NCIS returned to our screens last night with the first of 10 episodes in the series’ season 21.

While the premiere was heavy on Special Agent Nick Torres, next week’s episode promises to focus on a series favorite, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard.

Keep reading to find out all we know about the upcoming David McCallum tribute episode.

When David McCallum, who played NCIS favorite, Dr. Mallard, died in September 2023, it was only a matter of when, not if, the series would pay tribute to the actor.

McCallum began his stint on NCIS as chief medical examiner before becoming NCIS historian. While he appeared in all 20 seasons, as time went on and Dr. Jimmy Palmer, portrayed by Brian Dietzen, played a larger role, he appeared less frequently.

His final appearance on the show was during the season 20 finale.

VALENCIA, CA – SEPTEMBER 04: NCIS cast members (L-R) Michael Weatherly, Lauren Holly, Brian Deitzen, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo, and Mark Harmon at the NCIS 100th Episode Celebration at Valencia Studios on September 4, 2007 in Valencia, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)“For over 20 years, David McCallum endeared himself to audiences around the world playing the wise, quirky, and sometimes enigmatic, Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard,” NCIS executive producers Steven D. Binder and David North said in a statement at the time of McCallum’s death.

“But as much as his fans may have loved him, those who worked side by side with David loved him that much more …. From Day 1, it was an honor to work with him and he never let us down. He was, quite simply, a legend.”


Spoiler alert: If you’ve yet to watch the season premiere, you may want to skip this part.

At the end of Monday night’s episode, Torres hands his badge in to Parker. Moments later Parker receives a call from Palmer.

“Whoa, whoa, slow down….” Parker tells Palmer.

Parker, stunned, hangs up.

“What’s going on…? What is it?” McGee wonders as the others stand in silence.

It’s only after watching the promo for the second episode, “The Stories We Leave Behind,” that we learn something has happened to Ducky.

“As NCIS mourns the loss of Ducky, the agents find comfort in working on one of his unfinished cases involving a woman whose father was dishonorably discharged from the Marines,” the logline for the second episode reads.

The episode, written by Dietzen with EP Scott Williams, will pay tribute to Ducky and the man behind the character as they work on one of his unsolved cases.

“Scott and I talked about it and decided we still wanted it to be an NCIS show — it wasn’t going to be entirely a clip show of ‘Ducky’s Greatest Hits’ — and we should come up with a case that’s thematically linked in some way to losing a valued and loved team member,” Dietzen told TVLine.

“So we came up with this concept of how, when we’re done with with life, the stories that we leave behind are what’s important. What’s important is what’s left to our loved ones.”

Kathy Hutchins /

The cast and crew have been tight-lipped on any possible appearances from any previous characters – we’d love to see Gibbs or Abby – so it looks like we’ll all have to tune in next week.

Grab some tissues because this one looks like it’ll be rough.

Who would you like to see return to NCIS to pay their respects to Dr. Mallard? Let us know in the comments on Facebook.


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