I received a box set of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman as a gift one Christmas about five years ago. I confess that I’ve nearly watched the grooves right off the dvd’s. After a “rough day at the office” I retreated to Dr. Quinn’s Colorado Springs. Each episode featured three storylines (a primary and two relevant subplots) that explored an issue and ended with some kind of satisfying resolution.
The characters shared interesting histories and they each had a backstory that evoked empathy despite their sometimes bad behavior. As a writer, I strive to recognize such patterns. Now, I draft a short bio for each character I write about to ensure that they are three dimensional. I want write about characters who do more than drive a plot.
The characters in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman grew and evolved throughout the six year series: they loved and lost; they succeeded and failed. Their journeys conveyed something beyond the story of a particular episode. What follows is the lesson I took from each character:
Michaela — Be thankful for gutsy, educated women who press the boundaries of her gender. They pave the road for those who follow. Let your conscience guide you even though it recommends counterintuitive courses of action that inconvenience you. Take the higher road. Never discount the value of people who shake their fist at the ivory tower. We need them. They are the canary in the mineshaft. “Sometimes the only place for a just man is behind bars.” (Michaela quotes Henry David Thoreau.)
Sully — Sweat-equity is not a new concept. There are many ways to live; you don’t need to be a sheep. In the end, a person’s word and good character is all he/she has. The truth will set you free. Tolerance equals not acceptance and actions speak louder than words.
Matthew — Pride does goeth before a fall. Be willing to admit your weaknesses and accept help from others. You will grow, but it will take time. Anger alienates so allow yourself to feel it, then let it go and move on.
Brian — There is value in the innocence of children that must be preserved. We shouldn’t coddle our children or lower our expectations of them, but we shouldn’t burden them with adult worries. Childhood ends soon enough. Let them enjoy theirs.
Colleen — If you are a bright and capable woman, don’t hide it. A strong man will love you and the right people will appreciate you for who you are if you let it show. False love based on a pretend you falls away quickly. If you believe you can do something, you can.
Dorothy — Being informed is important. Recording your feelings is important. A woman should never settle for a life of violence because she is told she deserves nothing more. Age doesn’t dictate capability; many adventures start late in life.
Cloud Dancing — Prejudice ends when we learn about other people’s culture. Spirituality looks different for different people, but it affords peace and calmness. Resilience is necessary in the face of change. Stewardship of the environment and conscious living have been important issues throughout history.
Mr. Bray — A gruff exterior is often covering a soft interior. Never hold a grudge. Anger will eat away at you. There is no profit in taking advantage of others.
Jake — Forgiving is not forgetting, but it will allow you to move ahead with your life. Anger turned inward will tear you down.
The Reverend — The church is not the building; it’s the people in it.
Hank — Even the greatest villain has a backstory — some have a gentler side. Nurture the child within. There is no such thing as making a quick buck. Never sell your soul. Remember the golden rule.
Preston — You can’t live in someone else’s shadow. Social status and wealth are hollow without friends. No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Horace — Common sense is important. Know how to keep a secret. Dependability is paramount. Accept help when people offer it; someday, you can return the favour.
Myra — Your profession is what you do; it’s not who you are. Your past doesn’t have to way you down. It can propel you forward.
Grace — Turn to friends it times of trouble, not away from them. Judge not.
Robert E. — Be a friend and trustworthy confidant. Quiet courage is stronger than bravado.
Michaela, I’ll keep a fire burning at the homestead, just in case you drop by for a Sasparilla and some girl talk. We have a lot of catching up to do.