Five months after the death of multi-hyphenate David McCallum, his former friends, colleagues and co-stars at NCIS will finally have a chance to pay their in-episode respects. (With Mark Harmon, Pauley Perrette and others having already honored the actor-musician with tributes after he passed.) And now we at last have a first look at the Ducky tribute installment, as well as an idea of how it’s being handled.
NCIS will kick off its long-awaited and strike-delayed 21st season on February 12 for CBS viewers and those with Paramount+ subscriptions, but it’ll be the second episode that airs on February 19 that will directly pay homage to Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, and McCallum himself. Titled “The Stories We Leave Behind,” the installment was penned by Scott Williams and co-star Brian Dietzen, whose character Dr. Jimmy Palmer served as Ducky’s assistant for many years before taking the reins.
CBS has now released images from the upcoming episode, and we’ll get into the synopsis after taking a peek at the squad in the midst of some deep thought.
Everyone is indeed in the midst of poring over files and other info, as the episode will see McGee & Co. dealing with grief over Ducky’s death the way they know best: by delivering justice. The agents will take on one of the cases that Ducky hadn’t completed before passing, which will hopefully bring two forms of closure for all involved.
Showrunner David J. North spoke with TVLine about how the storyline will pay respect to 20 years David McCallum's Ducky in our lives, saying:
The case was important to Dr. Mallard. In [investigating it], they’re going to relive their memories of a coworker and a man who meant so very much to them. . . . Brian shed tears writing it; the cast and crew shed tears shooting it.
The case in question will center on a woman whose father was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. Which is likely what Wilmer Valderrama’s Torres and Sean Murray’s McGee are looking into when they break out into the world at large, as seen below.
For all that the characters appear serious, stoic, and mournful in the first batch of images that CBS released for the ep, it looks like there will be at least one moment of levity therein, as evidenced by the shot below.
I’m hoping Murray is telling Parker a wild Ducky anecdote in this moment, maybe about the medical examiner accidentally dropping his wallet into a corpse’s open cavity. Or perhaps there was a point when Ducky had to use dental floss to sew a body back up or something.
David McCallum's advanced age understandably kept him from returning as Ducky as frequently in the years before his death, which an executive producer opened up about just prior to the actor's death. But that never stopped fans from loving him just as much as they did when he was still realtively fresh-faced in the JAG spinoff's earliest seasons. There will never be another Ducky, and that's something worth celebrating.
NCIS Season 21 premieres on CBS and Paramount+ on Monday, February 12, at 9:00 p.m. ET, followed by the Season 3 premiere of NCIS: Hawai'i.