NCIS 2024: Ducky's Death & Tribute Explained

By Richard Nebens Updated:
David McCallum, NCIS

NCIS' return to TV in 2024 will come with a highly emotional tribute to a staple of the show, Ducky, after the character's death.

In September 2023, CBS shared heartbreaking news regarding the passing of NCIS staple David McCallum, who passed away due to natural causes at the age of 90.

McCallum boasts more episode credits than any actor in NCIS' two decades on the air at 457, starring in all of the show's first 20 seasons as the team's medical examiner. He was the last member of the original cast remaining on the show through Season 20 before he died.

[ NCIS 2024: Release Date Schedule of New Season & Spin-offs (Confirmed) ]

NCIS' 2024 Tribute to David McCallum's Ducky

David McCallum's Ducky in NCIS

Following NCIS Season 21's premiere episode on Monday, February 12, Episode 2 is confirmed to feature a tribute to the late David McCallum, who spent the first 20 seasons portraying the fan-favorite character Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard.

CBS released a 22-second promo video celebrating February 19's new episode, showing Brian Dietzen's Dr. Jimmy Palmer visiting a corgi named Ducky in honor of his fallen mentor.

The entire core NCIS cast is then seen in a flower-filled autopsy lab celebrating Ducky's life, remembering their colleague and friend while working a case tied back to the late medical examiner following his death.

The logline for the new episode, titled "The Stories We Leave Behind," reads as follows:

"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."

Speaking with TV Insider, showrunner David J. North dove into the new episode's story, noting how important the new case was to Ducky as the team looks to "relive their memories of a coworker and a man" who was vitally important to them.

The aforementioned Dietzen also had the honor of co-writing the new episode, with North reminiscing on how the star "shed tears writing it" while the rest of the NCIS crew cried bringing the episode to life:

"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."

Fans are already hoping to see any number of emotional tributes to Ducky, which could come with old characters returning, flashbacks to a younger version of the TV mainstay, and a true reflection on Ducky's place on this long-standing team.

When McCallum first passed, a couple of his former castmates shared touching tributes to their fallen friend.

Abby Sciuto actress Pauley Perrette (Seasons 1-15) shared images of herself with McCallum on Instagram, dubbing him "a legend" and offering her love to his family while celebrating his legacy:

"Oh David. What a life. What a legend. What a journey. And your legacy will always be the love you have for your family. Love to Katherine and the kids and the grandkids, your absolutely very favorite things."

Current star Wilmer Valderrama also offered a touching message on Instagram, telling McCallum how it was "an immense honor to share the screen" with the Hollywood veteran:

"David, what an immense honor it was to share the screen with you. Your professionalism and ability to effortlessly take every one of us on a journey through your art will be felt forever. I will miss you my friend."

Episode 2 of NCIS Season 21 will debut on CBS on Monday, Feb 19, at 9 pm ET, and it will subsequently be available to stream on Paramount+.

Read more about the NCIS franchise below:

[ Full Cast of NCIS: Hawaii 2024 - Season 3 Main Characters & Actors (Photos) ]

[ Full Cast of NCIS 2024 - Season 21 Main Characters & Actors (Photos) ]

- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.