Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard (David McCallum) awakens in the hospital, the face of an unfamiliar doctor slowly coming into focus through his blurred vision. Ready at the bedside is Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), who holds his mentor’s hand. As an audience, we breathe a collective sigh of relief for Ducky, one of the show’s wittiest and most likable characters. The beloved medical examiner pulls the oxygen mask away from his face for a moment, struggling to ask, “are they alright?” This quick opening scene serves as a reminder not only of Ducky’s very recent heart attack, but also of the attack on the NCIS headquarters that closed out season nine.
It’s only a few seconds until we’re transported back to the scene of that attack. The camera pans across the destruction, taking in the dead, the injured and the rubble of a major explosion. Suddenly we see forensic guru Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) sitting on a piece of concrete and being attended by an EMT. Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) rounds the corner, his eye catching Abby as she offers a feeble wave. Gibbs is visibly relieved by this reassurance that at least one member of his investigative team is safe.
As the first episode of NCIS‘s 10th season progresses, we find the rest of the team in a variety of trying situations. Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) are stuck in an elevator in the main NCIS building. Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) has been puncture in the side by a piece of flying glass. Still, there’s little doubt in these tense scenes that all key members of the team are going to survive. There’s no surprise when, by the end of this first episode, Gibbs has killed terrorist Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff) and the series set out on its way towards another long and successful season.
The 24 episodes that comprise NCIS: The 10th Season, now available as a DVD box set, make use of the show’s already successful procedural formula while inserting structural twists designed to make the series more compelling. Up until the end of the season’s 11th episode, “Shabbat Shalom”, it seems that all will go as it usually does on NCIS. Each week will feature an intriguing new case; Tony and Ziva will struggle with their feelings for one another; Abby and Gibbs will have endearing moments in the lab; Ducky will tell Palmer obscure facts while they autopsy a body together.
Despite the fact that loyal viewers seemed comfortable with that formula, the show’s writers decided to try something new at the end of “Shabbat Shalom”. A fast-paced sequence at the end of the episode found Ziva’s father, Eli David (Michael Nouri), and Jackie Vance (Paula Newsome), wife of NCIS director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), dead. The show moves forward with a vengeance from this point with Gibbs and his team hell-bent on finding the people behind the deaths of their family members and bringing them to justice.
This focus on family is highlighted throughout the season with visits from Anthony DiNozzo Sr. (Robert Wagner) and Admiral John McGee (Jamey Sheridan). NCIS has always boasted excellent guest actors and there’s no exception where Wagner and Sheridan are concerned. They stand out in a field of talented guest stars for the season, adding another dimension to characters that run the risk of becoming mere tropes this far into the show’s run.
Season 10 of NCIS is naturally divided into two halves with the intensity of the show increasing significantly as it heads into its last 12 episodes. Writer Gary Glasberg and director Tony Wharmby closed out the season with a suspenseful episode that saw the team in a new kind of trouble. If you’re coming to the 10th season for the first time on DVD, avoid the audio commentary on the episodes until you’ve seen the season finale as there are some spoilers. The storylines opened up in the season finale will likely be resolved as the show heads into its 11th season on September 24 with some casting changes, most notably the early departure of Cote de Pablo.
Inside NCIS Season 10: Special Features
When it comes to special features, NCIS: The 10th Season truly shines. Chronologically, the first special feature is “Mr. Carroll Goes to Washington: An Interview with NCIS Director Mark D. Clookie”. This odd little feature is an interview between Rocky Carroll, who plays NCIS director Leon Vance on TV, and Mark D. Clookie, the agency’s real-life director. While endearing, Carroll is clearly not accustomed to interviewing others and sometimes reads more like Vance talking with a colleague than an actor talking with his real-life counterpart. Nonetheless, the interview is fun and gives viewers who are interested in the agency that inspired the show a little glimpse into the real NCIS.
Other special features include a retrospective look at ten years of the show called “X Marks the Spot: A Look at Season X” and a collection of cast and crew interviews called “10 Years Aft”. Viewers are treated to an inside look at the NCIS production offices and sound stages in “10 Items or Less: 10 Random Looks at NCIS” and are invited inside Tony’s apartment in “DiNozzo’s Digs”. Paired with features about the show’s evolution and production design, these extras offer insider information that fans who have followed the show for all 10 seasons will enjoy.