What Happened to Ducky? Why Did David McCallum Leave NCIS?

Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

David McCallum’s Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard is one of the most beloved characters of CBS’ thriller seriesNCIS.’ Ducky’s association with Supervisory Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs has resulted in the completion of several engrossing investigations in the series. His in-depth knowledge in the field of forensics makes him a mentor to several forensic experts, including the current medical examiner Dr. Jimmy Palmer. Although Ducky is a significant part of the majority of the series, he hasn’t featured much in recent seasons. If you are intrigued about the absence of the beloved character, here’s everything you need to know! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Ducky’s Heart Attack: A Turning Point

In the first season of ‘NCIS,’ Ducky is introduced as the medical examiner in Gibbs’ NCIS Major Case Response Team. Ducky’s life turns around when he suffers a heart attack after hearing about the bomb explosion at the NCIS headquarters in the ninth season finale. Although he survives the attack and recovers from the same, he has to reduce his workload to return to work. After reducing the same, he prepares Jimmy Palmer for becoming the next medical examiner of the team. In the fifteenth season, Ducky leaves NCIS temporarily to teach at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, leaving his office to Palmer.

Image Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS

Meanwhile, Ducky also publishes a book about the cases he worked on before and after joining NCIS. After finishing his teaching term, the medical examiner takes part in a book tour to promote his published work. Ducky finally announces his retirement from NCIS in the sixteenth episode of the sixteenth season. Gibbs and Director Vance, however, don’t allow their beloved friend to vanish from their lives. They convince him to accept the part-time position of NCIS historian. After accepting the same, Ducky occasionally guides his protégé Palmer, as we see in the twenty-first episode of the twentieth season. He is currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Family Time: McCallum’s Priority

Although David McCallum hasn’t featured much in ‘NCIS’ since the fifteenth season, neither CBS nor the actor has officially announced his departure from the procedural show. His increased absence in the series was the result of the actor believing that his character Ducky was becoming “redundant.” McCallum wanted to leave the show around his character’s retirement but CBS and the creative heads of the series respectfully decided against the same. “Now he [Ducky] is retired, I sort of realized the character was becoming a little redundant. I sort of decided to leave the show, and they said, ‘No, we’d like to make you the historian so you’re still a part of the show.’ Because it meant that CBS liked that I was around,” the actor told Daily Express.

Image Credit: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

McCallum wanted to limit his appearance in the show to spend time with his family as well. While announcing his limited appearance in season 16, the actor explained that the arrangement was made for him to “spend more time with Katherine, our children, six grandsons, and Nickie.” Showrunner Steven D. Binder was ready to include Ducky in the narrative of the series as much as McCallum was ready to play the former medical examiner. “And David McCallum, I say to him all the time, ‘you are this magical pixie dust, wherever we put you, you’re just this magical being who elevates every scene he’s in with that David McCallum gravitas.’ So, we would love to have more [of him],” Binder told TV Insider.

After McCallum’s appearance in the twenty-first episode of the twentieth season, the actor reportedly has only one more episode left in his contract. If he doesn’t renew the contract, we may see him feature only in one more episode of the series, which can be the twentieth season finale or an episode from season 21. Considering that the actor is seeing his retirement as “a work in progress,” the chances of him renewing the contract aren’t high.

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