Our rating: 4 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
Surprisingly, the marriage of Michaela and Sully did not put a dent in the ratings when the fourth season of Dr. Quinn returned. Some feared it would be the end of the romantic tension, and in some respects it rid audiences of their anticipation, but made up for it with an excellent follow up season full of surprises.
Returning from their honeymoon to the bustling small town of Colorado Springs, Dr. Michaela Quinn (Jane Seymour) and Sully (Joe Lando) are stunned with the changes that have taken place in their absence. The most notable newcomer to the town since the arrival of the railroad is the fast-talking Preston (Jason Leland Adams), a banker who quickly convinces a number of locals that a bank loan with inflated interest would be favorable to their growing businesses. Full of flattery and plans of ultimately building a hotel and casino not far from the hot springs, Preston makes it clear that he intends to remain no matter how many people dislike him and his underhanded business practices. Michaela also struggles to keep her children in hand, as both Colleen (Jessica Bowman) and Brian (Shawn Toovey) feel excluded from her newfound happiness with Sully.
When misfortune strikes the family, Matthew (Chad Allen) must contend with the emotional consequences of a devastating loss, which leads him to become increasingly erratic and have little concern for his life. It seems that Michaela has more to contend with than her practice, particularly as she struggles with her desire to have a child while fearing she is too old to bear one safely. There is some angst this season, most of it revolving around the extremely sad "Brother's Keeper," but for the most part the episodes have an uplifting series of conclusions that only serve to make us fonder of the townspeople, from the adoption of a local orphan into the home of a hurting family, to the women of Colorado Springs who decide to climb Pike's Peak to prove they can do it. In "Traveling All-Stars," we even get to see Cloud Dancing steal second and third base in a baseball game!
Jessica Bowman replaced Erika Flores in the middle of the third season as Colleen, and it is only here that she truly begins to shine, as the audience becomes accustomed to her more demure approach to the character. She carries off Colleen's dreams and desires very well and plays off the rest of the cast without issue. And as much as I hate to say it, the introduction of Preston was brilliant. His new brand of complete and utter jerk makes former "bad guys" Jake and Hank look like perfect gentlemen. One cannot help despising him when he cuts down the Kissing Tree, and intentionally tries to provoke Sully into a brawl while on a rescue mission after a kidnapping. Matthew also becomes the town sheriff, which allows him to have more screen time. There is some light content present but most of it is contained in the episode "Mothers and Daughters," which involves a lot of implied bedroom antics between the newlyweds.
There is not much else worth mentioning, although Matthew does start to have feelings for a local prostitute, which displeases his family even though their relationship remains innocent. Sometimes the absurdity of the show can be blatantly obvious, such as how Michaela and her friends can climb Pike's Peak in between Halloween and Thanksgiving in light jackets (I'm sorry, but Pike's Peak is normally under four feet of snow that time of year, it's certainly not green and the water is far too cold to go splashing about in without getting hypothermia), and even occasionally politically correct (like when Matthew declares Colorado Springs a gun-free zone as his first act as sheriff; he doesn't even carry one, unlike the significantly wiser lawmen of the time). in "Hearts and Minds," Sully, Cloud Dancing, and Michaela all object to the reverend acting as a missionary to the Indian children. A resolution is reached in which he is "allowed" share his faith only if the Indians can also present theirs.
It is not always perfect, but just about every episode contains some message about the importance of family, friendship, and compassion for other people. Dorothy learns the hard way that words can hurt other people, while Michaela must discover how to balance her personal life with the responsibilities of motherhood and the demands of her clinic. It was and still is an excellent show with good values that leaves you with a lot to think about by its conclusion.