Law & Order

Season 1 Episode 1

Prescription for Death

Aired Monday 10:00 PM Sep 13, 1990 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

After Suzanne Morton dies during a visit to the emergency room to pick up some antibiotics on a hectic night shift, her father, a former medic in Vietnam, demands the police charge the hospital with murder, stating they were negligent. Logan and Greevey investigate the doctor who had made some adjustments to her chart, but are soon led to Dr. Edward Auster, a respected doctor who they feel may have been drunk on duty. The other residents are reluctant to say anything for fear their jobs may be in jeopardy, and Stone is faced with the awkward job of having to prosecute a man who appears to be a living saint.moreless

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  • The First Episode of L&O

    This is the premiere episode of "Law & Order",but it's not the pilot. I was filmed around the spring of 1990. I can tell beacuse of the trees growing in one scene. Anyway,Greevey and Logan are on the case after a woman dies in the E.R.In one scene,they question one doctor who Iooks familiar. He's actor Rocky Carroll who later star on "Roc" on FOX. In another scene Greevey tells his partner what the doctor said. And in one scene in the courtroom,an ADA asks this guy on the stand who killed her and he responded "The death rays from Mars killed her",which was LOL.Even the courtroom laughed like it was a sitcom. It was a good episode. I like the original theme song and the leather coat Logan be wearing.moreless
  • The first episode of Law & Episode (following the pilot, which is "Everybody's Favorite Bagman") is a sterling example of the show's strengths. (SPOILERS)

    Ah, the first season of Law & Order. I became a fan of this show in its 5th season, and this episode was re-run one night. This was one of the first of the Ben Stone-era that I ever saw, though offhand I can't quite recall where (perhaps NBC, perhaps A&E). From the opening moments, though, I was hooked and running with the momentum, the show held me rapt in attention for the next 45 minutes. The plot concerns the police investigating potential foul play at a hospital that resulted in a woman's death. The trail eventually leads to a chief cardiologist at the hospital, who is nationally renowned and one of the leading exemplars of his field.

    "Prescription for Death" was wisely selected as a premiere episode because of its features. It is not as laden with emotional complexity and controversy as other issues that would be covered in this landmark series. No, comparatively, this is a simpler tale of "the good guy(s) versus the bad guy", but these can be just as riveting and entertaining to watch as well. This episode serves mainly as a strong introduction to the show's central characters, who convey to us the sense that while they are human with their own individual foibles, they are likeable, decent people who conduct their jobs with integrity. We are rooting for their pursuit the entire time. In contrast, the bad guy is clearly a dangerous figure and we heave a sigh of relief when he is finally brought to justice in the end.

    The show's trademarks are all apparent here. Right from the start, we get a great teaser in the opening minutes, with a hospital death, the suspicious behaviors of the staff, and the outraged reaction of the dead girl's father (incidentally, played by a pre-white hair'd John Spencer, future star of The West Wing). We get oblique 'leaks' of information about the main characters as the plot moves along--for example, that Greevey and Cragen used to be partners and that Cragen once had a drinking problem. We get the underlying themes of the story conveyed as a dialectic between Greevey and Logan. In this episode, those themes are: to what standards should the medical profession be held to in delivering care? What is the nature of trust and authority in the doctor-patient relationship? The dialogue is, as ever, sharp and alive--loaded with witty retorts, sarcasm, and biting intelligence. And this is countered at the end by another trademark common in the series: the delivering of an abrupt, understated ending that punches the viewer in the stomach with a quiet emotional wallop--the final shot of Greevey's devilish twinkle dissolving slowly into solemn sorrow at Stone's reveal says it all.

    And yet, despite being an emotionally 'cleaner' tale relative to other episodes in this groundbreaking series, "Prescription for Death" still manages to tell a sophisticated, complex story. On one level, the show casts a specific critique at the hierarchy and power structure inherent in the U.S. medical system. The doctors working under Auster, almost all of whom come off as more competent than he is, are nonetheless clearly afraid of the influence and power he has accumulated. He has the palpable ability to wreck their future careers, and this is perfectly captured in his stern glance. I showed this episode once to one of my best friends who is a physician, and she immediately related to it. She noted how one of her bosses (a likewise senior, likewise renowned physician) could get absent-minded about certain things from time to time, and while nothing even approaching the level of Auster, she was concerned about his forgetfulness, afraid it might be a liability for her somewhere down the road, and feeling the awkwardness of how to go about broaching this with him, a superior. More globally speaking, however, the characters of Auster and his staff are familiar to us all. We've all had experiences working under the ultra-successful, haughty, or narcissistic boss, one intoxicated by the glow of his/her past successes who no longer believes that he/she can make a mistake. Perhaps we've been in positions where we've had to compromise our own standards working under such a person. In viewing Auster, we get the impression of a once brilliant, industrious physician, whose fatal flaw was that over time--perhaps from the strain of running hospital staff or perhaps from the pressure of the expectations brought about by his prestige--his competence dissolved into mere arrogance and drinking. Though we cannot ultimately excuse the actions of him or the doctors who enabled him to wreak havoc, the episode is successful at conveying a complexity grounded within human actions. Auster and his staff are not cartoon monsters, but very real people, who could be only a stone's throw away, at a hospital near you.

    In sum, a great introduction to a landmark series. By the way, a little footnote about the medications in this episode. Phenelzine is a type of MAO Inhibitor. MAOIs are a certain class of antidepressants that are still prescribed, though less frequently nowadays relative to other classes of antidepressants because of their potentially bad interactions with other drugs (including some narcotics, such as meperidine, the other drug mentioned here) and certain foods.moreless
  • Pilot to a classic hit show!

    From a classic tv show in the making the very

    First L&O the original ever! Despite the absence of the first DA Adam Scheff!

    The cops come and investigate the crime and arrest the suspects while the prosecutors then try them.

    Great acting as well as shot on locaction in NYC!

    Again great start to a classic tv show that would spawn two spin-offs successfully!
  • A girl comes to the E.R and she ends up dead all of the sudden. her father a retired medic from the Vietnam war, shouts Malpractice and demands an investigation.. that's a case for Det's.Logan and Greeveymoreless

    and so it begins.. Law & Order and it's 18 year old greatness.. everything felt so diferent during this episodes you could tell they were still trying to get the hang of it.. but it was still great the whole investigation about Malpractice and the doctor being drunk. at the end the victim received justice and the doctor confident that he could get away with it, ended up being wrong and in Jail! First win for our all star team of detectives!

    Great first episode for a great series! it makes me wish I would've found out about the show sooner.moreless
  • The first episode of the successful Law and Order francise. Here the viewer gets a good look at police work and prosecution from arrest to trial. When a young woman dies in a hospital having only suffered a head cold, police investigate themoreless

    I have caught the occasional Law and Order epsiode, but being someone who likes to watch a show from the first episode through, I never really followed it. But now that I have caught at least the first half of the first season, I know that this is a show I can't wait to see the next episode for. You can tell by the camera work and look of the video that this is a rough show from the beginning. That is not a problem because the substance of the show is the story and this first epsiode really grabbed attention. Getting to see the work that the detectives AND the prosecutors go through is very interesting. I like Noth alot, but I can't say the same about his partner. I find him too loud and crass. The prosecutors, on the other hand, make this show shine for me. Moriarty is the type of person I would expect to be a prosecutor. Intelligent and sharp, it is a great sight to see him in court. Most of the episodes have a little twist at the end, and this is no exception. So far, it is the best way to end the show yet, not only rewarding to the viewer, but also insightful about one of the characters. Overall, this was a great introductory episode.moreless
Chris Noth

Chris Noth

Det. Mike Logan

Dann Florek

Dann Florek

Capt. Don Cragen

George Dzundza

George Dzundza

Det. Sgt. Max Greevey

Michael Moriarty

Michael Moriarty

Exec. A.D.A. Ben Stone

Richard Brooks

Richard Brooks

A.D.A. Paul Robinette

Steven Hill

Steven Hill

D.A. Adam Schiff

Paul Sparer

Paul Sparer

Dr. Edward Auster

Guest Star

John Spencer

John Spencer

Howard Morton

Guest Star

Erick Avari

Erick Avari

Dr. Raza

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • When Greevey and Logan interview Dr. Abrahams at his apartment's terrace overlooking Riverside Park and the Hudson River, one can see the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for New Yorkers who died during the Civil War, a classical Greek architecture memorial.

    • Greevey reveals that in 1982, he hit his head on a radiator during a scuffle with a suspect. Initially they diagnosed a brain tumor, but a second diagnosis revealed that it was a subdural hematoma. Ever since he's been suspicious of doctors, feeling they believe that they are God.

    • Stone's father was an alcoholic, and drank every day at lunch.

    • Cragen reveals that back when he and Max were partners, he had a drinking problem. He didn't 'look or act' drunk, but he went to his first AA meeting after he found himself standing in Lexington Avenue with his gun pointed at a taxi driver because he 'didn't like the way he was honking' at him. Logan learns of this for the first time when Greevey uses Cragen's previous alcoholism as an example of how a drunk does not always look or act drunk.

    • Logan's father is alive and well thanks to a heart transplant he had in a hospital seven years prior to this episode. At the time of this episode, his character was dating a woman named Maggie.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Philip Nevins: Isn't it possible that pneumonia killed Suzanne Morton?
      Medical Examiner: It's possible that death rays from Mars killed her. But I don't think so.

    • Dr. Edward Auster: You solve every case you work on?
      Mike Logan: We can tell a felony from a traffic ticket.
      Dr. Edward Auster: Look, a patient walks in with a headache. She could have a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a berry aneurysm, a retro-orbital tumor...or does she just have a headache? Do you give her an aspirin? Or do you saw open her skull?
      Max Greevey: You make this speech at funerals?

    • Dr. Edward Auster: Well, people like to believe that medicine is pure science. Medicine is a science. But doctors know it's also a lottery.

    • Dr. Raza: My children want to stay in this country, my wife wants to stay. And to stay, all I have to do is to be perfect all the time!
      Mike Logan: Well, you fell a little short of perfection on Suzanne Morton's chart.

    • Ben Stone: We got what we needed from Dr. Simonson.
      Dr. Edward Auster: An intern, Mr. Stone. Are you planning on asking the cleaning lady to testify, too? About the time I threw the tissue into the wastepaper basket and missed?

    • Ben Stone: You know the difference between Auster and a serial killer?
      Paul Robinette: The weapon.

    • Dr. Edward Auster: When you practice medicine, Mr. Stone, sometimes the patient dies.
      Ben Stone: And when you're a lawyer, Dr. Auster, some of the people you prosecute are convicted.

    • Max Greevey: I'm not saying all doctors are bad. 99% of them are solid pros. It's the rotten 1%, to quote our friend Auster, that make it a lottery. You bet your life.

  • NOTES (8)

    • The Law & Order: UK episode "The Wrong Man" is based on this episode.

    • German episode title: "Tödliche Cocktails", meaning "Deadly Cocktails".

    • Although this episode was presented first when the series aired on television, it was not the original pilot episode. Steven Hill appears in this episode as D.A. Adam Schiff, but was not actually part of the original cast and did not join the series until after the pilot.

    • The font used during all of the titles, credits and the on-screen scene descriptions is Friz Quadrata, created in 1965 by Swiss designer Ernst Friz.

    • The distinctive clunking sound effect that is used between scenes was actually created by combining a number of different sounds, including the sound made by a group of monks stamping on the floor.

    • The show's format was inspired, in part, by a much earlier series, Arrest and Trial, which was split into two parts -- the first focused on arresting the criminals, the second part on the trial. Law & Order was initially intended to be re-run in thirty minute segments, but the show's popularity allowed it to be run in the original one-hour format.

    • When the show began airing in re-runs on TNT, new digital technology was used to insert "product placements" (paid appearances of name-brand products) into the show. The easiest to spot is for Coca-Cola; any time you see a Coke can sitting on a desk, it has been added digitally.

    • Logan's memorable brown leather coat was actually purchased at a second-hand store by Chris Noth, and not by the wardrobe team.


    • Receptionist: This ain't no letter to Dear Abby.
      Dear Abby is a syndicated newspaper column that was originally penned by Pauline Friedman Phillips (her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, penned Ann Landers). In later years, Phillips was joined by her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who later became the sole voice of Dear Abby.

    • Max Greevey: I don't know if it was Gunga Din or Auster, but one of them screwed the pooch.

      Gunga Din is a poem by Rudyard Kipling about a native water-carrier who assists a British soldier. The reference in question is a rather crass comparison between Indian doctor Raza and the fictional Gunga Din. The term 'screwed the pooch' has been traced back to 1918, initially refered to as 'feeding the dog'. Although there are numerous meanings attributed to the phrase now, it generally refers to when one slacks off at their job, which can often lead to bad things happening.

    • Dr. Edward Auster: As a matter of fact, Conan Doyle modeled Sherlock Holmes on Dr. Joseph Bell.

      Dr. Joseph Bell was a Scottish lecturer considered to be a pioneer in forensic science as he was very good at identifying a subject's occupation and recent activities. Arthur Conan Doyle, famed for creating Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr. Watson, had actually served as Bell's clerk for a period of time before he began writing about Sherlock Holmes.

    • This episode appears to be ripped from the headlines of the Libby Zion case. Zion was an 18-year-old woman who died six hours after being admitted to New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center with a high fever. A grand jury determined that the long hours of often unsupervised interns and residents contributed to her death. While an appeals court exonerated the doctors, the subsequent investigation led New York State to form the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Emergency Services, more commonly known as the Bell Commission. This committee developed a series of regulations that addressed several patient care issues, including restraint usage, medication systems, and resident work hours. One aspect of these regulations is commonly referred to in the medical community as "the Libby Zion Law" and "the Libby Law," setting limits to working hours for medical "post graduates" (commonly referred to as interns and residents).

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