Dame Diana Rigg’s final bow: Actress wowed viewers in All Creatures Great and Small this week

Dame Diana Rigg wowed audiences in her final role as Mrs Pumphrey in Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great and Small, which aired this week. 

The Yorkshire-born actress, who died yesterday aged 82, made her debut in the show as an eccentric wealthy widow who was besotted by her Pekingnese dog Trick-Woo in this week’s episode of the new series.

The former Bond girl will appear throughout the six episode series, airing on Tuesdays for the next month, which is based on the semi-autobiographical books by James Herriott about his time as a Yorkshire vet.

On Tuesday night, viewers branded the actresses portrayal of the character ‘marvellous’ ‘fabulous’ ‘genius’ and ‘brilliant’ as they were introduced to the  lovable older lady who called the vet to help when her prize pooch was having stomach problems due to his rich diet of trifle and beef wellington. 

Dame Diana Rigg wowed audiences in her final role as Mrs Pumphrey in Channel 5's reboot of All Creatures Great and Small, which aired this week. She is pictured in character

Dame Diana Rigg wowed audiences in her final role as Mrs Pumphrey in Channel 5’s reboot of All Creatures Great and Small, which aired this week. She is pictured in character

In the episode, James (Nicholas Ralph) a new assistant for larger than life vet Siegfried Farnon, played by Mr Selfridge star Samuel West, picks up his bosses younger brother Tristan, who is returning from University.  

Tristan, played by Callum Woodhouse (The Durrells) takes James to the home of wealthy widow Mrs Pumphrey, who is having trouble with her extremely spoilt pet Tricki Woo. 

Mrs Pumphrey is won over by James and quickly refers to him as ‘Uncle Herriot’. 

On behalf on Trick Woo, James is then invited to a white tie dance at  Mrs Pumphrey’s manor.

Viewers praised Diana’s performance as the rich and slightly unconventional landowner, just two days before the news broke of her passing from cancer.

The former bond girl will appear throughout the six episode series, airing on Tuesdays for the next month, which is based on the semi-autobiographical books by James Herriott about his time as a Yorkshire Vet. She is pictured with her dog Tricki-Woo

The former bond girl will appear throughout the six episode series, airing on Tuesdays for the next month, which is based on the semi-autobiographical books by James Herriott about his time as a Yorkshire Vet. She is pictured with her dog Tricki-Woo

‘Totally captivated Diana Rigg as Mrs Pumphrey! said one viewer.

‘Diana Rigg is excellent,’ added another.

‘Diana Rigg as Mrs Pumphrey = GENIUS!’ said a third.

‘Marvellous to see Diana Rigg as Mrs Pumphrey!’ wrote a fourth.   

The British actress made her name in the cult 1961 TV series The Avengers, before going on to star as the cutthroat matriarch Lady Olenna Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones, a show she later admitted she had never watched.

Viewers praised Diana's performance as the rich and slightly unconventional landowner, just two days before the news broke of her passing from cancer

Viewers praised Diana’s performance as the rich and slightly unconventional landowner, just two days before the news broke of her passing from cancer

Confirming her death, her agent said that Rigg had died ‘peacefully’ on Thursday morning, adding that she had been ‘at home with her family who have asked for privacy at this difficult time’.

Starting out as a classically trained actress in the Royal Shakespeare Company, Dame Diana’s engrossing stage performances were said to come from her ‘funny and feisty’ personality.

Jonathan Kent, who directed Rigg in a production of Medea said that her ‘combination of force of personality, beauty, courage and sheer emotional power, made her a great classical actress – one of an astonishing generation of British stage performers’.

All Creatures Great and Small paid tribute to the actress saying she will be 'sorely missed' and they were 'deeply saddened'

All Creatures Great and Small paid tribute to the actress saying she will be ‘sorely missed’ and they were ‘deeply saddened’

Samuel West, who stars alongside her in the show, added that Diana 'live the hell out of everyone'

Samuel West, who stars alongside her in the show, added that Diana ‘live the hell out of everyone’ 

The star, who won Bafta, Emmy and Tony awards, also earned worldwide acclaim for her turn as a Bond girl Tracy di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969, where she became only the second Bond girl to marry 007. 

Her last hurrah was in All Creatures Great and Small, which opened to a debut audience of  3.3M viewers, making it the most viewed show to air on Channel 5 in five years.

The reboot of the 1980s hit comes amid a huge surge in popularity of shows about rural life, with Our Yorkshire Farm, following the real-life dramas of a shepherdess and her nine children, emerging as the surprise hit of the summer. 

Diana Rigg as the cutthroat matriarch Oleanna Tyrell in HBO's worldwide hit series, Game of Thrones, a show she admitted in 2019 that she had never watched

Diana Rigg as the cutthroat matriarch Oleanna Tyrell in HBO’s worldwide hit series, Game of Thrones, a show she admitted in 2019 that she had never watched

The story is based on the real experience of James Herriot (real name Alf Wright) and his semi-autobiographical series of books, which were based on his interactions in the Yorkshire Dales. 

The collected works of All Creatures Great and Small have sold 60million copies internationally and have never been out of print.

Its most famous adaptation originally ran on the BBC from 1978 to 1990 with Christopher Timothy as the Dales vet and Robert Hardy as his boss, Siegfried Farnon. 

The show is set in the stunning Yorkshire Dales,  and will air after The Yorkshire Vet, a real-life programme about a of Skeldale Veterinary Centre in Thirsk, North Yorkshire – once the practice of Alf Wight.

Rigg became the second Bond girl to marry 007 when she starred in James Bond 's On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969

Rigg became the second Bond girl to marry 007 when she starred in James Bond ‘s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969

The Yorkshire Vet is narrated by Christopher Timothy, who played Herriot in the original series of All Creatures Great and Small that aired 30 years ago.  

In a statement last night, Channel 5 said: ‘We are terribly saddened to hear the news today of Dame Diana’s passing. She was a stage and screen icon, who most recently starred as the loveable and eccentric Mrs. Pumphrey in our adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small.

Sir Colin Callender, Executive Producer of All Creatures Great and Small added: ‘Dame Diana will be sorely missed across the creative industries and our thoughts go out to her friends and family at this time.’ 

‘All of us at Al Creatures Great and Small are heartbroken by the passing of Dame Diana Rigg one the greats of British acting royalty. 

‘From day one we wanted Dame Diana to play James Herriot’s iconic character Mrs. Pumphrey and we were thrilled when she said yes. 

‘She embraced the role with reckless abandon and brought to the screen enormous glamour, dignity and self-deprecating wit. We were deeply privileged to have worked with her. She will be deeply missed.’

The Yorkshire lass who went on to become a star of the silver screen and James Bond’s first wife

Dame Diana shot to fame as Emma Peel in Sixties TV series The Avengers and then as a Bond girl.

But she also notched up many Shakespearean roles and enjoyed a long career, appearing recently as powerful matriarch Olenna Tyrell in Game Of Thrones.

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster on July 20, 1938.

She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1959.

The actress quickly made her mark there with important roles in productions of The Taming Of The Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and King Lear.

After that, she was hugely successful in her role as Emma Peel, the secret service agent in The Avengers, co-starring Patrick Macnee.

But Dame Diana was unhappy about the intrusion into privacy that came with being on TV, and she was also critical of the way she was treated by TV bosses.

She also discovered that she was being paid less than a cameraman.

‘It was very, very intrusive in those days, because I was instantly recognisable,’ the actress later told Variety.

‘I was grateful to be a success, but there was a price to pay.’

In 1969, she played Bond girl Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, opposite Bond actor George Lazenby, with whom she had a difficult relationship.

It was in the 1970s that she joined the National Theatre, where she played major roles in Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, The Misanthrope, Pygmalion, Antony And Cleopatra and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

In a nude scene she played in Abelard And Heloise, she was described by one critic as being ‘built like a brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses’.

As a result, she produced a book of the worst-ever theatrical reviews, entitled No Turn Unstoned. It was a best-seller.  

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