January 1, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the phenomenal, timeless and outstanding TV series “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” Ain’t the years gone by fast? First episode “The Pilot” was shot in early 1992 and premiered on January 1, 1993. On this occasion, I added screencaps from “The Pilot” to our image library.
CBS aired a second hour-long episode of Dr. Quinn the next night to grab the audience’s attention. Expectations for the show were low due to its being aired alongside the Orange Bowl that year. Initially critics panned the series and predicted that it would be quickly cancelled. Therefore, the pilot served as a made for television movie that could either be developed into a series or stand alone as a single 2-hour movie. Ratings for the pilot and first episode were high and the show was immediately picked up for an entire season. Certain members of the pilot supporting cast were replaced.
The show ran on CBS for six seasons to May 16, 1998. In total, 149 episodes were produced, plus two television movies which were made after the series’ cancellation. Dr. Quinn is best known for its large supporting cast and high concept storytelling. The series often used its semi-historical setting as a vehicle to address issues of gender and race within the community. Countless issues were addressed that were relevant to modern times, some of which were quite controversial.
An American drama/family/western series created by Beth Sullivan tells the story of Dr. Michaela Quinn, a refined woman doctor who moves from the highly civilized world of mid-19th century Boston to a rough-hewn frontier town in 1860s Colorado to start her own medical practice. Of course, a good series needs a good love story with exceptional actors. The romance between Michaela and Sully was widely popular with audiences and can be attributed to Jane Seymour and Joe Lando’s chemistry on screen.
Jane Seymour was cast as Michaela Quinn at the last minute, after she was given the script to read the day before production was to begin on the pilot. She was instructed to read the script and make a decision whether or not to commit to the contract. I won’t exaggerate if I say that this series was a blessing for us and for Jane.
The role of Dr. Michaela Quinn gave Jane Seymour her second Golden Globe Award in 1996. She was nominated, for Dr. Quinn, three more times in 1994, 1995, 1997. Jane also received two nominations to Screen Actors Guild Award (1995 and 1997) and two nominations to Emmy (1994 and 1998).
From the Jane Seymour Official Facebook Page on the Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman’s 20th anniversary
“It’s rather an amazing story, how Dr. Quinn came about. As my agent and I were looking for work that would ease my dark financial situation, he told me about two opportunities, one to do a sitcom and another for a movie, a pilot for a series that would be called Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Both sounded just like what I needed; however, I had to choose just one. The catch was that if you do a pilot, you have to sign a five-year contract, just in case the pilot is picked up by the network and becomes a series. So you have to really like that movie, and be willing to make a full commitment before you do it.
I had to make a decision quickly about the pilot, because the meeting for the sitcom was the next morning, and that’s when I would make my choice. So I took the script home that night, curled up in my big bed, and read it. I was profoundly moved by it. It made me weep, and I read it again and again, weeping each time.
The script had touched me so deeply I couldn’t imagine living life and not playing that role. I was so drawn to the idea of a woman who had been raised a certain way, in a certain environment, and who could not be accepted for what she was, which for Dr. Quinn was, of course, being a female doctor. At the same time I felt a deep connection with a woman like Michaela Quinn, who wasn’t about to give up her training and allow herself to be destroyed by the system. Even after she went west, she wasn’t wanted by the town at first, because she was supposed to be a man and they’d got the name wrong. Still, in the face of all that, Michaela forged a life for herself in a very hostile environment.
In so many ways, I felt a bond with Michaela. I related to her being a woman on her own. I related to having children other than my own biological children to take care of, because I had Jenni. And I related to moving to a foreign environment, because I had come from England and gone west myself. Last, and perhaps most important of all, my father had been a doctor. Just like Michaela, I was the doctor’s daughter, and my own father’s great passion had always been the history of medicine. If I made this movie, there I would be, right in the middle of all that my father and I had loved!
What a decision I had to make. I wanted to do the sitcom, because I needed the stability, but I dearly loved the Dr. Quinn movie. In the morning, I went to the meeting with the producers of the sitcom. I actually asked them what I should do, how I could choose. They said “Oh, no problem, no problem. You can do both.” They went on to explain that they were certain the Dr. Quinn movie would never become a series, so after I completed it, I’d be free to do their sitcom. After all, they reasoned, Dr. Quinn had so many strikes against it: it had a woman doctor in the lead, which hadn’t been done before, and everyone “knew” a series with a female lead wouldn’t do well. Besides, they told me, it takes place in the Wild West, and not only was there no interest in Westerns anymore, there also was no interest in medical shows. Finally, they added, the movie was not edgy: it was kind of soft, and family-oriented, and that sort of show wasn’t going to do well either.
“Okay,” I said. “Oh, good, that’s perfect. I’ll sign the contract, I’ll do the movie, and then I’ll be ready to do your sitcom.” I accepted the Dr. Quinn part that day, and I was literally in the saddle the next morning, beyond delighted. Here was a job that absolutely fit into what my father had raised me to believe, including the practice of medicine he had encouraged me to learn about. Here indeed was my salvation: a show that was shot in a nearby park, where I would work outdoors with children and horses; a place to which I could easily bring my children while I worked.
On a slightly uncanny note, here also was a world in which I’ve always felt strangely comfortable. I do think there are many things on the spiritual level that we can’t understand. One that I’ve always questioned is why I feel so completely at ease in period costumes from this era. When I put on a corset and crinoline, I truly feel the way I imagine most women feel when they are wearing blue jeans – I’m perfectly at home. Spending my days dressed like that, working on a set that portrays life in the 1870’s, is, for me, like going home again.
As it turned out, there was also a strong feeling of family on that show – unlike anything I have experienced before or since on a movie set or television show. There was an amazing bond that happened while we worked. To this day, every night before I go to bed, I turn on the television and after checking out the latest disaster in the universe, I find myself flipping around to see Dr. Quinn. I find I appreciate more today what a wonderful show it was and what a good message it sent. It gives me comfort still, and it makes me grateful to know I was able to be a part of something fundamentally worthwhile.
Indeed it was a dream come true. In fact, you might say it was heaven-sent.”
Excerpt taken from Jane Seymour “Remarkable Changes,”