Thursday, July 02, 2009

Remote Rewind: Epidemic Proportions

With all the recent talk of "pandemics" and flu outbreaks and what would we do on a global level to prevent something deadly from spreading around the world at lightning speeds, this week's edition of "Remote Rewind" is going to seem very timely. Actually, one of the things that I always enjoyed about Dr. Quinn was the way it took place more than 100 years ago, but still managed to make stories relevant to today. Back in the 1870s, the concern wasn't over pandemics, it was over epidemics (as most outbreaks were contained to single areas with little threat of them rapidly spreading around the country and then the world as they are today). And the one that struck the most fear into the hearts of townsfolk everywhere was Influenza (and yes, 140 years later, we're still freaking out over the flu -- be it swine, avian or other). Entire towns could be wiped out because this thing would come in and take over. Sterilization wasn't what it is today, but even more so, the research on how disease spreads wasn't there yet. Those infected were quarantined and those lucky enough to stay healthy stayed away from the quarantined buildings full of the sick and dying. Unfortunately for Michaela, she was right in the middle of the quarantine. She was managing fevers, blotting away sweating foreheads, setting up bed after bed after bed, triaging as best she could all while looking after three young children.

The strain took its toll, and it wasn't too long before she came down with the Influenza. She was worn down, under-rested and over-worked while being exposed to a growing number of infected patients. She quickly became bedridden and her medicines were having little to no effect on her worsening condition. Sully stood by helplessly as the flu seemed to grip tighter. DQ was full of "little moments:" brief, fleeting moments that managed to speak volumes. One of those moments happened right there in Michaela's clinic. While the women sponged off her back (in another effort to lower her fever), Sully waited in the hall and he couldn't help but to watch from beyond the door. This wasn't a "creepy Peeping Tom" or "typical guy" kind of watching -- he was drawn to her whether it was his worry that if he looked away she might slip away or just his very strong developing feelings for her -- he was locked on her and knew he had to do something fast.

He took her to Cloud Dancing, a local Cheyenne medicine man (and one of my favorite characters!), who was able to use "Indian Medicine" to bring her fever down and eventually rid her body of the flu. This little turn of events was hugely important for two reasons: 1) it most definitely established Sully's feelings for Michaela and his willingness to do whatever it takes to save her life (a theme we see repeated by both Sully and Michaela throughout the entire series), and 2) it introduced Michaela to "Indian Medicine" and all of the untapped potential it held. In fact, it is this moment that leads Michaela to introduce the remedies into her practice, save her mother's life, and shape the rest of her story as the town's first female doctor. So, out of a terrible epidemic, comes some very important themes for the continuing fabric of the show.

Feeling nostalgic for Dr. Mike, Sully and the rest of the residents of Colorado Springs? Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Complete Series is now available on DVD. Screencaps courtesy Official DQMW Web site.

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