November 05, 2008

Episodes 3-8 of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

More Indian appearances from discs 1-2 of Season 1 of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

Epidemic (episode 3)

In the third episode, a flu epidemic hits the town. When Dr. Quinn runs out of medicine, Sully suggests an Indian brew made of leaves. For the sake of drama, Dr. Quinn is temporarily prejudiced against this form of alternative medicine.

With Dr. Quinn herself get sick, Sully takes her to his friend Cloud Dancing (Larry Sellars). Cloud Dancing performs a respectful and (what looks like a) reasonably authentic healing ceremony. Dr. Quinn recovers and acknowledges the benefits of Indian medicine.

Law of the Land (episode 5)

Sully teaches Brian, who is half naked in feathers and “warpaint,” how to hunt deer. When they find a wounded deer, Sully says they have to put it out of its misery. He tells Brian the Cheyenne believe that if you take the deer's last breath, its spirit will live on. Brian convinces him to spare the deer so Dr. Quinn can heal it.

Later, Dr. Quinn has to convince Brian to set the deer free. Sully tells him the Cheyenne believe that wild animals should be, er, wild—that you should take them only if you need food. (Ironically, this comes from a man who owns a pet wolf.)

Father’s Day (episode 7)

Sully distrusts horses but Cloud Dancing teaches him how to ride. Cloud Dancing sprinkles the lessons with Indian wisdom such as thinking of the horse as a friend.

Incidentally, the Sellars character was named Black Hawk in the pilot episode. But I guess Cloud Dancing is a more soothing and spiritual name.

What it means

The medicine bit in Episode 3 is noteworthy for being about the only real depiction of Indian culture (so far).

True, the Indians and their friend Sully speak Cheyenne or a reasonable facsimile. They look the part, with buckskin clothes but no plethora of bare chests or feathers. But so far they’re present mainly as background color—as props, so to speak. It's not clear they'll get much face time as interesting and complex individuals.

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