Characters: St. Elsewhere
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Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders)
Chief of Medicine of St. Eligius, widower and father of Elizabeth and Tommy.
Dr. Ben Samuels (David Birney)
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: While billed second only to Ed Flanders, his character becomes less prominent over the course of the first season. He is neither seen nor heard from again after the 20th episode of the season, and no explanation is given.
- Really Gets Around: A subplot of the pilot episode involves Samuels telling all his sexual conquests that he's contracted a venereal disease.
Dr. Daniel Auschlander (Norman Lloyd)
The hospital's avuncular Chief of Services, a liver specialist who has been diagnosed with liver cancer
Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels)
Ill-tempered Chief of Surgery at St. Eligius.
- Badass Mustache
- Break the Haughty
- Catch Phrase: "Oh, for crying out loud!"
- The Determinator
- Dr. Jerk: Especially earlier in the series. In the second episode, after saving a man's life with a bypass operation, he comments to the patient's young, chubby son that his son's a doctor, and that maybe the younger Craig will operate on him someday.
- Good Is Not Nice: Type 2/Type 4. He is very blunt to the point of rudeness. He is impatient, fussy, and arrogant. What drives him, though, is a deep conviction in the preciousness of life, and he will not tolerate any less of others than he does himself.
- Mentor: A reluctant one to Dr. Erhlich.
- The Napoleon
Dr. Hugh Beale (G. W. Bailey)
Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley Jr.)
Tall, blonde, bespectacled surgical resident from California, and usually on the receiving end of Dr. Craig's wrath.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Throughout season 5 with Lucy Papandrao.
- Character Development: Matures both as a doctor and as a person to the point where he is Happily Married with Nurse Lucy Papandrao.
- Dr. Jerk: A much milder case than Dr. Craig, though.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: He usually wears Hawaiian shirts with neckties as part of his hospital attire.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: A non-sexual example: he is at least a foot taller than his fellow surgical intern Jackie Wade.
- Innocently Insensitive: When Dr. Martin returns to work after her stay in the psych ward following her second rape, he manages to be even more insulting while apologizing for his past behavior.
- No Social Skills
- Phrase Catcher: Particularly through season 2, where every major character utters a variant of "You're a pig, Ehrlich."
- Surfer Dude: Before coming to Boston, Ehrlich was one of these in California. His friend Dogger still is.
Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox)
A resident with trouble juggling his work and family responsibilities. He begins a long mental and emotional slide in season 1 that only gets worse as the show goes on.
Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel)
A sarcastic emergency medicine resident.
Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse)
Compassionate resident who often has trouble with trusting his own judgement and remaining objective about his patients.
- Butt Monkey
- Designated Victim: Starting in season 2, something bad would usually happen to Morrison.
- Season 2: His wife Nina dies after slipping and hitting her head in the bathroom. He is cut from the residency program. Is only reinstated because a slot opened up after Wendy Armstrong's suicide.
- Season 3: Faces the end of his career over a Worthless Foreign Degree
- Season 4: Injures himself while running to make rounds and slipping on vomit. Son Pete is kidnapped. Raped while doing a Westphall-mandated community outreach service in a local prison.
- Season 5: Suffers from PTSD as a result of his rape. His attacker escapes from prison and stalks his family. Son Pete inadvertently shoots his attacker dead.
- Season 6: Second wife Joanne moves back to Seattle after her first husband sues for custody following the death of Morrison's attacker.
- The Lost Lenore: Nina. Much of Morrison's arc in season 2 is him dealing with her sudden death.
- Trauma Conga Line: And how.
- Worthless Foreign Degree: In the pilot episode, Morrison tells a patient that he had to go to medical school in Mexico because his grades were not good enough for American universities. In season 3, it is revealed that the school was a shady "accelerated" program that counted experience instead of giving a full medical training, and Morrison has to fight to keep his job.
Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles)
- Drugs Are Bad
- Serial Spouse: Already on husband number four at the beginning of the series. Her affair with Richard Clarendon doesn't end in marriage, but develops into a long-term cohabitation.
- Your Cheating Heart: Her fourth husband leaves her in season 3 because of her affair with Richard Clarendon, the union negotiator. Apparently, this happens so often that four of her five children aren't particularly fazed by it.
Dr. Vijay Kochar (Kavi Raz)
- Butt Monkey: Frequently the target of Dr. Craig's racism.
- Demoted to Extra: Was a regular during season 1 and 2, only billed as a guest star thereafter.
Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes)
An OB-GYN who is just past her residency.
Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry)
A younger nurse who usually associates with the residents.
- Ax-Crazy: After being released on bail before her trial, Shirley exhibits no remorse for murdering Peter White in cold blood. On her first shift back in the ER, she pulls a gun out on a patient and refers to him as "Peter".
- Hypercompetent Sidekick
- The Bus Came Back
Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori)
Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery)
Pathology resident with a spacey demeanor, heightened sexuality, and a tendency to dress in black.
- Broken Bird: Especially after being raped. Twice
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: It is revealed in "Rough Cut" that she had the highest score out of the first-year residents' board certification exams. A brief scene with her after she switches to psychology indicates she's particularly skilled with younger patients.
- Characterization Marches On: After being raped, Martin is not quite as spacey; she switchers her residency to psychology and stops dressing in black.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: At one point, after Ehrlich comments "Is there an echo in here", she says "I don't know. Is there? Hello?"
- Creepy Mortician: A mild case.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gives a few to Peter White after he rapes her.
Dr. Jacqueline Wade (Sagan Lewis)
Mature and capable surgical resident from Lewiston, ME; a friendly rival to Dr. Erhlich.
Nurse Lucy Papandrao (Jennifer Savidge)
Luther Hawkins (Eric Laneuville)
- Orderlies Are Creeps: Averted. Luther is the one person any doctor, nurse or patient would be glad to have around.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Chandler calls Luther out on this in "Equinox".
Joan Halloran (Nancy Stafford)
Dr. Robert Caldwell (Mark Harmon)
- Bus Crash: Mark Harmon left the show halfway through season 4 when his character contracted AIDS. In the series finale, the characters receive word that Dr. Caldwell has died.
- Byronic Hero: Particularly during season 4, when his impulsive and reckless side comes to the surface.
- Dating Catwoman: In season 2, he's involved romantically with Joan Halloran, who begins as an antagonistic character that clashes with the doctors over the hospital's expenses.
- Porn Stache: In the first half of season 2, Mark Harmon had a very thick mustache. He gets rid of it in the episode "A Pig Too Far", but not before walking around with it half-shaved off.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: In season 4 before he contracts AIDS.
Dr. Eliot Axelrod (Stephen Furst)
Nervous medical student introduced in season 2. He becomes a resident in the next season.
Dr. Michael Ridley (Paul Sand)
Dr. Simon Weiss (Philip Sterling)
- The Shrink: The longest lasting psychiatrist character, although less prominent than Beale or Ridley.
Warren Coolidge (Byron Stewart)
- Gentle Giant: At 6' 8", he towers over patients and doctors. Used to moving effect in "Weigh In, Weigh Out", where he fulfills a dying man's request to be rocked like a baby.
Dr. Roxanne Turner (Alfre Woodard)
Dr. Carol Novino (Cindy Pickett)
Dr. Seth Griffin (Bruce Greenwood)
- Heel-Faith Turn: After possibly contracting AIDS, Griffin becomes a born-again Christian when he meets the new hospital chaplain.
- Smug Snake: Griffin at least started out this way, particularly when he tried to pit fellow first year residents Carol Novino and Susan Birch against each other. Birch ends up taking the fall for a patient death for which Griffin was responsible and is kicked out of the residency program.
Dr. Paulette Kiem (France Nuyen)
Dr. John Gideon (Ronny Cox)
Patients and their families
Ralph "The Birdman" Selover (Richard Marcus)
John Doe #12 (Tom Hulce)
Eve Leighton (Marian Mercer)
Florence Hufnagel (Florence Halop)
John Doe #6 (Oliver Clark)
Amnesiac patient in season 4 and 5.
Murray Robbin (Murray Rubin)
Augusta Endicott (Dorothy Mc Guire)
Brett Johnson (Kyle Secor)
Family and other outsiders
Aunt Charisse (Louise Lasser)
Dr. Ehrlich's aunt, who raised him after his parents supposedly
Ellen Craig (Bonnie Bartlett)
- Parental Substitute: Tends to be this to Dr. Ehrlich.
Stephen Craig (Scott Paulin)
- Drugs Are Bad: Stephen's drug addiction causes friction with his father. His drug use is also a factor in the car accident that kills him.
- Generation Xerox: Following in his dad's footsteps by becoming a doctor.
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Westphall (Dana Short)
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: An aversion.
- The Caretaker: She is this for her autistic brother Tommy, to the point where she feels guilty for going to Vassar and ends up transferring to a local school.
- Dead Guy Junior: Named for Dr. Westphall's mother, who died in a fire when he was young.
Tommy Westphall (Chad Allen)
- Dead Guy Junior: Named for Dr. Westphall's late father Thomas.
- Verbal Tic: Due to his autism, he always refers to himself in the third person and in very simple, broken phrases. ("Tommy want cereal", "Tommy go now")
- Walking Spoiler: Due to his role in the finale of the series.
Richard Clarendon (Herbert Edelman)
Union negotiator who begins a relationship with Helen Rosenthal in season 3.
Marcy Eisenberg (Jeannie Elias)
Helen Rosenthal's eldest child.
Jeff Rosenthal (Ian Fried)
Helen Rosenthal's youngest child.
Myra White (Karen Landry)
Nina Morrison (Deborah White)
Roberta Sloan (Jean Bruce Scott)
Katherine Auschlander (Jane Wyatt)
Judge Farnham (Jack Dodson)
Alex Corey (Jeff Allin)