NCIS star confirms that Ducky tribute will incorporate old characters

The procedural drama made sure to include everyone Ducky worked with.

“Birds of a Feather” – When Agent Parker is framed for murder, the team puts their jobs and lives on the line in order to buy time and uncover the truth on the 19th season finale of CBS Original Series NCIS, Monday, May 23 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*. Pictured: Sean Murray as Special Agent Timothy McGee and David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All
“Birds of a Feather” – When Agent Parker is framed for murder, the team puts their jobs and lives on the line in order to buy time and uncover the truth on the 19th season finale of CBS Original Series NCIS, Monday, May 23 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*. Pictured: Sean Murray as Special Agent Timothy McGee and David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. Photo: Robert Voets/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All /
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Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) was a crucial part of NCIS for two decades. He interacted with every character who has been a part of the titular team, and as such, the season 21 episode that will pay tribute to him will do its best to incorporate these characters.

Brian Dietzen, who plays Ducky's protege, Jimmy Palmer, co-wrote the tribute episode, which is titled "The Stories We Leave Behind." He told TV Insider that Ducky's importance to the current NCIS team would be made clear throughout the case, but that he made sure to emphasize how important the character has been to former members like Abby (Pauley Perrette) and Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

NCIS will include flashbacks in the Ducky tribute

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"Going Mobile" -- After the body of a Marine Lieutenant is found hidden under an 18-wheeler, the NCIS team tracks the vehicle's previous locations to pinpoint the crime scene and suspect. Also, Sloane encourages the team to sit down and talk about Ziva's recent reappearance, on NCIS, Tuesday, Oct. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, Sean Murray as NCIS Special Agent Timothy McGee, Wilmer Valderrama as NCIS Special Agent /

That's not to say that Perrette, Harmon, and every NCIS actor who has appeared on the show will come back and make a cameo, but that their characters will be spotted within the episode, whether through flashbacks or photographs.

Dietzen told the outlet that focusing on just one part of Ducky's career would short-change him as a character, and so extra care was put into depicting the changes he went through over the course of his time with NCIS:

"We wanted to see him interacting with people that [aren't] on our current team and also people that are on our iterations of our team, too."

It was also important for Dietzen to fold the Ducky tribute into a case that made sense for the NCIS team to handle. He didn't want to sideline the case-of-the-week format of the show to focus on the late character, he wanted to do both in a way that was emotionally satisfying.

Brian Dietzen says the episode still 'has a case to solve'

Second Opinion
“Second Opinion” – NCIS works to solve the murder of a senator’s daughter who has a rebellious reputation and large online following. Also, Jimmy gets competitive with an old college rival, on the CBS Original series NCIS, Monday, May 8 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+*. Pictured: Gary Cole as FBI Special Agent Alden Parker and Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer. Photo: CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

The thing that made this doable was avoiding an over-reliance on flashbacks, and making sure the case the current NCIS team is given is compelling on its own. While Dietzen's comments make it sound as though there are a few flashbacks in store, they will be sparingly used:

"It cannot just be some series of flashbacks to prior Ducky Mallard scenes. It was really important for us that we still have a case to solve."

It's terribly sad that McCallum could not appear in the new season, but there's solace to be had in the fact that his co-stars are giving his character the send-off he deserves.

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