John Carter (ER)

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John Carter
ER character
Dr carter.jpg
Noah Wyle as John Carter
First appearance September 19, 1994
(Pilot, "24 Hours")
Last appearance April 2, 2009
(15x22 "And in the End...")
Portrayed by Noah Wyle
Duration 1994–2005, 2006, 2009
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Physician
Title County General:
Medical student (1994–96)
Intern (1996–98)
Resident (1998–2001)
Chief Resident (2001–03)
Attending physician (2003-2009)
Other:
Chairman of The Carter Family Foundation
(2003–present)
NGO Volunteer
(2003, 2005–08)
Family John "Jack" Carter Jr. (father)
Eleanor Carter (mother)
Robert "Bobby" Carter (brother, deceased)
Florence (sister, mentioned)
Spouse(s) Makemba Likasu (wife)
Children Joshua Makalo Carter (son, with Makemba; stillborn)
Relatives John Carter Sr. (grandfather, deceased)
Millicent "Gamma" Carter (grandmother, deceased)
Chase Carter (cousin)
Born June 4, 1970[1]

Dr. John Truman Carter III, portrayed by Noah Wyle, is a fictional character from the American television series ER. The character, called simply "Carter" by most other characters, is introduced in the pilot episode and appears for eleven consecutive seasons. Wyle decided to leave the show as a regular character at the conclusion of season 11, despite offers to stay.[2] He cited a budding family and an already lengthy tenure on the show as reasons. Carter was then written out of the show by moving to Africa and marrying his love interest, Makemba Likasu, in the episode "The Show Must Go On".

Noah Wyle agreed to make two four-episode appearances in Seasons 12 and 13. While he did so in Season 12, his Season 13 episodes were pushed back a year to season 14. Because of the WGA Strike, ER was renewed for a 15th season (it was originally slated to end after Season 14), during which Wyle appeared in five episodes as part of the show's plan to bring back former regulars.

Character history[edit]

Carter arrived at County General as a third-year medical student. He gets off to a rocky start when on his first day at County, he nearly vomits in the emergency room after seeing a critically wounded patient and has to be consoled by Chief Resident Dr. Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards).

Making up for his lack of superior ability, Carter shares a dedicated and compassionate approach with his patients. Initially interested in surgery, he switches to the ER, much to his surgeon mentor Dr. Peter Benton's initial dismay and disappointment. During his surgical residency Carter lamented the lack of patient connections and specifically regretted the lack of thorough follow-up and care.

In order for Carter to change from his surgical residency to an emergency medicine residency, he agrees to work for free. He is part of an influential and wealthy family and does not need to work, enabling County General to take him on despite its lack of funding for an additional position. As a resident his confidence grows, and he often goes out of the way to help patients.

Carter being held at gunpoint by guerrillas in the Congo.

Season 6–7[edit]

During Season 6, Carter and his friend and medical student Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) are stabbed by patient Paul Sobricki (David Krumholtz), a law student suffering from schizophrenia. Knight dies from her injuries while Carter's injuries leave him with lifelong kidney problems. As a result of Carter's chronic battle with pain, survivor guilt, and resistance to getting help, he eventually develops a narcotic addiction and begins making mistakes at work. After Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) catches him injecting left-over fentanyl from a trauma into his wrist, Carter's colleagues hold an intervention and Dr. Greene demands that he go to an inpatient rehab center for medical doctors in Atlanta or be fired. Although initially opposed to going, Dr. Benton convinces him and boards the plane with him.

Upon returning from rehab in Season 7, Carter makes peace with his brain-damaged heroin-addict cousin, Chase, and apologizes for his long absence, saying, "I didn't want to admit to the fact that I was just like you." At the end of the season, Kerry Weaver returns Carter's application for Chief Resident because of his history of addiction.

Season 9–10[edit]

During Season 9, Carter began sleeping with Abby after they were quarantined in the ER for two weeks because of the outbreak of monkeypox. Meanwhile, the health of Carter's grandmother, Millicent (Gamma), continued to decline, and his mother, Eleanor, has difficulty accepting her divorce from Carter's father, Jack. Worse, Abby and Carter continue to disagree over whether or not Abby (a recovering alcoholic) should be drinking at all, even moderately. These personal issues come to a head when Abby's bipolar brother Eric reappears the day Gamma dies. Abby giving precedence to her duty as a sister marks the beginning of the end of Carter and Abby's relationship.

Unable to shake his grief, Carter decides to join Dr. Kovač in Congo without Abby's support. While there, he mends his previous rift with Kovač (due to their feelings for Abby) and they begin to understand one another better. When the clinic is overrun by a militia, Carter is threatened by guerrilla soldiers.

He returns two weeks later in Season 10. When Kovač is reported killed in Africa, Carter goes back to retrieve his body but finds Kovač ill with malaria. He arranges for Kovač to be sent home, and sends a letter for Abby ending their relationship. Dr. Carter remains in Africa for several months and works in Kem's AIDS clinic. Carter and Kem develop a relationship and when she becomes pregnant he asks her to accompany him to Chicago where he introduces her to his colleagues.

Kem's pregnancy ends tragically at eight months forcing her to give birth to a stillborn son in the episode "Midnight", much to her and Carter's overwhelming grief. He is supported emotionally by his father and by his friends Luka Kovač and Abby Lockhart. Kem and Carter's relationship manages to survive.

Season 11–12[edit]

During Season 11, Carter starts building an HIV/AIDS clinic adjacent to County General, with funding from his family's charity foundation. It is named after his stillborn son - "The Joshua Makalo Carter Center." Afterwards, he goes to Paris, where Kem is visiting her mother. They reconnect and he offers to go to Africa with her so they can start afresh. She hesitates but later accepts the offer. Dr. Carter returns to Chicago and bids adieu to his friends and colleagues.

In Season 12, Carter appears in a four episode arc, working with a fellow doctor in Darfur, Sudan, where he is joined by Dr. Pratt and Debbie (Mary McCormack). Pratt informs him that Luka and Abby have reunited and are expecting a baby.

Season 15[edit]

In the Season 15 episode, "The Book of Abby", long-serving nurse Haleh Adams shows the departing Abby Lockhart a closet wall where all the past doctors and employees have put their locker name tags. However, Carter's is missing; according to Haleh, he did not want to do it because it was "defacing government property."

Carter later returns in the Season 15 episode, "The Beginning of the End", in which he rejoins the ER at County General. He explains to Cate Banfield that he is relocating to Chicago, and is looking to pick up some shifts. She agrees, after finding out that one of his teachers at the hospital was Mark Greene. He visits the Joshua Makalo Carter Center. At the end of the episode, it is shown that Carter is on dialysis[3] because of amyloidosis developing from schistosomiasis which irreparably damaged Carter's remaining kidney. He is back in Chicago to be placed on the US transplant list. Working in the ER once again, he is shown to still be a good doctor with good judgment, but is still catching up with the latest medicines and techniques being used in the US. Eventually, his condition worsens, causing him to collapse while attending to a patient. While being treated by Dr Gates and Dr Morris, he goes into V-tach, but is brought back thanks to Morris's quick-thinking. He is transferred to Northwestern Medical Center.

In the episode "Old Times", while a patient at Northwestern, he is visited by his mentor and good friend Dr Peter Benton, to whom he reveals that his marriage with Kem is going through a rough patch. In the same episode, Dr. Benton acts a back-seat driver and supervises the operation to make sure Carter is well taken care of. Later, Carter gets a new kidney and the transplant is a success.

In "And In The End", the series finale, Carter uses his family fortune to finally open the Joshua Carter Center, a medical clinic for the underprivileged that fits into the plans he'd announced when his grandmother's will was read. Kem surprises Carter by attending the opening ceremony however she is seemingly uncomfortable around him. In a later conversation she tells him how she feels sad in Chicago because it reminds her of their son's death. As she leaves the clinics opening she okays Carter to call her to set up breakfast before she flies back to Paris. Carter indicates he might come back to County for good; however, this is potentially contradicted by his earlier idea that he will leave Chicago if that's what it takes to save his marriage.

Related characters[edit]

Early in the series, Carter's plots typically stayed in the realm of the ER. In a symbolic gesture of this transference, he was told by Mark Greene "you set the tone" on Dr Greene's last day in the ER. Dr. Greene had been told the same thing, by Dr. Morgenstern, in the pilot episode in Season 1 of the show. Dr. Carter, in turn, said the same thing to Dr. Archie Morris as Carter left the ER, although Morris did not understand the significance.

Family[edit]

Eleanor and John Carter

Throughout the course of the series (particularly at the beginning of Season 8) we meet various members of Carter's wealthy family and see how he is very uncomfortable being an upper-class young man, to the point where he goes out of his way to not talk about his background.

His father, John (Jack) Truman Carter Jr. (Michael Gross) is caring but stiff, and very acquiescent with his wife until he gets tired of her being an "emotional vampire" and divorces her. He and Carter have an awkward relationship where they love each other but John doesn't respect his father. Jack recognizes this and keeps some distance from him as a result of it. Carter's mother, Eleanor (Mary McDonnell), is emotionally distant and cold. Her personality was largely shaped because she blamed herself for Carter's older brother, Robert's death from leukemia. Carter eventually figures out that much of her sadness comes from this and they briefly become closer, but eventually Eleanor removes herself from any ties to her family after Jack divorces her, to the point where John has no idea how to reach her and she refuses to return a phone call he makes after Millicent Carter (who disliked her intensely) passes away.

Carter's grandfather, John Truman Carter Sr. (George Plimpton), is the most disappointed by Carter's career choice, and though Carter respects him, he also resents him for that. Carter's grandmother, Millicent Carter (Frances Sternhagen), is a benefactor of the hospital, even funding Carol Hathaway's clinic. Carter is very close to his grandmother (whom he calls "Gamma") and intermittently lives at her home. They do occasionally argue, however, usually in regard to Carter's reluctance to participate in matters related to the family foundation; Gamma modifies her will to remove Jack as the head of the foundation and puts John in charge of it, leading to him changing its mission from supporting Chicago arts programs to supporting public health initiatives.

Chase Carter (Jonathan Scarfe) is John's first cousin and a "functioning" heroin addict. Carter, with the assistance of his colleague Anna, attempts to detox and rehabilitate him, but fails. Chase eventually overdoses, resulting in severe brain damage. Carter pleads for the family to keep Chase in physical therapy, and Chase improves significantly. Elaine Nichols Carter (Rebecca De Mornay), the ex-wife of another of Carter's cousins, comes to the hospital for treatment for breast cancer and she and Carter have an affair.

Romantic Relationships[edit]

Carter had a number of unsuccessful relationships. Significant girlfriends are listed below:

  • Liz (Liz Vassey), a patient who Carter dates during season 1. They have several sexual rendezvous until Carter realizes she has given him an STD. This ends their relationship.
  • Harper Tracey (Christine Elise), a fellow med student, dates Carter during Season 2. She cheats on Carter very early in the relationship with Dr. Doug Ross. Carter forgives her, only for her to dump him a few months later because Carter tricks another med student in order to get a procedure.
  • Abby Keaton (Glenne Headly), a pediatric surgeon from Southside Hospital reassigned to County when Southside closes. Carter and Keaton begin working together eventually embarking on a clandestine relationship that ends when Keaton leaves for a volunteer mission to teach Pakistani surgeons.
  • Carter develops a close friendship with Anna Del Amico (Maria Bello) during Season 4, but his crush on her is never reciprocated. They kiss only once, when she bails Carter out of jail. She eventually returns to Philadelphia and makes up with her ex-boyfriend.
  • Roxanne Please (Julie Bowen), an insurance saleswoman and patient of Carter's, the two begin dating in Season 5. The relationship falls apart for many reasons, including their busy work schedules, and perhaps because Carter falls for med student Lucy Knight.
  • Lucy Knight (Kellie Martin) and Carter develop a liking for each other. They kiss only once as he decides to break things off owing to her being a medical student. They continued to be friends, until her death in Season 6.
Carter with Kem in the Congo.
  • Elaine Nichols (Rebecca De Mornay) first appears when she comes to the ER from a fender bender. Elaine is Carter's cousin Douglas' ex-wife. Their relationship to Elaine is just sex, though Carter wants more. She stops seeing Carter, when she finds out he knows that she has breast cancer. Carter tries to console her but she simply asks to be left alone. Later she moves to Europe for a few month and bluntly tells Carter to not call her when she returns.
  • Rena Trujillo (Lourdes Benedicto) and Carter date off and on during Season 7 until he finds out that she is still a student and is only 19. He tries to rekindle the romance but she dumps him because she knows he still has feelings for Abby Lockhart.
  • Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) and Carter first met in 1994 when Susan was a 2nd year resident. Carter had immediately developed a crush on her. After her breakup with another doctor, he had tried to console her with a kiss but she had stopped him. She had then moved to Phoenix, Arizona, returning in 2001. Once back at County the two rekindle their friendship and admit their feelings. They start dating but realize that the earlier spark is now gone, largely due to Carter's obsession with Abby. They split amicably after Susan tells him to "tell Abby."
  • Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney), a nurse in the ER, and Carter become involved during Season 9 after Carter inserts himself into her relationship with Luka Kovac, leading to their break-up. After a series of personal crises, their relationship finally dissolves when Carter goes to the Congo for several months. He breaks up with Abby by letter. Carter cannot cope with Abby's unwillingness to make changes he wants, and does not propose, dooming their relationship. They remain good friends until the end of Season 11 when Carter leaves County; by the time he returns in Season 15, Abby has started her own family with Luka and they have relocated to Boston.
  • Makemba "Kem" Likasu (Thandie Newton) begins dating Carter in Season 10. A French/Congolese AIDS worker in the Congo, Carter meets Kem while working for Doctors Without Borders. They have a passionate, fast-paced romance culminating in Kem's pregnancy. At eight months, she loses the baby and begins to shut down emotionally. Carter proposes, but she does not answer and moves back to Africa. During their separation, they date others, but when Carter visits her while she is in France, they reconcile, and give their relationship another chance. During Season 11, we learn Kem and Carter have married but in Season 12 Carter is by himself as he returns to Africa to provide medical aid in Darfur and makes ominous non-specific references to how things with Kem aren't good. In the series finale, Kem returns to Chicago to visit the Joshua Carter Center, posthumously named after their son; she and Carter interact awkwardly and while she does agree to his idea that they'll fly back to Paris together.
  • Wendall Meade (Mädchen Amick), a social worker in the ER, with whom Carter has an affair while separated from Kem during Season 11. She ends the relationship with him after he admits that he does not love her.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Full Moon, Saturday Night". ER. March 30, 1995. NBC.
  2. ^ *Coleridge, Daniel R., "Noah Wyle's 'ER' Dilemma Archived 2006-12-07 at the Wayback Machine.," TV Guide, December 3, 2004
  3. ^ The Beginning of the End, NBC episode summary

External links[edit]

Other offices
Preceded by
Jing-Mei "Deb" Chen
Chief Resident
2001-2003
Succeeded by
Archie Morris