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Brian Dietzen from NCIS talks about the small change that really mattered in the show’s tribute to David McCallum


In a touching tribute to a beloved character, last night’s episode of “NCIS” marked a poignant moment in the show’s history.

The episode, titled “The Stories We Leave Behind,” served as a heartfelt homage to the late David McCallum and his cherished character, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard.

David McCallum, who passed away in September 2023, left an indelible mark on the series with his portrayal of Dr. Mallard. The latest episode, co-written and acted by Brian Dietzen (Dr. Jimmy Palmer), delicately navigated the emotions surrounding the departure of this iconic character.

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In a narrative turn that was both expected and moving, the episode revealed Dr. Mallard’s peaceful passing in his sleep, a scene discovered by Dr. Palmer. This somber moment set the tone for the entire episode, which deviated from its usual brisk opening to a more reflective start. The iconic theme song of “NCIS” played at a slower pace, signaling a departure from the norm and honoring the character’s legacy.

Brian Dietzen, who contributed to the writing of this episode, shared his thoughts with TV Insider. He expressed the creative team’s initial struggle to transition from the episode’s sober opening to the show’s traditionally energetic introduction. He felt that toning down the introduction was a fitting start to an episode steeped in emotion and respect for both McCallum and his character.

The episode not only commemorated Dr. Mallard but also encapsulated the essence of his contributions to the series over the years. It was a delicate balance of honoring the past while moving the narrative forward, a balance that was achieved with grace and sensitivity.

This episode of “NCIS” stands as a testament to the impact a character, and the actor who plays them, can have on a series and its audience. It was a fitting farewell to both David McCallum and Dr. Ducky Mallard, characters who will remain in the hearts of the show’s fans for years to come.