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What year did Doc go off Gunsmoke?


Doc Adams was one of the central characters on the classic Western TV series Gunsmoke, which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975. Portrayed by actor Milburn Stone, Doc was the town physician who tended to the inhabitants of Dodge City. He appeared in an impressive 605 of the show’s 635 episodes over its 20 season run. So when did Doc finally leave the series? Read on to find out the details surrounding Doc’s departure from Gunsmoke.

Doc Adams’ Background on Gunsmoke

Doc Adams was one of the few characters that appeared in the first Gunsmoke radio episode on April 26, 1952. The radio show aired until 1961, with Howard McNear originally voicing the character of Doc.

When Gunsmoke transitioned to television in 1955, the producers decided to go in a different direction and cast film veteran Milburn Stone for the role. Stone’s crusty but warm portrayal of Doc made him a fan favorite.

Doc was the moral compass of Dodge City, acting as a father figure to Marshal Matt Dillon and his friends. He passionately cared for the inhabitants of the town and was always ready to patch up the latest gunshot wound or other injury.

Doc delivered many babies in Dodge City during his time on the show. His medical expertise was invaluable on the dangerous frontier. Doc often had wise advice for Matt Dillon when he faced a dilemma. Their close bond was an endearing part of the series.

When Did Doc Adams Leave Gunsmoke?

After being a constant presence for so many years on the show, Milburn Stone decided it was time to leave Gunsmoke. His 20th and final season on the series was 1974-1975.

During season 20, Doc Adams was written out of the majority of episodes so the producers could transition the character out of the show. He only appeared in 11 of the 24 episodes that season.

Doc’s last episode on Gunsmoke was titled “The Disciple,” which aired on April 1, 1975. In that installment, a new young physician named Dr. John Chapman arrived in Dodge City. He had studied medicine under Doc Adams and had come to town to assist him.

At the end of the episode, Doc decided it was time to leave Dodge and retire. He told Matt Dillon that he was no longer needed now that Dr. Chapman was there to handle the medical duties.

After getting a warm sendoff from Kitty and the rest of his friends, Doc rode out of town for the final time. It marked the on-screen exit for Milburn Stone’s beloved character after nearly 20 years.

Why Did Milburn Stone Leave Gunsmoke?

There were a few reasons why Milburn Stone decided to leave Gunsmoke in 1975 after two decades:

– Exhaustion – The grueling schedule of filming a weekly television series had taken its toll over 20 years. Stone was simply tired and ready to retire from acting.

– Health issues – Stone had some ongoing health problems including a heart condition that made the rigors of filming more difficult.

– Cancellation fears – With the show’s ratings dropping, Stone was worried CBS might abruptly cancel Gunsmoke without giving them a chance to wrap up storylines. He wanted to exit gracefully while he still could.

– Missed opportunities – Stone had been so busy with the show that he regretted not having time to pursue other roles and projects over the years. He hoped to have more time in retirement.

Though Milburn Stone was ready to leave, saying goodbye to beloved Doc Adams was difficult for everyone involved with Gunsmoke. They had become like family over two decades together.

When Did Gunsmoke End Its Run on TV?

After Doc Adams made his exit in 1975, Gunsmoke aired for one more partial season without him:

– 1975-1976 – The final season, number 20, was just 8 episodes long. It aired from September to March 1976.

The series finale of Gunsmoke, titled “The Sharecroppers,” aired on March 31, 1976. After a 20 year run, the show concluded with Matt Dillon finally leaving Dodge City for a new life.

Gunsmoke was cancelled by CBS because the network wanted to appeal to a younger audience. Despite still having decent ratings for a drama, it skewed older and was costly to produce.

When it ended, Gunsmoke was the longest-running primetime live-action drama series in TV history. Its record lasted for two decades before being surpassed by Law & Order in 2003.

Gunsmoke today remains beloved as one of the greatest Westerns in television history. Its characters, including Doc Adams, live on in television lore.

Why Didn’t They Replace Doc Adams?

When Milburn Stone departed Gunsmoke in 1975, the producers did not cast a new permanent doctor to replace his role as Doc Adams.

There are a few reasons a new town physician was not brought in after Doc’s exit:

– Difficulty recasting – Stone had embodied the role of Doc so perfectly that it was hard to imagine another actor successfully stepping in.

– Show was ending – With the end imminent after 20 seasons, introducing a new character so late didn’t make sense.

– Focus on core cast – The show wanted to concentrate on properly wrapping up the stories of the core cast members – Matt, Kitty, Festus, and Newly.

– No time to establish character – There were only 11 more episodes after Doc left. That was too little time to establish a new doctor for the audience to get attached to.

– Dr. Chapman introduced – The episode where Doc departed brought in the new young Dr. Chapman, who was intended as a temporary fill-in. The producers felt that was sufficient for the final season.

While it would have been difficult to imagine Gunsmoke without Milburn Stone as Doc, the producers made the right call to not try replacing him directly. Keeping the focus on the main original cast for the final season was the fitting decision. The show had been centered around Doc and his friends for 20 years, so that’s how it ended.

The Impact of Doc Adams’ Departure

When Doc Adams took his final bow on Gunsmoke in 1975, it significantly impacted the show:

– Shift in tone – Without Doc’s warm, comforting presence, the tone grew slightly more somber. The core four characters seemed more isolated.

– Less ensemble focus – Much of the show had revolved around Doc’s interactions with Matt, Kitty, and the others. His absence shifted the energy more exclusively onto Marshall Dillon.

– Decline in ratings – Not having Doc in those final episodes contributed to the ratings dropping as viewers missed seeing Stone each week.

– Major character missing – For almost the entire run, Doc had been central to the heart and soul of the show. Not having him there left a major void.

– The end of an era – To many viewers, Doc leaving signaled the inevitable end of the series. It was hard to imagine the show lasting much longer without him.

Milburn Stone was greatly missed after his character exited Gunsmoke. As one of the few constants throughout its 20-year, 635-episode run, Doc Adams had become an American TV icon. His departure left a hole in the series and ultimately closed the book on that unforgettable chapter in television history.


After 20 years bringing the beloved Dr. Galen “Doc” Adams to life on Gunsmoke, Milburn Stone filmed his final episode on April 1, 1975. Though ready to retire, saying farewell to the show and Dodger City was difficult for Stone. Doc rode off to retirement and a new physician took over the medical duties in Dodge.

Gunsmoke ended its historic television run just one year later in 1976. The departure of an original stalwart like Doc Adams left a void for that final season. His comforting presence and fatherly wisdom had been a central part of the show’s magic since its inception on radio in 1952.

For millions of Western fans, Milburn Stone will forever be remembered as Doc Adams – the heart and soul of Gunsmoke during its glory days. Doc’s impact was immense, which is why his exit from Dodge City truly marked the end of an era.