R.I.P. Diana Rigg, Emma Peel of 'The Avengers' and James Bond's wife

The former Bond Girl and Dame of the British Empire was 82.

Image: The Everett Collection

The British Invasion stretched far beyond the Beatles, beyond the world of pop music, in fact. Television saw its fair share of English imports in the Sixties. The Prisoner, The Saint and Thunderbirds became immediate transatlantic hits. There were also more obscure gems such as The Baron and Journey to the Unknown

And then, of course, we had The Avengers. The name today is more associated with Iron Man and Captain America, but to any Boomer, The Avengers conjures images of dapper, clever spy action. Not even the flop Uma Thurman reboot of 1998 can taint that.

ABC purchased The Avengers for broadcast in 1965, plopping down a massive $2 million for the rights to the sexy, sensational series. We Americans actually started on season four, which is why Emma Peel is the first heroine who comes to mind from the show.

The show centered around Patrick Macnee's secret agent John Steed. Over the course of six seasons, he worked with a few female sidekicks, beginning with the green Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) and the whipsmart, judo-kicking anthropologist Dr. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). 

Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was introduced in the fourth season, as the show upped its budget (as well as its "mod" factor) and took a lighter tone. The influence of James Bond undoubtedly loomed large. No coincidence that both Rigg (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and Blackman (Goldfinger) both became iconic Bond Girls, as well. But only Rigg got to marry Bond.

Raised for part of her youth in India, Rigg studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and like so many other British thespians, began onstage with a healthy dose of Shakespeare. She was not the original choice to play Emma Peel. In fact, Elizabeth Shepherd played the character for a couple of episodes before leaving The Avengers

The Avengers turned Rigg into a pop star. Her character Emma Peel could be found in pulp novels and comic books. 

TV GuideRigg promotes 'Diana' in 1973

In 1973, NBC cast Rigg in a new light, giving the actress her own sitcom, simply titled Diana. Her character was a British fashion designer living in New York City, a sort of Anglophile spin on workplace comedy of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, right down to the similar hairstyles. 

Though Diana lasted a mere season, Rigg continued to be a presence on American television well into the 21st century. Her wise and witty character Lady Olenna Tyrell became a fan-favorite on the fantasy epic Game of Thrones

Speaking of thrones, in 1994, Riggs became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, earning the official title Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, DBE. 

On September 10, Rigg passed away at her home, according to the BBC. She was 82.

 
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MichaelHopkins 3 days ago
She was a beautiful women and that English accent...smokin!
CraigRoberts 5 days ago
I had a SERIOUS Crush on Emma Peel as a kid watching the Avengers. Little heart broken today !


iloveoldtvshows 6 days ago
I bet metv won’t change the fall schedule until September
bru 7 days ago
There was also a model on the cover of The Cufflinks album, which had the hit song "Tracy" on it. Since The Cufflinks was one of those "feel good bubble gum music" made up bands from the English guy (either Tony Burrows or Ron Dante) who was the voice and music of many late sixty "bands", Diana must have made her mark in the music business then too.
Biggmonsterman 7 days ago
Dame Diana Rigg was a beautiful person and I've loved her in everything she did. Besides Emma Peel & Tracy, from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of my favourites is Theatre of Blood with Vincent Price.
On a side note, I did some checking regarding the statement about Elizabeth Shepherd. She was originally hired to play Mrs. Peel but was recast after 2 episodes, which scenes were then re-filmed with Diana Rigg. According to The Avengers Forever, no original footage of Elizabeth Shepherd as Peel seems to exist.
Theatre of Blood is one of my FAVE Price films.
She was also the hostess on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery.
My older brother somehow missed the news of her death. When I told him Sunday, he remembered that she was not the 1st Mrs. Peel.
pumkinheadfan 7 days ago
I was late to the party when it came to The Avengers..I grew up watching the show in the 90's as re-runs on BBC America with other shows like Benny Hill, The Prisoner, The Saint and Monty Python thanks to Satellite. I kinda refer to this time as the 60's resurgence period thanks primarily to Austin Powers or cursed which ever way you look at it. That was reason they pushed the camp dynamic for the movie. I too like many will always be a fan of Dame Diana Rigg. I would also like to make note that besides G.O.T she appeared in Season 7, Episode 12 of Doctor Who along with her daughter British actress Rachel Stirling. It was a pleasant surprise and worth a watch for any fan.
Had to check on the Doctor Who episode (it was in 2005) because I would like to see it. I have only seen the last 10 or so years of Doctor Who on BBC-America.
Yeah it was from season 7 of the rebooted Doctor Who (5/4/2013)..The episode was titled "The Crimson Terror". This would've been with the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith).

I also forgot to mention that not only did The Avengers get popular in the 90's with syndication and the Movie. Diana"s character was the mention in music as well. The Song Ms. Emma Peel by Dishwalla!
THANKS. sorry for the wrong date. checked several places (including imdb.com) and saw conflicting dates..maybe because of reruns
Geronimo 7 days ago
Wow, sorry to hear that Ms Riggs had past. I had a crush on her when I was younger and use to watch The Avengers. I get so excited when I see her on that show.
Stormbringer 7 days ago
I loved her growing up. Even named my first born daughter Emma after the iconic Mrs.Peel. R.I P. Diana
jacko3 7 days ago
She was slender, sexy and intriguing .. as Emma Peel .. too bad in this (lovely) World we have to age .. so fast .. in human terms.. GOD Rest her soul and legacy ....
seacoast 7 days ago
RIP Diana Rigg, ME TV bring the Avengers to the ME TV schedule.
katers 7 days ago
One of my favorite shows is The Avengers. It took a couple episodes, but I even got my teenage kids to become huge fans as well. I have written MeTV a couple times asking for them to broadcast this classic show.
Barry22 8 days ago
RIP. Liked The Avengers as a kid, and seeing it in reruns as an adult made me appreciate it more.
JHP 8 days ago
being born in '59 one one of my 1st BIG TIME crushes - hey me-tv (just maybe hint hint)
dictracy 8 days ago
Another vote for YES! GET THE AVENGERS ON METV
retired2019 8 days ago
Oh! I agree with Pacificsun 110 %! Get The Avengers on MeTV 😀
ENCarlan 8 days ago
Dame Diana's portrayal of Emma Peel gave me the courage to grow up. Seeing a strong, courageous, intelligent, and capable woman who was beautiful on top of all that convinced my 11-year-old self that it was safe to become an adult. Thank you, Dame Diana, for this gift that you never knew you gave me.
Pacificsun 9 days ago
MeTV Staff: You should try and get The Avengers for a short run in the early winter, to replace The Three Stooges in that hour before Svengoolie.
ellio1033 9 days ago
she was a beautiful and wonderful actress❤
MrsPhilHarris 9 days ago
Loved Mrs. Peel. Loved her leather outfit.
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