NCIS’ Brian Dietzen explains the subtle change that made all the difference in the show’s tribute to David McCallum 

The following contains spoilers for NCIS Season 21 Episode 2 “The Stories We Leave Behind.”

In the recent episode of NCIS, viewers witnessed what could be deemed as one of the most poignant moments in the series—an homage to the longstanding cast member David McCallum and his character, Dr. Mallard.

The passing of Dr. Mallard was not unexpected, as McCallum had passed away in September 2023. However, there was one subtle revelation that caught many off guard, and no, it wasn’t the surprise cameo at the episode’s conclusion.

To delve deeper into this, continue reading.

The episode commenced with Dr. Jimmy Palmer, portrayed by Brian Dietzen, who also co-wrote the episode, bringing coffee to Dr. Mallard at his residence. However, upon arrival, Palmer makes the heartbreaking discovery that Ducky has passed away in his sleep.

Instead of an abrupt transition to the typical NCIS opening, the show gently fades into the intro, accompanied by a slower rendition of the theme song that has resonated for the past two decades.

The decision to decelerate the opening sequence was a purposeful one, though admittedly a slightly challenging choice.

“We were struggling with that, I’ll be real honest, because coming out of that cold open, it didn’t really feel very fitting to [have] all of a sudden our wonderful opening credits that our people do, our post-production people do an amazing, amazing job on,” shared Dietzen with TV Insider.

“It usually sets the table and gets people’s energy up for, this is what we’re about to do, and there’s explosions, and there’s fighting, there’s gunshots and stuff. It felt like tonally it wasn’t right for this episode.”

Slowing down the introduction was a poignant way to commence such an emotional episode. There’s nothing I would alter about the tribute to David McCallum and his character Ducky. It was executed with great finesse.

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