Spoilers: While the television show ER lost some of its finest cast members in the preceding years, including founders Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies and the great Eriq LaSalle, it also gained some high calibre acting talent in the process.
Noah Wyle takes charge following the death of Mark Greene (in season eight), while Laura Innes's Kerry Weaver (a great characterization) continues with her usual ambitious plans, facing health and moral dilemmas on the way. Maura Tierney ably continues her role as Abby Lockhart, with Goran Visnjic maintaining his rebel ways. Newcomer Mekhi Phifer receives a top billing credit for his part as Gregory Pratt and although he has his moments, Sharif Atkins takes the upper hand with his portrayal of the likable Michael Gallant. Alex Kingston, a staple of the series has little to do this season while Sherry Stringfield returns as Susan Lewis, displaying some fine moments including a nice friendship with a terminal cancer patient. Ming-Na returns as Jing-Mei Chen, turning up the heat with her relationship with Pratt.
Season nine however, is highlighted by the brilliance of the underrated Paul McCrane. McCrane's Robert Romano faces a hard road to recovery after a devastating accident in the season opening. Though previously considered the shows 'villain', McCrane's character (who previously had few redeeming features other than his brilliance as a surgeon) is fleshed out more during season nine. With a more deeply felt characterization, McCrane gets the opportunity to display some brilliant acting talent, with a mix of the poignant and a touch of his trademark satiric wit. His friendship with Alex Kingston steps up a notch, with the two sharing a great mutual respect after years of relative hostility. It is a touching friendship.
Frances Sternhagen's Millicent Carter (John Carter's grandmother) is also worthy of a mention. First appearing in 1997, Sternhagen contributed to some great episodes and her pairing with Wyle left some great moments in the series history. This season is also graced with the presence of some great character actors including Bruce Weitz and Don Cheadle as a doctor in training with Parkinson's disease. On the whole, season nine is filled with solid work from all cast members and is a vast improvement over season seven and eight.