Popular Culture (TeeVee) 20120316: David McCallum

(9 PM – promoted by TheMomCat)

David Keith McCallum, Jr. is a wonderful actor who has been on TeeVee for decades in either bit, supporting, or starring roles.  Most folks would not realize that he is 78 years old, because he looks much younger.  He is a Scot, being born on 19330919 in Glasgow.

He has been a professional actor since he was 15 or 16, and began doing voiceovers in 1947.  He did a fair amount of film work early on, but it was TeeVee that really got him noticed.

I hope that you will read and comment about this little tribute to not only a great actor, but also on whom I consider to be a great person.  The reasons for that will become more evident later.

I remember seeing him in the original The Outer Limits anthology series in an episode called “The Sixth Finger”.  He played an angry coal miner who was the subject of an experiment in accelerated evolution.  It worked too well.  He finally became so advanced that he could not relate to anyone, and finally reversed the process and returned to normal.

Here he is at about 6:00 in the clip as he originally appeared.

Here he is looking a bit more evolved.

He finally looks like this before the process is reversed.  It was a cheesy episode, but he was only 30 years old when it was filmed.

He made another appearance on The Outer Limits that aired in the spring of 1964, and then his career really started to blossom.  Production for the pilot to what would become The Man From U.N.C.L.E. began in 1963, and McCallum had a small role as the Russian Illya Kuryakin.  Incidentally, the series was cocreated by Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was supposed to be a vehicle for Robert Vaughn, but McCallum became so popular that he was almost instantly given costar status.  I used to love that show, but it did not stand the test of time as many others from the era did.  The only other regular on the series was Leo G. Carroll, who played the director, Alexander Waverly, and that made for interesting guest stars.

One guest who appeared many times was Jill Ireland, who was married to McCollum at the time.  Interestingly, they divorced in 1967 after one Charles Bronson met her during the filming of the motion picture The Great Escape.  They had been married for around 10 years at the time.

The show has some serious connexions with Star Trek.  Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner actually appeared in the same episode (“The Project Strigas Affair”) in 1964, as far as I can tell the first time they every appeared on camera together.  James Doohan also made several guest spots.  There is another connexion as well.  Jerry Goldsmith composed the theme music for both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek:  The Motion Picture, and that theme was used for Star Trek:  The Next Generation as well.

By 1968, mainly due to really bad decisions by the production team, the program was cancelled.  The show started out as serious, then began to get campy, then started to parody itself, and by the time that the production team realized that the real fans wanted a serious program, the fan base had eroded.

McCallum went on to work in many more projects over the years, one of which is notable for another coincidence.  In the BBC series Colditz, he costarred with Robert Wagner, which will become interesting later.  He starred in the short lived (12 episodes) series The Invisible Man, and had guest spots in many other programs, both British and American.

However, it was not until 2003 that his talents were put to their greatest use.  He appeared as a guest on the series JAG as Dr. Donald Mallard, in a plan by Donald Bellasario to develop a new series that is now know as NCIS.  In this series, his character plays the medical examiner for his NCIS team and he has really become immersed in the role.

He became so immersed that he is probably more qualified than most county coroners in the US to conduct autopsies.  Before Ballisario cast him as “Ducky”, as his friends call him on the show, Ballisario was tempted to hire him as a technical adviser!  That would have been a waste, because his character is extremely well developed in the program.

After the end of the marriage with Jill Ireland, he and Katherine Carpenter were wed in 1967, and they still are.  Forty-five years for a SECOND marriage is not bad at all.  That speaks lots for the character of the two spouses in my opinion.

I believe that McCallum is not acting when he plays Ducky.  I truly think that when we watch him in that role, although the words may not be his the sentiment is.  I also strongly suspect that he would speak with the writer to correct things that are out of character.  This is only speculation on my part, but I hold that opinion.  It is also gratifying to me to know that the finest role that he has ever played is of a Scot and not a Russian (nothing against Russians) since he is a Scot.

McCallum was raised by classically trained musicians, and you can see that in his persona as Ducky.  He seems to me to be a gentle man, a gentleman, and a person of excellent breeding.  I really think that we are seeing the real person when we watch NCIS.

Now on to a couple of other items that interest me.  Remember when I said that something about the old series Colditz would be interesting?  One of the other stars was Robert Wagner, and he has a recurring role on NCIS as Tony DiNozzo’s father.  And now for the grand finale of one of the best self parodies (in the best of senses).  Here is a clip for NCIS when Kate asks Gibbs what Ducky looked like when he was younger.  Listen for the guffaws from McCallum after Gibbs tells her his impression, and note her facial expression of not understanding Gibbs.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this account of one of the great actors of our age as much as I have enjoyed writing it.  Let us wish David many more birthdays, and NCIS many more seasons so that we can get to know the real man better.  Once again, I really think that we are seeing the true person through the filter of a great character.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and



  1. feeling just Ducky tonight?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,


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