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‘Dr. Quinn’ Ended 25 Years Ago, But the Story Continued On-Screen and Off

It’s an understatement to say fans were upset when CBS canceled Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman 25 years ago.

“I got more letters on that show than on all the rest of the shows I’ve canceled combined,” Les Moonves, then CBS Television’s president and CEO, told the Deseret News at the time.

Nevertheless, the network upheld Dr. Quinn’s cancellation, citing declining ratings and an aging fanbase. And so the Season 6 finale, “A New Beginning,” which aired on May 16, 1998, became the series finale.

But that episode wasn’t the end of the Dr. Quinn story. Since then, CBS has produced a pair of TV movies, fans, and novelists have advanced the show’s narrative in prose form, and star Jane Seymour started campaigning for a reboot. Doctor’s orders: Keep reading to see how creators have expanded upon the original show in the last quarter-century.

The TV movies

Following the original series’ cancelation, CBS aired two TV movies with Seymour once again playing Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn, a Boston-raised physician practicing medicine in 19th-century Colorado Springs.

In 1999’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Movie, written by Josef Anderson, she and husband Byron Sully (Joe Lando) travel to Mexico to rescue kidnapped daughter Katie (Kaile Zaretsky).

And in 2001’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Heart Within, written by Dr. Quinn creator Beth Sullivan, the couple heads to Boston, where Dr. Mike finds her mother gravely ill and Sully finds himself the target of an assassination plot.

The spinoff pilot

In 1997, CBS produced a spinoff pilot called California featuring William Shockley’s saloon owner Hank Lawson, as well as a love interest played by Laura Harring and a sheriff played by James Brolin.

“The California spin-off series was an excellent show,” Shockley said in a later interview, according to the fan site The DQ Times. “Beth Sullivan wrote California, and the story took Hank Lawson from Colorado to Los Angeles. The show was never aired by CBS, and to this day, I don’t know why. Beth wrote a fabulous script, and the actors that were involved in California were great.”

The novels

Starting when Dr. Quinn was still on the air and continuing afterward, authors like Teresa Warfield, Colleen O’Shaughnessy McKenna, and Dorothy Laudan released novels based on the series.

In 1998, for example, Warfield’s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: Growing Pains hit bookshelves, telling the tale of Dr. Mike balancing her motherhood duties with an influx of new patients. The following year, Laudan published Dr. Quinn, Ärztin aus Leidenschaft: Zeit der Erwartung, a German-language book in which a pregnant Michaela treats a dysentery outbreak while Sully tries to free a politician’s kidnapped son.

The Funny or Die sketch

She’s not the one who knocks; she’s the one who docs. A 2014 Funny or Die sketch reimagined show as Dr. Quinn, Morphine Woman, with Seymour’s character breaking bad. “The backstory is that after many years of prescribing literally nothing but morphine to her patients, Dr. Quinn has accidentally turned the townspeople into raging addicts,” Jonelle Allen, Dr. Quinn’s Grace, explains in the funny video.

The sketch also reunited Seymour and Allen with Lando, Shockley, and other Dr. Quinn cast members: Orson Bean, Frank Collison, Geoffrey Lower, Henry G. Sanders, Jason Leland Adams, Brandon Douglas, and Alley Mills.

The fan fiction

FanFiction.net hosts more than 900 works of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman fan fiction, the most-favorited of which is “A New Love Deserved,” a 161,478-word story by user Linda Ellen.

“A journal tells of true love in the past, but does it hold clues to the future?” Ellen writes in the synopsis. “Mother Nature thought that Sully and Michaela’s love was so perfect, she decided to allow it to happen again for a couple in another generation.”

The proposed reboot

Recently, Seymour has been lobbying for a Dr. Quinn reboot or revival. “There is a fabulous script Beth Sullivan has written,” she told TV Insider last year. “They are still trying to get it made. As a series, we would take it 30 years later. So it would be at the turn of the century, which would make it more interesting where the women’s movement began.”

The premise would see Dr. Mike decades into her relationship with Sully, and their adult daughter joining her in the field of medicine. “So now I think it’s the relationship of three generations,” Seymour added. “How does a grandmother, who I am now, deal with a daughter who is following in her footsteps and probably thinks she is outdated? I think you would see the different generations and what is seen as progress and what is seen as tradition and what is seen as experience.”

With any luck, the doctor will be “in” on TV sometime soon!

This story originally appeared on TV Insider

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