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ER - Complete Season 9

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FANS of the American medical series ER will be pleased to hear that Season 9 is now available to buy on DVD. So for those of you who have forgotten what went on, here’s a recap.

The season begins where Season 8 left off – with Abby (Maura Tierney), Carter (Noah Wyle), Chen (Ming-Na) and Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) confined in the ER following a suspected case of smallpox. Meanwhile, on the roof, Romano’s (Paul McCrane) arm is severed below the elbow by the tail rotor of a helicopter; a scene made doubly shocking by it’s sheer unexpectedness. It’s a storyline that continues throughout the season and is played out superbly by McCrane.

As a matter of interest, for the sake of continuity, Haleh (Yvette Freeman) does not appear in this episode (Chaos Theory) simply because she lost 117 pounds in weight during the break from filming. But it’s in this premiere episode that Pratt becomes a series regular.

The season also has its share of guest stars. Sally Field, for example, reprises her role as Maggie Wyczenski, Abby’s mother, in four episodes involving her son Eric (Tom Everett Scott) and was once again nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, an award she actually won in 2001.

Similarly, Don Cheadle who guests as troubled surgical resident Paul Nathan, a victim of Parkinson’s disease, was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Watch out too for real life husband and wife, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, playing an elderly married couple in A Boy Falling Out of the Sky.

Luka (Goran Visnjic) has a troubled season. Missing Abby (Hindsight) and aware that she’s now with Carter (Dead Again), he not only becomes addicted to sex but also developes an attitude problem. And if that isn’t enough, there’s the M&M following his involvement in the Rick Kendrick case in which a patient is left brain dead (Hindsight).

All of which culminates in his temporarily leaving the ER to work in the Congo (Foreign Affairs). However, it doesn’t mark his departure from the series as in the following episode When Night Meets Day, he calls Carter and asks for help. The result is a season finale (Kisangani) set almost entirely in Africa and centred around the two men’s efforts to set up an immunization programme there – filmed incidentally, in Hawaii.

Good as this episode most certainly is, I can’t help wondering why the powers-that-be found it necessary to make so dramatic a change to such a successful format, particularly as other regulars, Weaver (Laura Innes) for instance, had engrossing on-going storylines of their own.

And that’s not to mention the diverse and intriguing range of cases – terminal cancer and a question of ethics (who to save – mother or unborn child?), syphillis, child and sexual abuse, Huntington’s disease and a patient with a perpetual erection – to name but a few.

As always with ER, performances are convincing and storylines strong, which is why it’s so addictive. And there is, of course, much more to Season 9 than I have room to mention – but I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that. Suffice to say, this DVD won’t disappoint.