Mrs. Peel Was Always Needed

One of the sadder duties with having been a fan for so long over certain British ‘ambassadorial’ TV programs is in seeing these influential characters which were foundational in your overall fandom pass from the scene.  In April Honor Blackman died and we wrote about her at that time.  Now we have learned that Diana Rigg has also passed away aged 82.

Rigg, like Blackman before her, did have a Doctor Who connection in that she appeared in the Matt Smith story The Crimson Horror, which was a fun story at the time (Rigg was even the baddie!), but that was really just a footnote in her 60-year career, much of it spent in the theater.  But it was in television for which she is best remembered, and that begins with ‘The Avengers.’ 

‘The Avengers’ was a “foundational text, alongside ‘The Prisoner’ and Doctor Who for the Tour, gateway drugs for the wondrous experience that British television beheld when you were of an age to appreciate it.  ‘The Avengers’ was already a successful program when Honor Blackman decided to leave after their 3rd season.  The character of Emma Peel (M–appeal, man appeal, get it?) was set as her replacement as the show was given a revamp and complete new layer of gloss as it transitioned from tape (almost live-to-tape) to film.  Believe it or not Rigg was a recast after the original actress was found it be lacking for what the producers were looking for, and what a revelation she turned out to be.

Smart and funny, lithe but tough when needed, Rigg, and Emma Peel, was a sensation.  ‘The Avengers’ was the first British program to really breakthrough onto American prime-time, and her two seasons were largely brilliant. Here’s a footnote upon a footnote, Rigg had to be talked into coming back for her second season over pay inequities.  If she had been a one and done, it would be interesting to speculate upon her legacy now.  When Patrick Macnee passed back in 2015 we noted his passing as well.  Now all three of these iconic actors are gone. 

The Tour laments that an increasing amount of our attention is going towards obituaries of one sort or another, but it’s worth remembering, especially given our recent work in both the Tom Baker and Peter Davison sections, that even Davison (although he appears to be in very good health) will be turning 70 soon.  That’s something to think about, isn’t it?