At?: In the show's later seasons, Cloud Dancing and Dorothy strike up a friendship when she decides to write a book about him, much to the disapproval of both the townspeople and his fellow tribesmen. Earlier, there's a slight flirtation between Colleen and one of the Chinese railroad workers.
What the Hell, Hero?: Mike gets these a few times. In one instance when she automatically assumes that the Indians were the victims in a clash between them and the military, Dorothy truthfully points out that she wasn't there and doesn't know what really happened.
White Man Gone Native: Sully, especially in the beginning of the series. Lessens somewhat in later seasons, but not by a whole lot.
Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: A lesser example as Matthew goes from a farmhand to a rancher to a sheriff to a budding lawyer throughout the six seasons.
Yet Another Christmas Carol: The show's first Christmas Episode found Dr. Mike dreading the holiday, but not in a Scrooge-like manner, but rather because she was depressed about being away from her family and about the death of a patient—named Mr. Marley. The ghost of a friend who died early in the series' run comes to serve as all three spirits. Unlike most adaptations, the vision of the future is happy, showing her married with children and grandchildren, though the identity of her husband is left unknown. She recovers in time to assist a young woman (who has run away with her fiance to escape their disapproving parents) in giving birth. In a stable, of course.
You Look Familiar: John Schneider had a guest role in the first season as a fugitive bank robber before being cast years later as Sully's best friend/new sheriff Daniel. James Leland Adams played General Custer in several episodes before being cast as the pompous Preston A. Lodge III. And Brandon Douglas played a con artist before being cast as neophyte physician Andrew Cook.
Alley Mills can be glimpsed as one of Hank's prostitutes shortly before playing Mike's sister Marjorie.