Gunsmoke's Sam McTavish, M.D. Episode: Vera Miles Guest Stars

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Gunsmoke's Sam McTavish, M.D. aired on October 5, 1970. Vera Miles stars as Dr. Sam, a female physician who comes to Dodge City and ruffles the local medical establishment in the person of Doc Adams (Milburn Stone).

CBS-TV's Gunsmoke produced 635 episodes from 1955 to 1975. Vera Miles guest stars as "Sam McTavish, M.D.," a female doctor who comes to Dodge City during the beginning of an epidemic.

Gunsmoke's Sam McTavish, M.D.: Cast & Credits

Gerry Day and Bethel Leslie wrote the teleplay for "Sam McTavish, M.D., with Bernard McEveety directing. Regulars, guest stars and supporting players are:

  • Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness)
  • Galen "Doc" Adams (Milburn Stone)
  • Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake)
  • Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis)
  • Newly O'Brian (Buck Taylor)
  • Dr. Samantha "Sam" McTavish (Vera Miles)
  • Barnaby Bascomb (Arch Johnson)
  • Christina Bascomb(Lisa Gerritsen)
  • Ellen Bascomb (Dee Carroll)
  • Minnie Carver (Amzie Strickland)
  • Harley (Tom Fadden)
  • Bridget O'Reilly (Kathleen O'Malley)
  • Sam Noonan (Glenn Strange)
  • Johnson (Harry Harvey)
  • Dan Slade (Read Morgan)
  • Joe Slade (Robert Rothwell)
  • Tom Slade (Lance Thomas)
  • Frank O'Reilly (Glenn Redding)

Vera Miles, Miss Kansas of 1948, from her Hollywood glory years of the 1950s - Warner Bros. 

Sam McTavish, M.D.: Episode Synopsis

Doc Adams is preparing to leave town for several weeks. He has arranged for a replacement – Sam McTavish, M.D. – who has outstanding qualifications as a physician. But when Dr. McTavish walks into Doc's office, greeting him and Festus, the two discover that the replacement doctor is a woman.

The salty, set-in-his ways Doc initially bristles at the arrival of Dr. Sam, telling her that many of his patients simply won't accept a woman doctor. In order to prove him wrong, Dr. Sam accompanies Doc on his rounds. Eventually, Dr. Sam proves her mettle, charming Doc and winning his heart. The two physicians later join forces in treating a family whose members have come down with a mysterious disease linked to dead animals.

Sam McTavish, M.D.: Air Date & Network Competition

"Sam McTavish, M.D." aired over CBS-TV on Monday night, October 5, 1970, in the 7:30-8:30 (ET) time slot. Network competition was The Young Lawyers (ABC) and The Red Skelton Show and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (NBC). Following Gunsmoke on CBS that night was the Lucille Ball sitcom "Here's Lucy.

Sam McTavish, M.D.: Analysis & Review

Gunsmoke strikes a blow for feminism in "Sam McTavish, M.D." The episode begins with Dr. Samantha McTavish at the reins of a buggy, making her way to Dodge City as a temporary replacement for Doc Adams. Along the way Dr. Sam notes the appearance of a dead squirrel, an omen of bad things to come. Entering a settlement outside of Dodge City, Dr. Sam attempts to treat a pregnant woman who is feeling dizzy. The woman's stern husband, Barnaby Bascomb, is having none of it, though, telling the physician, "Was no woman ever born with a head straight enough to do doctoring."

That scene sets the stage for the entire episode, as Dr. Sam battles both prejudice and superstition as she attempts to practice her chosen profession. Vera Miles (1930-) excels in the title role, delivering a bravura performance as the tough, persistent Dr. Sam. Her interaction with Milburn Stone's crusty Doc Adams makes the show. One memorable scene involves one of Doc's patients, the elderly Minnie Carver. Dr. Sam immediately recognizes Minnie's problem – a touch of hypochondria – and prescribes simple sugar pills for her various ailments. 

But things go viral in a hurry in Dodge City, as a mysterious outbreak strikes the town and all of Ford County. Some believe it might be typhus, but Dr. Sam eventually links the disease to dead animals and the fleas who feed off them. While treating the Bascomb family, Dr. Sam comes down with the disease as well, which eventually claims her life.

"Sam McTavish, M.D." provides Milburn Stone as Doc with one of the meatiest roles in his long Gunsmoke career. Not only does Galen (Doc's first name) eventually accept Dr. Sam but he falls in love with her as well. The dying Dr. Sam accepts Doc's marriage proposal just before she takes her final breath. Well, only on television...

"Sam McTavish, M.D." comes from Gunsmoke's 16th season and is episode #519 in the series. It's one of Gunsmoke's finest outings and is currently available for free viewing on YouTube and elsewhere. For the record the first woman in the United States to graduate medical school was the British-born Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910). She received her medical degree from New York's Geneva Medical College in 1849. Gunsmoke is set in the post-Civil War West circa 1875.


Posted on Feb 2, 2012
Posted on Feb 1, 2012