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ER: Season 15 - Dream Runner (Review)

ER, Neela

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from our favourite television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we’ve decided to take a look at each episode of the 15th and final season of ER. On this occasion, it’s the twelfth episode, entitled Dream Runner.

What’s the story? After a long night of being on call, Neela (Parminder Nagra) dreams in the surgical call room, musing about the nature of her profession; the hard part is making the best decisions possible and letting go of what you can’t control. Neela’s pager and phone go off at 5am, waking her up. After wishing Ray a happy birthday, Neela runs to the bedside of sickle cell patient Anastasia, who’s had a bad night.

Why so good? ER has never been one to shirk away from experimentation, or dropping in the odd standalone episode that breaks with convention. A road trip between Mark Greene and Doug Ross (Anthony Edwards and George Clooney) offered one such early highlight. A guest appearance by James Woods another. And several episodes in war-ravaged countries featuring the likes of Dr Carter (Noah Wyle) others.

Dream Runner is another that can now be added to that bracker… albeit that it represented a slightly less satisfying attempt at shaking up the normality.

Call it the Sliding Doors/Groundhog Day version of ER for easier understanding… Dream Runner unfolded three times, in three different ways, with virtually the same outcomes.

Each dream sequence was geared towards saving the life of a trauma patient brought in having dream run through a window himself, as well as sickle cell patient Anastasia who died in two of the three sequences due to complications and mis-diagnosis.

At the centre of it all was Neela, questioning her judgements and the difficulty of life in the ER. Mentoring her was Dr. Lucien Dubenko (the ever excellent and under-rated Leland Orser), while bumping into her midway through each day was the returning Dr. Simon Brenner (David Lyons).

Sandwiched in the middle, meanwhile, were two meetings with another former ER regular, Dr. Elizabeth Corday (Alex Kingston), who was interviewing Neela for another medical position.

It was good to see Corday, whose character had decided to return to America after a brief stint in England, and a nice reminder of another old favourite. Likewise, the different ways the medical dilemmas played out always made for interesting viewing. Could Anastasia ever be saved?

Likewise, the fallout from the day had repercussions for several other characters. In one version, Dr Banfield (Angela Bassett) quit; in another Neela and Brenner ended up in bed.

The big question was… which version of events would be real? If any… and so it was that as the alarm rang for Neela for the fourth and final time, we had to suppose that nothing had actually happened. That Anastasia still had her fateful day ahead of her, and Brenner and Neela had not enjoyed their illicit night of passion.

It was a good, watchable, thought-provoking excursion into what if scenarios, but it lacked the satisfying resolution that we’re accustomed to. In trying to be different, it proved slightly unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, it deserves credit for trying, while the issues it raised were explored in typically intelligent fashion. A noble failure, but a still honourable addition to this 15th and final season…

Read our review of the previous episode

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