In the era of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman might have seemed like a quaint Little House on the Prairie rip-off. Centered around Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour), the daughter of a renowned Boston physician, it followed her journey from a life of privilege in Massachusetts to the rustic post Civil War town of Colorado Springs. She became the town doctor and battled sexism, prejudice, and intolerance with the same tenacity she battled death and disease.
The show proved insanely popular, with audiences liking the gutsy determination and compassion of its leading lady, the hijinks of her three adopted children, and the rugged appeal of Sully, the mountain man who stole her heart. Here's all the hidden details in the series fans might have missed over the course of six seasons of frontier medical melodrama.
10 Joe Lando Ate Real Worms
In order to fully embody the character of mountain-man Byron Sully, actor Joe Lando felt it was necessary to do all of his own stunts. From galloping on horseback, to running across the top of a moving train, he felt that it gave the character authenticity to have him actually executing every action Sully was supposed to do.
Sometimes this commitment to the craft was put to the test, and included Lando eating live worms on set. If Sully would do anything to survive in the wilderness, so would Lando! Plus, his opinion at the end of the day was, when was he ever going to have this sort of opportunity again?
9 Dr. Quinn Got Proposed To Several Times
As committed as she was to her work, Dr. Quinn also had some time to fraternize with the gentlemen of Colorado Springs. Michaela Quinn may have had her hands full with three orphaned children and the responsibility of the health and well-being of the people of the town, but that didn't stop her from getting proposed to numerous times over the course of the series.
For those keeping score at home, she was proposed to by David Lewis, Reverend Timothy Johnson, fellow Dr. William Burke, and Andrew Strauss. She said yes to David Lewis, but thought he was killed (he would later return as Andrew Strauss), leaving her free to accept Sully's proposal after turning down the others.
8 Reverend Thomas
At one time, Colorado Springs was exactly the "neighborhood" that Fred Rogers wanted to visit. In the episode "Deal with the Devil", Reverend Timothy Johnson's mentor comes to town, and he wants to do everything in his power to make a good impression and fix up his rundown church.
When the Reverend Thomas arrives, it's none other than Mr. Rogers himself. Fred Rogers had never had an acting credit before (besides starring in his own kid's show), but he was so impressed with Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman that he requested to be part of the show. They wrote a guest star part around him and he appears as the kindly clergyman, an apt role since at one time Fred Rogers wanted to become a priest.
7 Elias Burch
While there were many memorable guest stars on the series, few actors fully embodied the rustic, frontier characters they were asked to play exactly like Willie Nelson, cast as Elias Burch, a legendary lawman that works together with Dr. Quinn and Sully to bring a gang of bank robbers to justice.
Elias Burch comes at the behest of the Colorado Springs sheriff, whom the townsfolk believe isn't up to the task of defending them since he doesn't wear a firearm. Determined to prove them wrong, he learns under the craggy marshal's instruction, who's killed over 100 outlaws in his time. Ironically, no firearms are used in bringing the robbers to justice.
6 The Time Sully Was Almost Replaced
In Season 6 of the series, Byron Sully was missing and seriously injured. Dr. Quinn and John Schneider's character Daniel go in search of him, and Michaela keeps seeing white blossoms that Daniel doesn't notice. It's only later, when she comes upon a large concentration of them, that she finds Sully's body laying in the bushes next to a giant slab of rock.
The episode was designed around the fact that Joe Lando, who was also appearing on the soap opera Guiding Light, may not be returning to the series. Daniel was invented as a possible replacement as Michaela's love interest, but Sully turned out to be injured, not dead, when Lando agreed to stay on.
5 Joe Lando Didn't Know How To Dance
In the episode "Where the Heart Is", Sully and Michaela are getting more serious, and Sully enlists the help of Colleen to teach him how to dance. She comes to his hotel room to guide him through a waltz in an effort to impress Michaela in Boston. The mountain man finds himself with two left feet.
Back in Season 2, Michaela tried to teach Sully how to dance with equally poor results. In the DVD commentary for the series, we learn that Joe Lando also didn't know how to dance, and it was actually Jane Seymour that led him through all the steps. Joe Lando, once again trying to give as much authenticity to his character as possible.
4 The Man In Black
Aside from Willie Nelson, another guest star that makes total sense to appear on the series is none other than The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. He plays a ne'er-do-well gunslinger trying to put his violent life behind him when he comes to Colorado Springs. Not only does Cash look completely at home in the setting, he gets a decent character arc.
Beginning with "Showdown at High Noon", when a young punk tries to make a name for himself by killing the legendary Kid Cole, Cash does a perfect job at looking drained and exhausted from proving himself every day of his life,a trend which continues in every episode he appears in with new challenges.
3 The Abrupt Change In Tone
There's a dramatic departure in tone in the sixth season, and it may have seemed reasonable that following its introduction of darker themes, CBS decided to cancel the series. This had nothing to do with what the cast or writers wanted, and everything to do with CBS's rating system and the demographic they wanted to secure.
When the series began, it was popular with 18-49 year old men and women, but by its sixth season, was only popular with women over 40. In an effort to get their prized demographic back, producers encouraged writers to introduce events like Michaela's miscarriage and her PTSD from being shot. Viewership didn't improve and the series was cancelled.
2 The Location Was Designed With Fans In Mind
Though the series was set in Colorado Springs, it was actually filmed at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills. Paramount Ranch has since been destroyed by California wild fires, resulting in the loss of all the old frontier sets and dressings that could be seen on the show. Rumor has it that it will be rebuilt, to the joy of fans of the show.
Unlike on other dramatic shows which often had closed sets, fans were encouraged and allowed to come visit Paramount Ranch, talk with the actors, and watch the filming taking place. Fictional fans even do this, such as when Fran Fine of The Nanny wanders onto set and gushes over meeting Jane Seymour and Joe Lando during filming.
1 The Abrupt Change Of Cast After The Pilot
Joe Lando was the first member of the cast to sign on to the series, with Jane Seymour following soon after. When producers didn't know if the series would be picked up, they decided to make a TV movie version of the pilot. The pilot was nearly two hours and a huge hit, resulting in the show getting picked up for syndication.
However, this meant that many of the actors who had thought they were simply making a TV movie weren't able to commit to an entire series. For instance in the pilot, Jake Slicker (Michaela's competition for town doctor) is played by Colm Meaney, who had to be replaced because he was already starring on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at the time.
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