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Series / Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

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Not that Mike and Sully.

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is a western TV show starring Jane Seymour as 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 adopts three children- Matthew, Colleen, and Brian - to provide further storyline fuel.

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 disliked how the show had effectively typecast him. There were even plans to have his character killed off, but a huge protest from the fanbase made this impossible. So there was a compromise that Sully was to survive, but the actor would be allowed to be absent from several episodes from the last season.

The show had a healthy run for six seasons from 1993 to 1998, which saw an overarching story of breaking gender stereotypes, frontier life, defending the Indian people from army oppression, romances, loss, and even struggles with epidemics. By the sixth season, the show had ran its course with viewers in the eyes of executives, and they brought it to an end. However, the series was able to conclude smoothly, and went on to have two Made-for-TV Movie installments - a controversial first movie which hit a few sour notes with viewers for being too removed from the spirit of the series and sparse plot-wise due to too much executive input, followed by a Grand Finale where the executives gave free rein after learning their lesson, which completely wrapped up the series by hitting points the writers did not get to cover when the plug got pulled.

Tropes Featured:

  • Actor IS the Title Character: Jane Seymour IS Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
  • 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.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Jake Slicker (a young guy in his late twenties, early thirties) falls in love with and courts Dorothy, a woman in her late forties.
    • Loren (an older guy) has a brief passionate relationship with Mike's sister Marjorie (in her late thirties, early forties). Mike's family doesn't approve. Tragically, Marjorie dies of sudden illness.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Preston's a Grade-A jerk, but it's hard not to feel sorry for him when you see that his father is one as well, when the opening of his hotel is a disaster—and this happens in front of said father, whom he's clearly trying to impress. Then, in the series finale, there's a stock market crash which forces him to abandon all his business ventures and leave town—and for all his flaws, he's never once portrayed as corrupt, so this was an honest mistake on his part.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • Jake struggles with alcoholism. It very probably stems from his family issues.
    • Grace starts drinking heavily after her adoptive son Anthony dies.
  • All Gays Are Pedophiles: Even the uber-politically correct Mike falls prey to this when she becomes uneasy about Brian's friendship with Walt Whitman after learning that Whitman "prefers the company of men".
  • Anyone Can Die: Being a medical drama, this is inevitable. Many characters end up dying suddenly and tragically over the course of the show, with one of the worst instances being "Washita", which sees a kill-off en masse.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: While testifying as an expert witness in traditional Cheyenne medicine in a malpractice trial against Dr. Mike, Cloud Dancing mentions that sometimes the spirits won't listen to the treatments and prayers. When the opposing lawyer mentions that modern medicine is better, Cloud Dancing responds with "All your patients live?"
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Olive returns to town and begins spoiling the children and bucking up against Michaela's authority over them, Dr. Mike confronts her on this. Olive is angry and says that by all rights it should be she that's the adoptive mother of the children. Michaela immediately retorts that it wasn't Olive that the children's mother called for on her deathbed. Olive is silent after this.
  • As You Know: Colleen, trying to save Sully from Jake: "He saved your life! Those Indians wanted to kill you when you accidentally shot one of them, and he persuaded them not to. You owe him!"
  • Attractive Bent-Gender:
    • Jake disguises himself as a woman in one episode, and gets taken hostage by two bandits. Both bandits take a shine to "her".
    • Dr. Mike disguises herself as a man (more like boy, since she looks so young) in order to participate in a males-only horse race. Despite Sully and Matthew's best efforts, she's still quite attractive. Myra starts flirting with "him" and upon realizing that it's Dr. Mike, helps cover for "him" and tells everyone "He's shy."
  • Babies Ever After: Among many other happy events in the series finale, Grace tells Robert E. that she's pregnant.
  • 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.
    • The episode also exposes the seedier side of the barnstorming circuit as the All Stars, when they begin losing, intentionally bat out of order to get one of their best players at the plate, and initially keep the entire gate due to Loophole Abuse. When the town gets a rematch after threatening to expose their nefarious ways, the all stars pull out all the stops, but still lose.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Happens during an episode where staph infection is featured (of course nobody, including Dr. Mike, knew what that was at the time).
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Jake basically falls in Love at First Sight with Teresa, but is reluctant to court her as she's newly widowed and Mexican. Hank of all people basically tells him to stop being an idiot, "It doesn't matter if she's Mexican, it just matters how you feel", but there are still some clashes - her disapproving family nearly puts a halt to things.
  • Book Burning: Michaela at one point opens the town's first library when her mother sends her her collection of books, but the Reverend is disturbed when he sees that Colleen is reading Faust, viewing it as un-Christian. He begins a crusade to remove 'objectionable' material, outright going to people's houses to take books away from them. This culminates in the townspeople vandalizing the library and setting the books on fire and even though he doesn't encourage it, he doesn't stop it either. Michaela comes to church, telling him she's found a book which has murder, rape, torture, and genocide. When the Reverend agrees this book should also be banned, she hands her copy of the Bible to him, leaving him stunned.
    • Though she doesn't want it banned, she is shocked by the metaphorical sexuality in Walt Whitman's ''Leaves of Grass'' (also a Call-Forward as Walt Whitman appears in a later season) when Sully reads her passages. She simply says that she doesn't want the book to be where the children can easily find it.
  • Book Ends: The series begins with the death of Michaela's father. The second made-for-TV movie ends with the death of her mother.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Subverted. Miss Olive's will specifically dictates that her body actually be buried on the lone prairie rather than carted hither and yon.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Inverted. When Dorothy begins to feel ill, she's certain that she's pregnant. It's Dr. Mike who's bewildered as to how this happened, as Dorothy's husband has been dead for several months. Dorothy shyly admits that when her husband came to town to reconcile with her (she'd left him after he hit her for the umpteenth time), that they did more than just "talk" all night. The inversion is that despite missing her period, she isn't pregnant, but starting menopause.
  • Cathartic Chores: After witnessing a massacre of Native Americans near the Washita River, Dr. Mike develops a post-traumatic stress disorder. She can't sleep and she keeps scrubbing the floors in her clinic at night. And she doesn't seem to care that she's hurting her fingers and hands while doing so.
  • 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. She 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 end of the series, Grace is one of her best friends and she's begun a deep friendship with a hint of romance with Cloud Dancing.
  • Cheerful Child: Brian is a sweet and happy boy much of the time. He tends to be this in contrast with Loren, who is a bitter old man.
  • Circus Episode: A traveling circus comes to town and entices the townspeople to participate.
  • City Mouse: Dr. Mike, who grew up in a posh Boston neighborhood, has some serious adjusting to do when she moves to Colorado Springs, a frontier town.
  • Clip Show: The episodes "Ready Or Not" and "To Have And To Hold", review Sully and Mike's relationship, while "Colleen's Paper" reviews Dr. Mike's interesting cases.
  • Commuting on a Bus: When Colleen goes off to college, as did her actress Jessica Bowman, her screen time was reduced and she only showed up during holiday breaks from school. She is quite literally portrayed as commuting on the train.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: After Myra shames the entire town for their callous attitude towards the ill Hank, we get a steady stream of people visiting him, urging him to wake up.
  • Cousin Oliver: Mike's mother brings neophyte physician Andrew Cook to town to (a) deliver her baby, (b) take over for her during her maternity leave, and (c) take over for good should she decide not to return.
  • 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: 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. (There were two Post Script TV movies made after the cancellation. The first movie, unfortunately, was rife with Executive Meddling and such a spectacular blunder that the creator of the show itself pulled her support. CBS realized their mistake and didn't lay a finger on the second movie beyond budget and cast constraints. Chad Allen declined to come back for either of these movies because the first was too removed from the spirit of the original show and the second didn't entice him much after the bitter taste of the first.invoked
  • D-Cup Distress: In "Ladies Night, Part 2", Colleen tries to bind her breasts and tells Dr. Quinn, "I don't want them" after receiving inappropriate attention from the boys in town.
  • Daddy's Girl: Michaela was a beloved daughter to her father, even becoming a doctor like he was and working with him in his office. All her dialogue makes it obvious that she adored and idolized him. She is not even able to connect with her mother until after her father had died.
  • Dance Party Ending: The series finale features Colleen and Andrew's wedding, with the final scene being of all the couples waltzing at the reception.
  • Darker and Edgier: The show was a relatively happy series with funny and serious moments mixed together. However, some dark moments stand out:
    • In Season 3, Custer launches a massacre at Washita, killing the entire Cheyenne tribe save for Cloud Dancing and a baby shielded by a youngling named No Harm. This includes Snow Bird, Cloud Dancing's wife. This leaves him totally alone, as his son Walks on Cloud died to One Eye in Season 2, and his unseen brother also died under unknown circumstances during that same season (which nearly led to him taking on a second wife per their custom).
    • Season 4 sees a rabid racoon infect Brian's beloved puppy, forcing it to be put down. As if that wasn't bad enough, the puppy bites Ingrid - Matthew's fiancée and she contracts the rabies, which drives her insane and finally kills her, robbing Matthew of his future wife and causing him to go on a suicidal tear.
    • 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 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, whom Loren was romancing at the time. 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 Anthony dies as a result of kidney failure brought on by sickle cell anemia, leading his parents to nearly split up. Finally, Preston goes bankrupt and is forced to leverage his inn as collateral.
  • 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.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Abigail's ill-fated romance with Sully was utterly despised by Loren, and he even says that his daughter marrying Sully against his wishes was the reason why she died, as a consequence of her disobedience. He takes it as far as to ban Sully from his store with a cover-all "No Injuns" decree and try to get even with him, before a life-threatening injury changes his views of the man.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Mike's presumed-dead fiancé comes to town using the name of a fellow soldier who died in the prison camp where they were both held. She assumes somebody is impersonating her fiancé but it's actually him. She's very confused and then considers going back to him, but then realizes he belongs to her past while Sully is her present... and her future.
  • Death of a Child:
    • A baby dies in Mike's care and she notes that this isn't the first time it's happened (others presumably took place offscreen), but she's especially rattled this time, as it's the first infant death since the birth of her own child.
    • Anthony, Grace and Robert E.'s adopted son, dies of a mysterious illness (it's actually sickle cell anemia). He's shown being weak from his first appearance, though sometimes he's feeling better. Gradually the condition consumes him. His parents are devastated, as are Mike (as his doctor) and Brian (who was Anthony's friend).
  • Deconstruction: Being in a frontier town that's reached only by a stagecoach for the first few seasons makes Michaela's job as a doctor even harder. Maude Bray dies because the small supply of heart medication that Mike gives her runs out before a larger supply can be shipped via the mail. A brain specialist who is needed to operate on Mike's younger adopted son, Brian, is delayed and the boy takes a turn for the worse before he can arrive, forcing Michaela to do the difficult operation herself. She cites the improvements it would provide in caring for her patients when she and Sully are arguing about the pending railroad that could be routed to the town.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The attitude of most of the townspeople towards non-whites, women, etc. is pretty much what you would expect for the time period. Even the black Robert E. initially refuses to let Mike tend to his injuries, and Mike herself is at first apprehensive about the Native Americans, having never even seen them before moving to Colorado Springs, as well as uncomfortable about Brian's friendship with Walt Whitman after hearing rumors about Whitman's sexuality. And when she and Andrew discuss it, they mention treatment (obviously unheard of today), which is placement in an asylum (also unheard of today). The issue of corporal punishment is also addressed when Mike complains that the new teacher is abusing the children. But given that this was an accepted practice at the time, the issue is more about if her methods are excessive rather than forbidden.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Dr. Quinn herself. Hank taunts her about being "dead inside". While visiting him while he's comatose, she sadly admits that that's true. Presumably, this was born out of losing her fiancé and father. Sully actually has to do a lot of work to get her to let her guard down.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Ethan Cooper, Charlotte's husband, heard about a Gold Rush and got the wild idea to sell the family farm and drag them all to Pikes Peak to strike it rich. When that didn't pan out, he basically ran out on his whole family and found himself a new girlfriend. When he finally comes back after Charlotte's death, Brian and Colleen, who were so young that they didn't remember the rotten thing he did, only good things- and the fact that Charlotte coddled them from that knowledge kept them from learning his true nature until a lot later. But Matthew, who is old enough to see the bigger picture, clearly remembers how he walked on everybody and is seething with anger at his dad. Matthew also tried to hide the truth about Ethan so as not to upset his younger siblings.
    • Jake's father Lucius was a raging alcoholic responsible for neglecting Jake's younger brother and sister to the point he forgot to get a doctor when they were desperately ill, resulting in their deaths. He became so guilty over what he did that he tried to escape the cold reality by finding gold. He also developed Gold Fever like Ethan and left the rest of his family behind, causing his wife Eleanor to become an alcoholic herself who regularly beat Jake with a belt hanging on a ten-penny nail. When Lucius finally wanders back into Jake's life, senile and weakening, Jake takes it as some kind of sick joke that his pop is avoiding the of taking responsibility for what he did. Turns out Lucius really does love Jake and finally found the gold he was looking for.
  • Distressed Woodchopping: When Sully thinks his love Michaela is about to return to her long-lost fiancé David, he's seen angrily chopping wood with a huge axe.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When the Klan is terrorizing Grace and Robert E., a group of them surround Grace and hold her down while they cut her hair as she sobs hysterically. The scene is very reminiscent of a rape, especially when you remember that black women frequently suffered this ordeal at the hands of white men during this period in time—and the way it's filmed and the way she acts afterwards raises the possibility that this did happen.
  • Dramatic Irony: One episode had the town terrified of the world ending from a meteor. As you know, it didn't.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Michaela is always at odds with many because she's a female doctor. When she first got to Colorado Springs, the townspeople denied her in favor of Jake, who proclaimed himself their equivalent of a doctor, and whose idea of medical treatment borders on torture and ripping out perfectly good teeth.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Horace. He's quite awkward, pays Hank just to be able to talk to Myra, and has jitters during his wedding night (not surprising since he's a virgin marrying a prostitute). 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.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The entire town calls Timothy Johnson "Reverend". His real name is used very little in the series.
  • Everyone Can See It: The hint dropping for Michaela and Sully begins early in Season 1. From Season 1's "Bad Water":
    Olive: You know what I think... I think he's scared to be out there alone with ya.
    Michaela: Oh, why would he be scared of that?
    Olive: (sarcastically) I can't imagine. Can you?
  • Expository Hairstyle Change:
    • Brian changes his hairstyle to a slicked back gentlemanly look (he had a similar look once during Season 3's Halloween Episode while in costume) as opposed to a boyish bowl cut for the sake of making himself look older and more refined in Season 4's Christmas Episode when he tries to impress a girl, even when his family thinks he doesn't need to. He keeps the hairstyle afterwards. The results of his new hairdo are actually quite great.
    • Colleen starts the series with loose hair or simple hairdos like a braid or a ponytail, but she wears her hair up more and more often as she gets older. Truth in Television, as this was customary for women of the time.
  • Extra-Long Episode: Each season would have a handful of these during sweeps periods (November, February, May)—"The Abduction", "Return Engagement", etc.
  • Fake Faith Healer: In one episode, Dr. Quinn challenges a fake faith healer, who weasels out of the test by insisting that they should combine her medicine with his prayer.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Zig-zagged with various characters during the series. Dr. Quinn herself, along with other attributes considered to be unfeminine at the time (like obtaining a medical degree), cannot cook to save her life. Colleen, who is considered more feminine but wants to become a doctor, can cook and does most of the household cooking. Grace, who started out as one of Olive's cattle hands, cooks well and eventually opens up her own café. Justified with Dr. Quinn - she grew up wealthy and like most wealthy women of that time, she had servants who did everything for her and probably never learned how to cook - notice she is quite inept at other household chores as well.
  • First Period Panic: Colleen gets hers and is frightened and confused by what's happening (she thinks she's dying) as neither her mother (a midwife) nor Dr. Mike herself (a medical doctor) explained it to her, since her mother died before she could give Colleen "the talk" and Dr. Mike assumed she was too young to start. When Dr. Mike brings this point up, Dr. Mike's mother (who is visiting) has to gently remind her that she got her first period at the same age as Colleen.
    Elizabeth: Have you noticed Colleen acting oddly lately?
    Michaela: A little. Why?
    Elizabeth: Well, two days ago, she became a woman. She thought she was going to die.
    Michaela: She's too young!
    Elizabeth: She's thirteen. That's how old you were.
  • Fish out of Water: Mike's first few months in Colorado Springs see her all dressed up in dapper city clothes like she's still in Boston and wondering why everyone is practically thumbing their nose at her. Charlotte helps her to acclimate, and she tones down her outfits to more conservative and plain dress, after it becomes clear that Mike's Sunday clothes are a tad ritzy for church compared to everyone else's. That, and those dresses keep getting soiled in the mud because the roads are unpaved; they're too low to the ground. Mike ends up tripping and face-planting a few times, which causes her to stop wearing them as her everyday clothes and only bust them out for special occasions and trips.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: One episode revolves around these. Horace sues Hank for punching him and breaking his nose, and Loren sues 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). It initiates a tidal wave of lawsuit fever in Colorado Springs.
  • Foreshadowing: In Season 3, Cloud Dancing and Snow Bird have decided to have another child after the loss of their son, Walks on Cloud. However, Snow Bird miscarries due to malnutrition brought because the Army won't send the Cheyenne proper supplies. The fact that her child dies leaves no prominent role for Snow Bird to play in the story beyond being a wife... opening the plot up to kill her off in the tragic two-parter "Washita".
  • Given Name Reveal:
    • Dr. Michaela Quinn shows up in the small town she's been hired to be the doctor of, and everyone is expecting a male doctor named Michael. Horace, the Western Union Man, admits he left the "a" off her signature sent over the wire, to save the town a couple cents of fees, because no one would care what "Dr. Michael A. Quinn"'s middle initial was.
    • Sully, Dr. Quinn's love interest and later husband, goes by simply Sully. Little Brian once asks him about his Christian name, and he's quite embarrassed to say it's Byron. Brian laughs. Sully hates his name and no one calls him that, not even his family or close friends.
    • In one episode, Hank's beloved grandmother comes to visit, and the town is startled to learn that his name is actually Hans.
  • Hair Memento: In the season 3 finale, it is revealed that Sully kept a lock of his late wife's hair, which he has woven into a lock of his own that he has grown out.
  • 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 show had a historical consultant but she stopped showing up when it was clear they weren't really listening to her. For example, 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.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Most of the prostitutes fall into this category, most prominently Myra and later Emma.
    • Myra was young when she started to work for Hank as one of his girls. She's really sweet and falls in love with awkward Horace, who adores her. Hank doesn't want to let her go, but eventually she gets courageous and tears her contract in pieces so he finally relents. She marries Horace; they are happy for a really long time and have a lovely daughter, but eventually they separate.
    • Emma is a lovely young woman. She's not proud of her job and she's smart enough not to have a contract. Matthew and she start to have a relationship and plan to be together, but then Emma is offered a job as a seamstress for a famous singer. Matthew likes her but doesn't love her as much as he loved his First Love Ingrid so they amicably agree to break up.
  • 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 chiefly enjoyed by local ladies who went and enjoyed a bath, mostly just to mess with him a bit.
  • How Many Fingers?: The gag appears in the Baseball Episode when Horace gets injured. When asked to count fingers on Jake's hand, he sees... chocolate.
    Dr. Quinn: Horace, are you all right?
    Jake: How many fingers?
    Horace: Chocolate.
    Dr. Quinn: I think he's finished for the day.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds:
    • Horace and Myra, once they get over their anxiety, can't get enough of sex after their wedding.
    • Dr. Mike and Sully really seem to enjoy their married life. They even start neglecting their responsibilities, mainly parental responsibilities — Brian and Colleen feel quite abandoned. The sweet, utterly responsible Colleen even gets briefly involved in juvenile delinquency because Mike is too busy thinking about all of the hot sex she and Sully have been having, now that she's legally and socially able to have sex.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • 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 when he takes care of his illegitimate son. He's also 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—but handles it like a pro, immediately rushing to get her help and putting pressure on the wound so that she doesn't bleed out. To add to Hank's redeeming moments, we find out at the end of Season 1 that he has an autistic son, the progeny of one of his "girls." Unfortunately, that woman died, and it left Hank with terrible heartbreak because he actually loved her. Any time someone mocks his son's intelligence, it gets him angry enough to threaten them with bodily harm, even including Loren. He helps send the gifted boy to art school. Hank also physically assaults Preston after hearing him speak about Mike in a less than polite fashion.
    • Loren. He's mostly a grumpy old man who mostly cares only about his business and who is rude to many people, especially his son-in-law Sully. He shows his softer side, especially to little Brian who can talk to him and generally can make his life more pleasant. He's also in love with his sister-in-law Dorothy and plays nice for her sake a lot.
    • Jake starts as a jerk who is a jerk most of the time and only occasionally plays nice, but softens a bit with Character Development, though he still shows his jerkass side from time to time. He's bigoted against other races, which is not entirely unusual for the time period; but for example, he shows remorse when he accidentally kills a Cheyenne man and feels sorry for his family.
  • 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.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility:
    • Dr. Mike fears she's too old for her and Sully to have a baby, realizing that she hasn't conceived after months of them being Insatiable Newlyweds. She visits another doctor for an evaluation, and after examining her, the man states that he can't do anything to help her get pregnant - because she already is.
    • In the series finale, Grace tells Robert E. that she's pregnant, despite years of her not conceiving along with failed attempts at adoption.
  • Lazily Gender-Flipped Name: Dr. Michaela Quinn recalls that her father expected his fifth child would be finally a boy and planned to name him Michael. When another daughter was born, he decided to call her Michaela.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Mike uses this a few times whenever she wants to see a significant telegram (usually regarding the military). Horace tells her that he can't show it to her or tell her what was in it, as he took an oath to keep all communications private. Mike responds by telling him that he doesn't look well and that perhaps he should go out and get some air. He leaves, knowing full well that she's going to look at the notepad where he wrote the message.
    • Mike also does this in the episode where she's running for mayor against Jake. All of the women in town turn up to vote for her but are told they can't vote unless they're property owners. Cue the women showing deeds of pieces of property from Dr. Mike's office that she gave to them so they could vote.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Sully's wife Abigail, who died, along with their daughter, in childbirth.
    • Dr. Mike's fiancé David, whom she thought was killed in the Civil War, only to have him resurface years later.
  • Marital Rape License: When complaining about her husband, Marjorie states that "he insisted on his right to my bed". He also gave her an STD.
  • Metaphorical Marriage: Ingrid and Matthew plan their wedding, which is supposed to happen in a month. However, Ingrid gets bitten by a rabid dog. When she's dying, she regains some lucidity and Matthew comes to her to say goodbye. Tearful Matthew holds her hand and says they are married now before God. Not an official wedding, but a deeply felt intimate moment.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Sully. Often shirtless, often working while showing off his biceps, then there were some bathing scenes... More please. Fans like it.
  • Never Learned to Read: Like the "dissonance" entry, a handful of townspeople are revealed to be illiterate - Jake, Hank, Myranote , and the children's father (Matthew knows that a "Dear John" letter that he supposedly wrote to the children is fake because he knows his father can't read or write).
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Periods get discussed when girls start menstruating (see First Period Panic), think they might be pregnant, when they stop menstruating, etc.
    • Dorothy's stops and she thinks she's pregnant, but she's in fact beginning menopause.
    • Ethan Cooper's young second wife, who wants to have children soon, doesn't menstruate. Her doctor thinks she's too delicate or whatnot. Dr. Mike examines her and discovers that she has no uterus.
    • Toward the end of the series, Colleen suffers menstrual trauma when she skips a period and worries that Michaela would think she was pregnant (even though she hasn't had sex); turns out her cycle was being affected by stress as she studied for her medical school entrance exams. If you know anything about medicine you would know that Dr. Mike means Colleen has stress induced Secondary amenorrhea.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: Loren often finds himself cleaning up his language whenever Brian is around. One episode sees Loren telling some friends about a burlesque house where the girls lift up their... voices! To sing so beautifully!
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The townspeople disapprove when Dorothy begins a friendship with Cloud Dancing when she decides to write a book about him. When she visits him on the reservation to apologize for standing him up (intimidated by the heckling), he admits that his tribesmen don't like it either. Dorothy turns and sees the men glaring at them with virtually the same scornful, nasty looks that the townspeople have.
    Dorothy: Then you understand.
    Cloud Dancing: That we both live among people who are foolish?
    • Cloud Dancing himself has moments where he displays a lot of the "they're all the same" attitude towards whites, just the same as the way whites treated the Native Americans.
    • The dog soldiers display the same level of violence and cruelty as the Army soldiers they're fighting.
    • Mike has a few moments where she realizes that she acts much like her overbearing mother; she even admits that despite being a Daddy's Girl, she really takes after her mother in temperament. Colleen herself calls her out on this when Mike takes over her wedding plans, telling her she's acting exactly like her mother did when she was getting married.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Not long after she and Sully begin formally courting, Mike has a serious Green-Eyed Monster moment when she thinks that Sully and Dorothy are sneaking around together. In her defense, there is some strange circumstantial evidence which gives her this impression, and they're both acting quite secretive. It turns out that Dorothy has been teaching Sully how to dance, so that he can partner Mike at the upcoming town celebration.
  • Old Maid: Dr. Mike refers to herself as a spinster in one episode, with her 35th birthday looming and no husband in sight. (She, however, had a fiancé who she thinks died in the war, and also other suitors — like a doctor in Boston or Sully or the Reverend. She and Sully do get married eventually.)
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue:
    • The townspeople meddle a lot in Myra and Horace's wedding plans, much to the happy couple's distress. Dorothy is excited to have Myra wear her old wedding gown (as her something old, as Colleen points out), though Myra would prefer a pink dress which other saloon girls sewed for her. She has new shoes as something new, and Dr. Mike looks for a lace handkerchief as something borrowed.
    • Dr. Mike's "something old, new, borrowed and blue" are the following items: an old lace handkerchief from Ireland, given to her by her sister Rebecca; white satin pumps from her adoptive daughter Colleen as something new; pearls from her sister Marjorie as something borrowed ("And I want them back!"); and she has a blue cornflower bouquet from Dorothy.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: Myra decides to quit Hank's saloon, so she rips her contract with Hank in half when he refuses to let her go.
  • Parental Abandonment: Matthew, Colleen, and Brian Cooper lose their mother in the first episode and their father was already out of the picture (revealed to have run away from the family to seek gold in the gold rush). Luckily, Michaela adopts them and considers them her children. Sully acts as their surrogate father and becomes their adoptive father when he and Michaela get married.
  • Parental Substitute: Charlotte Cooper dies shortly after Michaela's arrival in Colorado and on her deathbed, she begs Michaela to take care of her three children. Mike agrees, but is reluctant about it because she has no experience with children. She becomes their adoptive mother, and though there are naturally some missteps along the way, she comes to love all three of them fiercely and they love her just as much.
  • Perspective Reversal: It might look like this show had this at first glance. Sully is generally much more progressive than most of the other men in town about almost every issue: ethnical minorities, women's rights, controversial books in the new town library, the theory of evolution, homosexuality... But when it comes to the railway and other building projects, Sully is the one fighting "progress" and the other men are supporting it. It becomes a subverted case though: Sully has good reasons to dislike that kind of "progress", because he knows how this would affect the local Cheyennes, all the animals in the nearby forest and the nature scenes. Which would have been a radical viewpoint in the 1860s/1870s. The other men on the other hand will only want to make a quick profit, and will not care too much about if other values could be lost. So it means that Sully still is the progressive one and the other men the more conservative ones.
  • Picnic Episode: The characters often enjoy their meals outdoors, such as picnics after the Sunday services in the meadow near the church.
  • The Plague: The first and last season had episodes about an epidemic sweeping through the town. The first is the flu, and the last season diphtheria.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • Abigail, Loren's only daughter and Sully's wife, beloved and mourned by both. She died in childbirth before the events of the show. The ghost of Abigail, however, shows up in Season 2's Halloween Episode.
    • Joseph Quinn, Michaela's father, died before the start of the story. It's actually a Plot-Triggering Death, because Michaela had been his medical partner, and after he died their patients started going to other male doctors rather than continue being treated by her. This directly leads to her accepting the job out west.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Dr. Quinn is always right and the narrative is ALWAYS on her side, portraying any naysayers as total idiots even if they're partially or totally right.
  • Protagonist Title: The show is titled Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman after its main character.
  • Public Service Announcement: Throughout the sixth season, many episodes ended with this regarding the history of whatever disease was featured. For example, the episode in which Horace tries to kill himself featured a blurb on clinical depression, how it was once known as melancholia, etc.
  • Race for Your Love: When Mike returns to Boston to visit her ailing mother, Sully becomes concerned about how long she's been gone and ventures to Boston himself to find her. When he decides to leave, feeling that he can't compete with her renewed love for her hometown and her burgeoning feelings for a handsome physician, this time it's she who races to the train station to stop him from leaving. It's then flipped around in that it's he, the one who's leaving, who declares his love - and then leaves anyway when she can't return the sentiment (yet).
  • Radish Cure: A boy keeps stealing Loren's cigars. He finally tells the boy he can have them as long as he smokes them all in the store, in one sitting. The boy ends up hating them as a result.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Early in the series, one of Colleen's friends is raped on her way home from school. The girl is found and brought, mute and in shock, to the clinic. When Mike begins to undress her and sees the bodice of her dress is ripped, she orders Colleen out of the room. At the end of the episode, she takes the girl's father aside and quietly warns him to watch for signs of pregnancy.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: An episode that had Dr. Mike campaigning for a girl to be taken away from her abusive father and finding a loophole to have her declared as an animal and him charged with animal cruelty is based on the case of Mary Ellen Wilson.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The whole premise of the series is that Dr. Quinn was hired by mistake, due to a mix-up with telegraphs and her name.
  • The Savage Indian: Deconstructed with the Native American population living in the same area as the townsfolk. Most of the Cheyenne are peaceful people mistreated and exploited by the townsfolk and the army, but are portrayed by those exploiting them as savages. However, the view held by the settlers is not entirely unfounded; the Dog Soldiers, a fringe group of renegade youth within the Cheyenne, do act in aggressive, hostile, violent ways - including kidnapping Dr. Mike. However, the show breaks down the Dog Soldier's motivations - mostly anger towards the atrocities suffered by the Cheyenne as the result of the army and frustration with the elder Cheyenne for taking a more passive stance towards them, and on the whole, agrees with the motives, if not the actions taken by this group. On the flip side, the army is portrayed in possibly the worst light ever; if they are on screen, it's never for positive reasons.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Dr. Quinn runs into one such senior (a nudist) in Season 1's "Cowboy Lullaby".
    Dr. Quinn: May I ask you a question? Why don't you have clothes on?
    Old man: I'm 73 years old. And I figure I'd do as I damn well please.
  • Second Love:
    • Sully had been married before and lost his wife and baby in childbirth. He falls in love with Michaela and they raise children together. However, he is shown in early seasons to still be in mourning and having to let Abigail go.
    • Michaela was engaged to a young doctor and a Civil War soldier called David. He's believed to have died in battle but he appears briefly. She's tempted to go back to him, but then realizes that David is her past and Sully her present... and future.
    • Despite starting out as a Settle for Sibling situation (he'd been courting her sister Dorothy before she ran off with someone else), Loren's wife Maude clearly became Loren's Second Love, as evidenced by their happy marriage (if shown only briefly onscreen) and his devastation at her death.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: The bickering Loren and Marjorie kiss. Cut to the next morning, with a jubilant Loren coming out onto the porch, and then Marjorie coming out soon after, fixing her hair, in the same dress she was wearing the day before, making it clear what happened.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Dorothy's son, though he doesn't appear to be this until his addiction to morphine gradually comes to light. Also, Mike's presumed-dead fiancé, who reveals that he was held prisoner in Andersonville, a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp with such dreadful conditions that nearly one-third of its inmates died. She's horrified when he tells her this, but he refuses to go into any details - "I don't want to talk about that now", thus hinting to the viewer that his time there was particularly traumatic.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Once she quits working at the saloon, Myra dresses in a completely opposite manner to how she did before—prim and proper dresses and hairstyles in drab colors. This happens again when she returns to town after hers and Horace's divorce—while still far more conservative than her days as a prostitute, her clothes are now much more colorful and fashionable.
  • Special Guest: In his only television performance as a fictional character, Fred Rogers, a fan of the show, guest stars in one episode as "Reverend Thomas", a mentor of Reverend Johnson's who comes to visit.
  • Stepford Smiler: A slight case with Mike's sister Rebecca, who seems almost hell-bent on being cheerful and seeing the good in everything. After a confrontation with her conversely bitter and depressed sister Marjorie, she admits to Mike that while she's not secretly unhappy, she's been expected to be The Pollyanna since childhood and sometimes finds it exhausting, especially since there are moments when she's unhappy, but not allowed to show it.
  • Stern Teacher: Louise Chambers from "Just One Lullaby", in Season 2. She's a competent teacher but regularly uses corporal punishment on her students, so much that they require medical treatment. She almost crosses the line into full Sadist Teacher, but leaves town before that can happen. She's also given a taste of her own medicine when one of her pupils, a grown boy, beats her up.
  • Subverted Trope: This show appears to have a straight example of Perspective Reversal at first glance. Sully is generally more progressive than most of the other men in town about almost every issue: ethnic minorities, women's rights, controversial books in the new town library, the theory of evolution, homosexuality... But when it comes to the railway and other building projects, Sully is the one fighting "progress" and the other men are supporting it. Sully has good reasons to dislike that kind of "progress" though, because he knows how this would affect the local Cheyennes, all the animals in the nearby forest and the nature scenes. This would have been a very radical viewpoint in the 1860s/1870s. The other men, on the other hand, will only want to make a quick profit, and will not care too much about if other values can be lost. So it means that Sully still is the progressive one and the other men the more conservative ones.
  • Suffrage and Political Liberation: It is proposed that Colorado Springs should elect a Mayor. Michaela and Jake Slicker get nominated. However, women aren't allowed to vote unless they own property. Then it's revealed that Sully deeded to each of the women a tiny part of his homestead, which makes them all landowners and they can vote. When Jake and Loren see their certain victory is threatened, they make a deal with Dr. Mike: if she wins, she won't outlaw prostitution or drinking, and if they win, they will allow women to vote. Jake wins and keeps his promise to make it legal for women to vote whether they own property or not. All of this empowers Myra, who quits Hank's saloon despite her binding contract.
  • Super Doc: Dr. Michaela Quinn. She was a general practitioner, diagnostician, surgeon, gynaecologist, obstetrician, paediatrician, epidemiologist, ophthalmologist... Justified in-universe, as she is a Frontier Doctor and the only physician in the area. Among the most amazing things she did was successfully performing a brain surgery on a child (to be fair, she tried to get a specialist) and a complicated reconstructive plastic surgery. She is often shown studying books and preparing thoroughly for more complicated procedures.
  • Supreme Chef: Grace is an excellent cook and her café is a great hit in the town. Everybody praises her skills and enjoys her delicious food.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Loren's sister Olive disappears between seasons without any explanation (although later, we learn she died of spotted fever during a cattle drive on the Goodnight-Loving Trail). In her place, his sister-in-law Dorothy (whom he was courting before she ran off with another man, leaving him to marry her sister) comes to town, fleeing the abusive husband for whom she had ditched Lauren, and assumes the same role Olive had as Mike's friend and confidante.
    • Emma for Myra, as they're both cut from the same Hooker with a Heart of Gold mold. Both of them also wanted a career instead of being a housewife after they had stopped working as prostitutes.
    • Cloud Dancing was not the first character Larry Sellers played on the show. In the pilot, he played Black Hawk, named in the credits only. Because of the way the show got remodeled after the pilot and the fact he was not named onscreen, his character was essentially retconned into Cloud Dancing.
  • The Talk:
    • In one early episode, Mrs. Quinn (Dr. Quinn's visiting mother) explains how things work to Colleen, who is essentially her adoptive granddaughter. Poor girl just got her first period and thinks the bleeding means she's gonna die.
    • Sully awkwardly tries to talk to Matthew about sex when he begins courting the immigrant girl Ingrid.
    • Dr. Mike attempts to explain things to Brian — by reading him an anatomy textbook. That poor kid.
    • With her wedding night looming, the virginal Dr. Mike needs one herself from the more experienced Dorothy.
  • Tear Up the Contract: Myra is engaged to Horace, but is bound by contract to work at Hank's saloon. Inspired by women taking part in local elections, she decides to leave at once and rips her contract with Hank in half when he refuses to let her go.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: Michaela often prescribes willow bark tea.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Dr. Quinn frequently needs to remind people to address her as "Dr." instead of "Miss", especially when several of them deliberately call her "Miss" in an effort to needle her and demonstrate their lack of respect.
  • Token Minority Couple: Robert E. was the town's sole black resident, until Grace came to town and they fell in Love at First Sight.
  • 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." Her father was expecting a boy after four girls, and he intended to name the child Michael. When he was given a fifth and final girl, he instead modified Michael into the feminine Michaela and raised her like the son he never had, grooming her to take over his practice at her own insistence.
  • Tonto Talk: Averted a little too well with the Native Americans on the show, most of whom speak perfect English without an accent.
  • Traumatic Haircut: When the Klan is terrorizing Grace and Robert E., a group of them surround Grace and hold her down while they cut her hair as she sobs hysterically. The scene is very reminiscent of a rape.
  • Triage Tyrant: In "The Prisoner", Custer demands that Dr. Mike treat his soldiers first, regardless of medical priorities.
  • The Unfavorite: By the way she's treated when she returns to Boston for a visit and when her family ventures to Colorado to see her, it's heavily implied Mike was this among the female members of the family, with her focus being on her studies and her desire to be a doctor, rather than on comportment lessons and finding a husband. Conversely, she's very much implied to have been her father's favourite and that he was proud of her accomplishments.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Many terms are used to refer to certain things, probably keeping in line with the language of the times—"hurt" is used for "raped", "prefers the company of men" for "gay", etc..
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Prim and proper Michaela and and carefree Sully.
  • Very Special Episode: 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 are 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).
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: Though he's not divorced from Michaela, the Cooper kids' father shows up a couple times in the series; he abandoned Charlotte years ago and took her half of their nest egg, something Matthew is old enough to remember and hold against him. It ends in a messy custody battle between Ethan Cooper and Michaela in Season 3's "Cooper vs. Quinn".
  • Wanted a Son Instead: This is one of the very first things we learn at the start of the show about Dr. Michaela Quinn. Her father was expecting a boy after four girls, and he intended to name the child Michael. When he was given a fifth and final girl, he instead modified Michael into the feminine Michaela and raised her like a son to take over his practice at her own insistence. Sadly, when he died, the customers went with him, because women doctors get no love from the patriarchal society.
  • Waterfall Shower: Dr. Quinn and Sully have a Shower of Love under a waterfall shower.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Maude Bray was only around for the pilot episode, and never really got much characterization beyond having heart troubles that eventually spelled her end. Her husband Loren wasn't even played by Orson Bean at that point, so we never saw the two onscreen together having any interactions. As for the Loren in the pilot, we got to see much interaction between him and Maude, either- and what little we did see was all-too indicative that Loren was being a Jerkass to his wife up until her final heart attack, at which point we saw him begging her not to die.
    Loren: Maude... don't go...
  • The Western: The show is about a woman doctor who goes from Boston to the frontier town, Colorado Springs. The people reject her at first, but gradually they accept her and begin to respect her as the most educated person among them. She still has to deal with sexism. She also interacts with Cheyennes and black community. Many episodes have specific plots of the Western genre, like determined homesteaders building their house
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: When You Coming Home, Mom? Dr. Mike displays some workaholic tendencies throughout the series. Justified in that she's a doctor (and the only one for miles for most of the series). In various episodes, she also has jobs as a teacher and a councilwoman. Her children are usually understanding, and Colleen and Matthew are old enough to take care of themselves and Brian, but occasionally they're dissatisfied with her working constantly.
  • Where da White Women At?: The townspeople are convinced that the Native American men have this attitude. When a white woman is rescued from one of their camps, it's naturally assumed that she was raped by them (they're then disgusted to learn that she willingly married one of them - "any decent white woman would have killed herself before she lay down with a redman"). When Dr. Mike is herself abducted by dog soldiers, there's the identical speculation (and it nearly does happen several times before Sully rescues her). 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. The mildest example of this trope is the 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 Native Americans are 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. In another, Hank blasts her for not only failing to find out what's wrong with his ailing grandmother, but not having the humility to admit that she doesn't know what's wrong and allowing someone else to take over the case.
    • Myra gives this to the entire town, blasting them, particularly the Reverend, for their hypocrisy and uncaring attitude towards the comatose Hank.
  • White Man Gone Native:
    • Sully is more comfortable among the Cheyennes than in Colorado Springs, especially in the beginning of the series. This lessens somewhat in later seasons, but not by a whole lot.
    • Catherine, the titular "Another Woman", though not by choice - she was kidnapped by the tribe as a young girl and brought up as one of them.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • Sully's backstory bears much similarity to the plot of Dances with Wolves. Likewise, Catherine's backstory is virtually identical to that of Stands With A Fist (kidnapped by the tribe at such a young age that she has virtually no memory of her past life and can barely speak English).
    • Sully's cry of "I'll find you!" as the dog soldiers kidnap Mike sounds awfully familiar.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: The show's first Christmas Episode finds Dr. Mike dreading the holiday, but not in a Scrooge-like manner; rather, it's because she is 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 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 fiancé to escape their disapproving parents) in giving birth. In a stable, of course.
  • You Need to Get Laid:
    • After Hank insults Mike, she angrily snaps, "Well, I never!" Hank snidely follows up by saying, "Maybe that's the problem." Later, as Sully and Mike's wedding day approaches, Hank notices Sully's bad mood and snarks, "What's the matter with Sully? You think he'd be happy that he's finally going to get to—", before being cut off by the Reverend.
    • When Hank shows up drunk at Horace and Myra's engagement party, Loren angrily tells him, "We've had enough of you." Hank snaps right back, "You ain't had any, old man! That's your problem!"