NCIS will pay homage to one of its own as it returns to CBS later this month. The second episode of Season 21, titled “The Stories We Leave Behind,” airing on Feb. 19, will honor the memory of longtime cast member David McCallum. McCallum, who portrayed Donald “Ducky” Mallard since the show’s inception, passed away on Sept. 25, 2023, at the age of 90.
Ducky, initially the chief medical examiner before transitioning into an NCIS historian post-retirement, played an integral role in the series. In Episode 2 of Season 21, his fellow agents will bid him a fitting farewell as they delve into one of his unfinished cases involving a woman whose father faced dishonorable discharge from the Marines, according to CBS’ synopsis.
Penned by Brian Dietzen and Scott Williams, the episode is directed by Michael Zinberg. Dietzen, who portrays Ducky’s protégé Dr. Jimmy Palmer since Season 1, contributes to the tribute.
For the NCIS team, commemorating McCallum with a Ducky-centric episode was a unanimous decision. Co-showrunners/executive producers Steven D. Binder and David North expressed the importance of honoring the legendary actor and dear friend in an interview with TVLine. In the episode, the team will grapple with Ducky’s passing, reflecting on their memories of him as they mourn. Yet, true to Ducky’s meticulous and compassionate nature, even in death, he manages to help solve one last crime with the team.
McCallum, famed for his role as secret agent Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s, endeared himself to TV audiences as the mild-mannered NCIS medical examiner Ducky. His passing was deeply felt by NCIS cast members, including original series star Mark Harmon, who expressed his admiration and condolences to McCallum’s family.
Former cast member Michael Weatherly and Dietzen also paid tribute to McCallum, highlighting his mentorship, friendship, and impactful presence both on and off set.
NCIS Season 21 premieres on Monday, Feb. 12, at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, with episodes available for streaming on Paramount+.