Top positive review
Clean Historical Drama
Reviewed in the United States on June 6, 2016
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is a classic show about a female doctor in the late 1860s, who leaves her wealthy, cultured life in Boston in order to move to a small town on the Western frontier. The townsfolk are desperate for someone more skilled in medicine than the local barber, but they're distrustful of a woman doctor, so Dr. Mike has to fight to prove she's a skilled physician. Shortly after she arrives in Colorado, a dying woman begs Dr. Mike to take care of her three children, Matthew, Colleen, and Brian, so she inherits a ready-made family. There's a blossoming romance, too, between Dr. Mike and Sully, a man who adopted the ways of the Cheyenne indians after his wife and baby died.
This is a family show, so it's on the wholesome side---meaning no foul language, explicit sex, or graphic violence---but that doesn't mean it's unrealistically clean. For example, the saloon owner smokes cigars and has several prostitutes working for him. Indeed, one of the secondary characters is a prostitute. The show doesn't shy away from hardcore issues, like racial prejudice, homosexualtiy, the brutal treatment of Native Americans, and so on. That said, it does tend to dilute history at times, at least in some episodes, with unrealistic portrayals of the integration between whites and ex-slaves.
Some of the episodes in the first season appear to be aired out of order. For example, in the 11th or 12th episode, Matthew meets a young woman named Ingrid, and they introduce themselves to each other as if they've never met . . . even though in the 3rd or 4th episode, Matthew and Ingrid are courting. It's like the writers totally forgot that the characters were already well acquainted, or else the episodes were produced in the wrong order. This happens more than once, which can be confusing if you're watching for the first time.
I loved this show when I was a teenager, and I still rewatch it every so often. However, my biggest peeve is the costuming. If I recall, the costume designer actually won an award for her work in this show, but the costumes are NOT historically accurate! It's set in the late 1860s, yet none of the women wear corsets or hoop skirts. The undergarments that are occasionally shown are all wrong for the time period. The dresses don't have the right silhouettes, or seams, or details. Some have obvious zippers down the back! On rare occasions, Dr. Mike dresses more formally, such as for a town dance, and these outfits tend to be a lot better than her everyday clothing, but there are still issues. Partway through the first season, for example, she dons a lovely pale blue gown, which is extremely detailed and fairly accurate . . . but the style is from the early to mid-1870s, not the 1860s! I'm sure that 99% of the people watching won't notice or care that the costumes aren't period-correct, but as a historical costumer, it's glaringly obvious to me.
Despite the costuming issues, this is a great TV show. The storytelling is excellent and the episodes are usually well-written. The characters are interesting and have depth. There are some famous guest stars, like Johnny Cash. If you're looking for a show that's not filled with graphic sex and violence, but that doesn't shy away from serious issues, give Dr. Quinn a try. There's six seasons in all, plus two made-for-TV movies, and a bunch of novels.