There's sad news for the Wing Commander family of performers tonight: veteran actor David McCallum passed away earlier today. McCallum, 90, started his career as a leading man on television shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and went on to serve as a jack-of-all-trades who could pop up anywhere and everywhere. His nearly endless resume included a variety of guest appearances on cult genre shows including The Outer Limits, seaQuest DSV and Babylon 5. He joined the Wing Commander universe in 1996 in a short but memorable appearance in Privateer 2: The Darkening. You can find an obituary with a more complete retrospective of his career at Variety.
McCallum appeared in Privateer 2's opening scene as the captain of the doomed freighter Canera. He commands Don Warrington's Helmsman, Nichola Cordey's Second Officer and stuntman Riky Ash's Communications Officer through the game's opening that ends in all of their fiery deaths. In the short, dramatic sequence he bravely attempts to command the Canera's crew to save the transport after it is ambushed before finally realizing the futility and resigning to his fate and crashing into the planet below.
For those that have trouble following Privateer 2's largely British-accented dialogue, the transcript follows:
HELSMAN: Crius planet control, this is cargo 1-0-4-6 Canera. On plan and requesting ejection marker 1-1-5. CRIUS PLANET CONTROL: Very well, Canera. You are cleared for re-entry. Proceed to Mendra spaceport. Good day. CAPTAIN: Who are those clowns? SECOND OFFICER: We're in unequivocal commit! We can't even manage a skip out! HELSMAN: So much for staying hypersonic. And we're too big for them to tractor in... CAPTAIN: ... and keep us from bouncing. Range to Mendra? COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER: Six hundred fifty. CAPTAIN: Hit it now! HELSMAN: Nothing left but altitude dials. CAPTAIN: Launch all communications. Tell them to scramble all emergency equipment to Mendra. Nice try, Rog, nice try.
Although he has only four lines in a two minute segment his involvement in the project cast a long shadow and the fact that 'the Man from U.N.C.L.E.' was included in the game's all star cast was frequently cited in the game's marketing. He was included in Electronic Arts' press junket for the game, charming interviewers with his honesty about his single day of shooting. As a result, his involvement was recorded heavily in the press. British gaming magazine PC Zone attended McCallum's day on set and included a gonzo-style description of the work in their October 1996 supplement on the game:
In Studio Two they've already started shooting one of the spaceship crash scenes. David McCallum is rigged up to a complicated pulley system and six burly looking blokes are clutching the rope at the other end, tug-o-war style. The director screams for total silence and everyone holds their breath.
BANG! WHOOSH! The six blokes holding the rope tear across the studio and David McCallum flies into the air, landing a few seconds later in a heap on the floor.
Debris and smoke fill the set. The director screams "CUT!" and a flurry of make-up and costume people dash, coughing, through the smoke to swiftly patch up Mr McCallum's face and intergalactic apparel. The rest of the crew stare expectantly at the director, who just shakes his head. Shoulders slump and the crew automatically begin to set up the shot once again with an air robotic precision which, if you didn't know better, could easily be mistaken for abject boredom. David McCallum pulls himself to his feet and prepares himself for another re-take. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a very long time ago.
Approximately one hour later they are still shooting the same scene. Incredibly, once it's been edited and re-edited this small part of footage will last for no longer than a few seconds in the final game. It's already taken a whole morning to get this far and time is running out. Tension is understandably high and everyone's keen to move onto the next scene.
Electronic Arts also produced a number of interviews with Privateer 2's cast for interested outlets. This jovial video with McCallum was included in the January 1996 issue of EQ Magazine:
The Wing Commander CIC team is very sorry to hear about Mr. McCallum's passing; we'd like to send our condolences to anyone that loved him. He helped create a lot of timeless art in his career and we're honored that we can share so much detail about the one small part of that that we're responsible for remembering.