Sunday, January 11, 2009


When Milburn Stone suffered a heart attack in 1971, Pat Hingle joined the cast of 'Gunsmoke' as Dr. John Chapman. For 6 episodes he served as a place-holder until Stone was well enough to return as Dr. Galen Adams. Hingle wasn't the first to serve in that capacity on a TV series, as others who have taken on the place-holder position include Charles Aidman and William Schallert (among others) for Ross Martin on 'The Wild, Wild West' and John Williams for Sebastian Cabot on 'Family Affair'. Since that time, Anthony John Denison and William Russ took up the load for Ken Wahl on 'Wiseguy'.

I know what you're thinking: well, that's not very Toobworldly enough to make a special post, and you're right. There was another reason why I wanted to write about Dr. John Chapman, and it concerns the Toobworld subject of reincarnation. Toobworld Central is taking the position that Dr. John Chapman was "born to rerun" as another character who had a moment to shine almost 100 years after Chapman's glory days in Dodge City.

Of course, none of this can be verified; it's all just another crackpot theory from yours truly.

For most of the episodes in which Dr. Chapman appeared on 'Gunsmoke', he was blended in with the rest of the cast, merely serving in the stead of Doc Adams; doing what Doc would have done in that script. But for his first episode, the focus was on Dr. Chapman.

Here's a description of that first episode, courtesy of Peter Harris at the

"Kitty finds and reads a letter from Doc Adams, who has disappeared from Dodge. Doc writes that he was so distraught over the death of a young girl under his care, who was suffering from an illness he didn't know how to treat, that he has gone East to re-enter medical school and catch up on something other than surgery for bullet wounds. (This was actually a ploy to give Milburn Stone, who had suffered a heart attack in the off season, time to fully recover.) Soon a new doctor, Dr. John Chapman, arrives. Chapman is a highly cultured, very standoffish New Orleans dandy. The townspeople treat him with disdain and refuse to see him. Chapman pretends not to care, but his feelings are deeply hurt. It takes an explosion at Newly's gun shop -- and a bone fragment pressing on Newly's brain, causing him to have hallucinations and become a dangerous maniac -- to get people to turn to Chapman for help."

Once he won over the respect and trust of the citizens of Dodge, Dr. Chapman was able to keep the people healthy enough until Doc Adams returned.

Now from this point on, it's pure speculation......

Jump ahead nearly 100 years on the Toobworld timeline. The soul of Dr. John Chapman has been reborn and it's following along many of the same destinies as it had already lived through. Once again a doctor, that soul is confronted again by suspicious townsfolk unwilling to trust their medical concerns to a stranger. But this time, there's an added obstacle to overcome - the people just didn't want to be treated by a woman doctor.
That's right - Dr. John Chapman had been reborn as a woman.

Janet Craig - again with the initials JC*! - came to Hooterville to take over the practice of Dr. Barton Stuart, who was retiring. And once again, the local citizens wanted nothing to do with someone new to the area, mostly because she was a woman. (Perhaps there was some sort of resentment against medicine in general, since it proved useless in saving the life of Kate Bradley.) But without consciously realizing it, Dr. Janet Craig called upon those past experiences as Dr. John Chapman to insinuate herself into their lives.

(Dr. Craig, as played by June Lockhart, is pictured here with the three Bradley girls.)

Like I said, it can't be proven. But at the same time, it can't be disproved, either.

Toby O'B

*That her name was Janet Craig, doesn't mean that was the name she was born with. "Craig" might have been a married name from a former marriage... perhaps even to Dr. Mark Craig of St. Eligius Hospital; a union that was short-lived before he finally married Ellen Craig (as seen on 'St. Elsewhere'). Or she could have been related to Dr. David Craig of 'The Bold Ones'. But I'd like to think that all three of them were part of the same family - maybe not all as siblings, but certainly as cousins in a family dedicated to medicine.

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