Episode: 5.1

Title: Three Doctors

Written by: Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Directed by: Dan Attias

Aired: September 20, 1993

Log line: The whole town pitches in when Joel is stricken by “Glacier Dropsy”; Ed is confused when he is called to be a shaman; much to her disappointment, Shelly finally stops singing.

Listen to the podcast discussion of the episode here.


On our podcast discussion of this episode, we mentioned how the writers managed to connect the first episode for season five to past episodes of the series, particularly the final episode of the previous season, “Old Tree” (4.25), and “Thanksgiving” (4.8).

One aspect of “Three Doctors” we didn’t mention is its abundant use of medical language. Joel uses medical jargon throughout his first scene, even though it clearly baffles the patient (and the viewers). He could have (and should have) used the common names for conditions and medication. Instead of saying “aspirin” and “four times a day”, he says “salicylates” and “QID.” 5-1-joel-technical01 5-1-joel-technical02 5-1-joel-technical03 5-1-joel-technical04 5-1-joel-technical05 5-1-joel-technical06 5-1-joel-technical07 5-1-joel-technical08 5-1-joel-technical09Throughout the episode, he tells anyone who will listen that glacier dropsy doesn’t exist because he’s “a specialist in internal medicine” and has never heard of it.

5-1-joel-educated015-1-joel-educated02a 5-1-joel-educated025-1-joel-educated03 5-1-joel-no-dropsySimilarly, he dismisses any sort of “old wives’ remedies” to “treat a fictitious illness.” So, he spurns a birch leaf plaster, salmonberry tea, camphor, a sulphur wrap, kvass, etc.

5-1-joel-birch-leaf-plaster 5-1-joel-camphor 5-1-joel-snake-oilLeonard is the one character who tries to appeal to Joel by transitioning from medical observation (and technical language) into a discussion of glacier dropsy, but Joel isn’t interested.


Eventually, Neil Weisberg diagnoses him as having Coxiella burnetii, which Joel is already certain he doesn’t have. When Joel disagrees with his diagnosis (in an hallucination), Dr. Neil Weisberg puts him in his place, asking “Who’s the infectious disease man here, you or me?” He really puts him in his place by deploying the medical jargon Joel uses on his patients to assert his superiority. And to add insult to injury, Dr. Neil even tells him to take the medication “QID”, just as Joel told his patient to take his medication near the start of the episode.

5-1-joel-coxiella01 5-1-joel-coxiella02 5-1-joel-coxiella03 5-1-joel-coxiella04

5-1-neil-technical01 5-1-neil-technical02 5-1-neil-technical03 5-1-neil-technical04 5-1-neil-technical05 5-1-neil-technical06 5-1-neil-technical07As we might expect, Joel gravitates towards salmonberry tea and the folk remedy side of things as he begins to heal. Interestingly, he also brings up the language he used to criticize Maggie (“I said you were a dolt and stupid and all that stuff”). Before leaving this storyline, it’s also worth mentioning how the ways of knowing in this episode overlap with the second episode of the series, “Brains, Know-How and Native Intelligence” (1.2). Here, Joel needs to dispense with his medical knowledge and absorb some of the know-how that people who have experienced glacier dropsy dealt with it. In fact, glacier dropsy could be seen as almost being a rite of passage for Joel, which we learn is “an illness particular to this part of Alaska” that “everybody gets sooner or later.” Joel is becoming more and more of a Cicelian, whether he likes it or not.


In the story of the episode’s titular third doctor (Dr. Chigliak), we can’t help pointing out the interesting wardrobe choices we see Ed wear, from pajama-clad tree-hugger to blazer-wearing preserve-toting shaman-to-be to the casual look he usually rocks with leather jacket, jeans and sneaks.

5-1-ed-tree5-1-ed-leonard015-1-ed-leonard-suit 5-1-ed-river

Songs from the episode’s original airing:

  • Bille Holiday – I Wished on the Moon
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    Chris counsels Ed about waking up in a place and not knowing how you got there.
  • Carlene Carter – Heart is Right
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    Ruth-Anne, Joel, and Holling talk about Joel’s familiar symptoms.
  • A. Paul Ortega and Joanne Shenandoah – Sweetheart
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    Final scene where Ed walks along the river.


Themes / Recurrences: Birth; dreams; afflictions and diagnoses; healing

The Good: We love the return of Leonard, who has helped Shelly in a crisis for the third time in a row. His interaction with Ed and Joel are wonderfully amusing.

The Bad: Although we don’t hate the latest development in Ed’s life, we question why Ed has been called to be a shaman. It seemed a little out of the blue and totally ignores his passion for filmmaking.

The Notable: We notice how characters look pretty different this season. Chris is doing that long-beard biker look, Joel gets a haircut, and Maggie has long hair all of a sudden!

On’s rating: 8 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 8 out of 10.



3 thoughts on “5.1 Three Doctors

    • Hi Keith, I have to admit that we don’t know what music it was replaced with. In general, when the original music is replaced on the official DVDs, it is done with something fairly generic that would be much less expensive than the original music. Moosechick has written about why music was replaced (short answer: it’s mostly about money): http://www.moosechick.com/DVD_music.html. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks for the reply, I figured that was the answer. I also figured out what the replacement song was. Its JELLY’S BLUES by Keith Nichols.it was also used as one of the TCM theme songs. Anyway it’s a great show even if the music is changed. Thank you, Keith

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