Diana Rigg has died

We’ve lost the real Avengers: Diana Rigg has died of cancer (Patrick McNee died 5 years ago). The Avengers was one of my favorite campy weird TV shows in the 1960s, and Diana Rigg was the best part of the show.

Mrs Peel may have been a significant influence on the sexual fascinations of many of my generation. Nothing against Steed, but I didn’t watch it for him.


  1. Dunc says

    And we lost Honor Blackman (aka Cathy Gale, Mrs Peel’s predecessor) earlier this year. We do at least still have Joanna Lumley…

  2. chuckonpiggott says

    The producers created her name as a joke. They said the character should have
    “M Appeal” She certainly did. That show and The Prisoner were wonderful campy British TV.

  3. dstatton says

    Had a crush on Emma Peel of course, but I also liked Steed’s Bentley Blower. Modern vs traditional: Leather jump suit and Lotus Europa; Bowler hat and vintage Bentley.

  4. anthrosciguy says

    Mrs. Peel drove an Elan; I think Tara King may have driven a Europa. (From memory, and fun cars too.). Forget what Purdy drove in the New show, done in Canada mostly or all (MacNee apparently was a big help in developing the CBC’s TV quality in the late fifties, something’s no I hadn’t known then).

  5. sarah00 says

    She was excellent in Detectorists where she played the mother to her real-life daughter Rachael Stirling. The whole series was wonderful and highly recommended but the scenes with her were fantastic.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    Back in college, I had a very pugnacious roommate. He knew I was a bit of an anglophile, so one day, looking to start a debate, he said “There aren’t any good-looking British women!”
    I said, “Ed, I have just one word for you, and it has four letters. Rigg.”
    He literally staggered back across the room, clutching his chest. Fastest argument I ever won.

  7. davidc1 says

    She was replaced by Linda Thorson ,my mum did’t approve ,never known a woman to have such a dislike of another one .
    She was in a horror film as well ,Theatre of Blood ,playing the daughter of a old ham Shakespearean actor .
    Won’t spoil the plot ,hasn’t been on TV for years ,about time they showed it again .

  8. favog says

    I was explaining to an under-30-year-old just days ago where my slight fetish for women with English accents comes from. I see PZ gets it.

    And she also went on to show that she was still pretty damned cool once time made her difficult to recognize as Mrs. Peele, so it went deeper than the image that “influenced our sexual fascinations”.

    As I said just a couple of weeks ago, I already had enough reasons to hate cancer, add on one more.

  9. says

    I was a huge fan of “The Avengers,” and Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel was a key factor in that. It was fun to see her thrash bad guys and I could never get enough of that quirky smile of hers, oblique and mischievous.

  10. Ridana says

    Nothing against Steed, but I didn’t watch it for him.

    Same here. ;)

    @davidc1: I’m totally with your mom. Linda Thorson made me feel stabby not only because her character was such a wimp, but she felt like she was trying to replace Mrs. Peel in Steed’s affections, rather than simply coming in as his new partner. I just didn’t like how she was always slyly coming on to him. The relationship between Steed and Peel was of intimate friends and equals (with just a touch of “we both know this isn’t going anywhere” flirtiness), and Tara King just lacked the class to pull that off without looking like she was trying too hard. I can’t even watch those episodes.

  11. blf says

    @13, Yes, “The Crimson Horror”. Her part was written specifically for her (like others, I think they missed a trick in that Patrick Macnee, who was still alive at the time, didn’t have an at least cameo role). Ms Rigg’s real-life daughter played her character’s fictional daughter in that story. (As an aside, Sydney Newman, who created Doctor Who at the BBC, was also the creator of The Avengers at (British) ABC.)

    I grew up watching Rigg & Macnee in The Avengers, and only later discovered Honor Blackman’s earlier character, Dr Cathy Gale. Those two characters — Blackman’s Dr Gale and then Rigg’s Mrs Peel — were very possibly the best televised roles there had ever been for female actors (up to that time, at least). Neither was in any way the dopey helpless etc., etc., stereotype. Both could think — they were notoriously smarter than Macnee’s Steed — both had a scientific education / knowledge; both could take care of themselves (both were married in the series (Dr Gale was a widow, and Mrs Peel’s partner was missing, presumed dead, until her final episode)); and so on.

    As an aside, Mrs Peel only wore leather catsuits in her first year. Rigg found them uncomfortable, and they were replaced with the “Peeler”(?) Lycra(?) outfit.

    RIP, Diana Rigg & Honor Blackman. And thank you for some excellent shows!

  12. dorght says

    Can’t believe this is already posted

    I like that the video creator credited and linked the song.

  13. favog says

    Also forgot to mention in previous post … it’s been accepted wisdom until recently that adventure stories in any medium with a female lead bomb because dudes my age are too intimated by a capable woman as a hero. Some would say there’s still truth to it, to an extent. It may be true over all, but for me, Dame Diana presented a hypercompetent adventure lady before that attitude could take hold. Emma Peel wasn’t just awesome herself, she helped make me a better person.

  14. says

    OMG – i can’t tell you how i practically LIVED in my little black long sleeved leotard with black tights and black gogo boots and karate chopped my way through grade school. She was one of my very first heros (along with the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh) Did anyone ever see her Medea? Genius! Ah Diana – i cried this morning.

  15. Mobius says

    Alas. [sob]

    Mrs Peel may have been a significant influence on the sexual fascinations of many of my generation.

    Yes, this was certainly true.

  16. Dunc says

    Those two characters — Blackman’s Dr Gale and then Rigg’s Mrs Peel — were very possibly the best televised roles there had ever been for female actors (up to that time, at least).

    Up to that time, certainly, and you could make a strong argument that it still remains true to the present day. They both had a level of complexity that’s it’s still unusual to see.

    I do have to speak up for MacNee’s Steed though – he was a great character too, and a true gentleman. (As was MacNee himself, by all accounts.)

  17. ColonelZen says

    Sigh. My first love (I was about six through eight years old when some channel broadcast “The Avengers” friday nights. As I got older a bit of the absurdity of it all began to seep through. That it was not just absurd but downright surreal took a bit longer. To this day I have a hard time shaking my anglophilic propensities … despite being now very well aware (and radically condemnatory) of its classist/elitist/racist/colonialist origins (in this and a great deal of other anglo-centric media. Is there ANY which makes it to this side of “the pond” which isn’t?)

    Anyway I vaguely recall seeing her in a few teleplays and similar that made it over in the years after her “Mrs. Peel”, but hadn’t heard of her for decades…

    Then I saw her in GOT … well the costume wasn’t skin-tight vinyl nor a negligee in a cage … but damn the woman still managed to convey a a magnetic allure of class and self confident style.

    It’s a sad day in an increasingly sad world.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    ColonelZen @27: One of my first big crushes was a young teacher in primary school in Leeds; a Miss Rigg. The Avengers started the year I left primary school, and I’ve long wondered whether my teacher might have been Diana’s (younger?) sister. There was a resemblance. Years later, I learned that Diana was born in Yorkshire, and had attended a school near Leeds. A boy can dream…

    Rigg played one of my favourite characters in GoT (Lyanna Mormont comes close). A memorable exchange;

    Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey): “Ah, yes, the famously tart-tongued Queen of Thorns.”
    Olenna Tyrell (Rigg): “And the famous tart, Queen Cersei.”

    It’s in the delivery.

  19. says

    Kathi Rick (#23) –

    Early cosplay? Lucky.

    The Avengers were in reruns when I saw them in the 1970s. Seeing Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was the first time I envied the way women dress, something I could never have done as a kid.

  20. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    Sigh, 2020. She definitely had an effect on me. The show started to air just before I was born, but was in reruns through my adolescence. Steed was a very cool proper English gentleman, but definitely not my main focus while watching. I don’t remember her as being super sexualized, but I always found the character as she played it fascinating. Cool, smart, competent, it set a high bar. She will always be a fond memory as long as I live.

  21. says

    anthrosciguy@10 only the last 4 episodes of The New Avengers were filmed in Canada, helpfully labelled as The New Avengers In Canada on the episode title cards. The first Canadian filmed episode, “Complex,” included appearances by veteran Canadian character actors Cec Linder(who played Felix Leiter in Goldfinger), Jan Rubes, and Harvey Atkin.

  22. tomocar says

    Oh dear… very sad… and it makes me feel old as well… I too was in love (lust) with her back in those days. I was in the US Air Force Band in Germany in the early 70’s, and was on a gig in London some time in 1972. Wanting to see as many plays as I could over a weekend, I happened on the premier production of Tom Stoppard’s “Jumpers” at the Old Vic Theatre. Well, not only did I get to see Diana Rigg live onstage, She did a nude scene! Oh My Goodness!!!

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    strykarkatt @35: Yeah, if Idris Elba snuffed it, I’m sure the comments here would be strictly about his thespian abilities.

  24. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @5:
    I heard that too.
    I imagine the producers reviewing applicants to replace Honor Blackman, seeing Diana Rigg, one says,
    “She really has some M appeal for this spy character”, to which others respond
    “aha! That’s the name we’ll give her character!” <chuckles>
    Aside from that anecdote, I am a diehard fan of Mrs. Peel, even more than all her other portrayals. The only compensation is that she lived to 82 before passing, a long wonderful life of stellar roles. She rivaled Julie Newmar as Catwoman for my adolescent affections. I so envied Steed for having Peel as his partner in hunting spies and criminals, (his car was enviable as well)

  25. davidc1 says

    @35 From her obituary in the Guardian ,don’t read it ,it might upset you.
    In a 2019 interview with the Guardian, she said that becoming a sex symbol overnight had shocked her, adding that she “didn’t know how to handle it”, and kept unopened fan mail in the boot of her car “because I didn’t know how to respond and thought it was rude to throw it away. Then my mother became my secretary and replied to the really inappropriate ones saying: ‘My daughter’s far too old for you. Go take a cold shower!’”

  26. ColonelZen says

    strykarkatt @ 35

    You are way out of line, and yours is the kind of comment which gives the MR weebs ammunition.

    I was enamored of Dianna Rigg as Mrs Peel long before I had a clue what fucking was. While sexuality, even well pre-pubescent is certainly apart of her attraction, I think the portrayal of (then) something very different as a strong self confident and self-assured persona who was also feminine was a large part of it.

    Likewise while never a fanatic fan of GoT, I did watch (about two a night over a couple weeks) all episodes. I was fascinated with the character of Oleanna (and recognzed and was fascinated by actress’s perhaps overpowering – but that was part of the character – “presence” in all her scenes, but done with nuance and finesse) for several episodes before I noticed in the credits that it was DR. There was nothing sexual or per-se fuckable about her character. Other than being a strong and fascinating woman.

    Men can and do appreciate women without fuckability being their primary criterion of interest. There have been many women I have and do admire whom I have no interest in as sexual encounters. Some in my personal life have been women whom I found physically … if not repusive, then unappealing … but who’s character and other inspirations to me and sometimes on my behalf have earned a measure of respect and even an appropriate love of them .

    Dianna Rigg as Mrs. Peel certainly played upon her sexual attractiveness, and you can hardly blame us for acknowledging and responding it when it was part of what she (as her character) was “selling”. But many a Playboy Playmate has died in the many years since I’ve paid attention to such and for the most part if/when I heard of such, even those more buxom than DR rarely got more than a momentarty, “sad” thought from me. Ms. Rigg and her memory will be part of my life and occasional contemplation, a part of “me” until my own death.

    Please recognise and acknowledge that there is much more in terms of respect and admiration going on here than long erstwhile sexual stimulation, and that men can and do appreciate women for more than that.

  27. Chakat Firepaw says

    It’s worth noting that she was still working: She was playing Mrs. Pumphrey in the new version of All Creatures Great and Small.

  28. pacal says

    No. 14 davidc1

    You mentioned that wonderful parody of Horror Thrillers Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price and Diana Rigg playing father and daughter. It is one huge serving of ham, camp and cheese well worth watching complete with lots and lots of Shakespeare!!

    That is one of my favorite Vincent Price films and if Vincent in the film is camp, cheese and ham galore so is Diana Rigg. Truly a fun ride.

  29. davidc1 says

    @41 ,Glad to meet another fan ,the way he got rid of Meredith Merridew ( Robert Morley ) was a hoot and a half .

  30. KG says

    Mrs Peel may have been a significant influence on the sexual fascinations of many of my generation. Nothing against Steed, but I didn’t watch it for him. – PZM

    Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was one of my earliest crushes. I saw her later in theatre in Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, and on TV as Lady Dedlock in Bleak House, but nothing recent. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones, but I imagine she was brilliant in that as well. Yes, strykarkatt@35, she was extremely beautiful and glamorous (“fuckable” is your choice of word, no-one else has used it), as well as being a great and very versatile actor. Why should she not be celebrated for both?

  31. brucegee1962 says

    @35 strykarkatt
    Last Christmas, I was looking over the calendars in one of those pop-up Christmas stores at the mall, and I noticed that there were exactly the same number of “hot women in bikinis” and “hot shirtless guys” calendars. Progress?
    A decade ago, I felt that feminists ought to pick a goal: either “it’s crass for a man to publicly admire a woman for her beauty” or “both genders get to be equally libidinous.” (I hope it’s clear that, when I say ‘publicly,’ I’m talking about print, not catcalling, and with other caveats for appropriateness.) But If women say it’s bad for men to ogle women but ok for women to ogle men, both messages get muddied.
    Now, though, I think that society has spoken. Both genders get to be horndogs. From what I’ve seen, womens’ magazines like Cosmo go just as far or farther objectifying men than mens’ magazines like Esquire go in objectifying women.
    What really hit me was seeing a 50-year old mom openly carrying and reading 50 Shades of Gray. So men keep their porn safely tucked under their mattress at home, but now women carry theirs around in the open. Progress?

  32. davidc1 says

    She was also the compiler of a collection of the worst theatrical reviews in history,
    it was titled No Turn Unstoned .

  33. Ray, rude-ass yankee - One inseparable gemisch says

    strykarkatt@35, Ummmm… Yeah. Pretty sure that’s not what I said. I never rated her on any “fuckability’ scale. She was a talented actor and I admired her. I found the character she played memorable and a contrast to other female roles on TV at the time. She helped shape, in my pre-teen and teen years, how to see women as fully actualized people.