Though TVLine has presented a case for why any number of cast members/characters from NCIS’ past may/should return for any hypothetical on-screen homage to the late David McCallum, there are also very solid reasons why that RSVP list could be pretty restricted.
CBS’ NCIS will enter its 21st season in February 2024, with no original cast members, because – if you get technical (and some do).
Sean Murray (who portrays McGee) and Brian Dietzen (Dr. Palmer) did not become series regulars until Seasons 2 and 10, respectively. (Rocky Carroll debuted as Vance in Season 5 and joined the cast in Season 6.)
As a result, any episode that attempts to give McCallum/Dr. Donald Mallard a decent send-off will be thin on colleagues who really worked alongside McCallum/Ducky for more than a third of the series’ duration.
That is why, while speculating about any “Ducky tribute” episode (no official plans have been released yet), cries of “Well, Mark Harmon/Gibbs has to be there!” have been heard.
“Yes! And DiNozzo/Michael Weatherly!”
“If Cote de Pablo returns, it’ll be the ideal time for a #Tiva reunion…”
“However, don’t forget Emily Wickersham!” We need answers about Bishop’s departure!”
“Can we also expect visitation from the ghosts of deceased characters?”
You can see how this may quickly spiral out of control.
You can’t simply “bring back” Gibbs, regardless of scheduling or availability difficulties. DiNozzo, for example. Or any of the preceding. Regardless of how much their presence is warranted for this occasion.
You can certainly bring back Gibbs, especially if Mark Harmon is aware. However, you will need to devote some dialogue/screen time to eliciting updates from the team’s reclusive former leader.
Weatherly/Tony and de Pablo/Ziva, who haven’t shared a scene in over a decade (but likely reconnected off-screen following de Pablo’s most recent solo visit), are also examples.
Fans of the primetime supercouple will want/need to know how their atypical family unit is doing, so an appearance by Tali’s father or both her parents will occupy a lot of storytelling oxygen.
And what if Emily Bishop reappears after abruptly leaving NCIS – including Nick, her apparent boyfriend…? There will be others who insist that certain i’s and t’s be crossed.
That means that if even two of the aforementioned returns are included, this Very Special Episode becomes less about David McCallum and Ducky and more about “Boss, what kind of fish are you catching in Alaska?” and “Sooo, might Tali get a big brother or sister anytime soon?”
Is it a sacrifice you’re willing to make in exchange for a well-attended journey down memory lane?
Or do you see another option that includes many of the above but “cheats” us on correct catch-ups?
I could live with a Case of the Week that irritates Dr. Palmer as he mourns the d3ath of a recently deceased Dr. Mallard. But it’s Ducky’s wisdom provided over the years that lets Jimmy nearly solve the case on his own, ahead of a proper memorial for his mentor.