Some of the most memorable episodes of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small series one starred Diana Rigg as the eccentric and wealthy widow Mrs Pumphrey, owner of a spoilt and overfed Pekingese dog called Tricki Woo.
All Creatures has now been renewed for a second series. But after Rigg’s death in September at the age of 82, the question of whether to recast the role for series two – or whether to write out Mrs Pumphrey entirely – still remains.
Speaking ahead of the show’s 2020 Christmas special, executive producer Colin Callender told RadioTimes.com and other press: “Can we all just take a moment and acknowledge the passing of Diana Rigg – and I mean, how wonderful to have Emma Peel in All Creatures Great and Small!
“We decided that we Mrs Pumphrey wouldn’t wear a leather jumpsuit, but that was a conversation we had at one point.”
Rigg played Emma Peel in The Avengers back in the 1960s. Other memorable roles included Countess Teresa in James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones.
She starred in two episodes of All Creatures Great and Small in series one, but is not featured in the Christmas special. However, she will be seen in upcoming BBC drama Black Narcissus.
Callender continued: “Joking aside, the thought was always that we would be able to have cameo cast – and for those of you who are already asking the question, ‘What are we going to do as we go forward’, as we’re thinking about season two we’re looking at what we will do with the character of Mrs Pumphrey and Tricki Woo. So we haven’t made any final decisions on that yet.”
Mrs Pumphrey is a character who appears many times on the pages of the original James Herriot books. In the original BBC series, which ran from 1978 to 1990, she was played throughout by the actress Margaretta Scott.
Samuel West, who stars as Siegfried Farnon, previously told RadioTimes.com after the All Creatures series one finale: “In the books there are a lot of delightful stories about Mrs Pumphrey that we haven’t touched on yet. I haven’t spoken to the producers about it, I imagine they would want to include those because they’re such good stories.
“And she gets a pig at one point, which is rather nice – and turns out to be just as wearing about the pig as she is about Tricki Woo! And I suppose they will recast. But that’s a difficult job, because she [Rigg] is – in a very real sense of the word – irreplaceable.”
Reflecting on his time acting alongside Rigg, he said: “She was extraordinary, actually. It’s quite hard to think of her not being with us any more, because she was so full of life. She had an extraordinary energy and an extraordinary playfulness and an unerring ability to head towards the most attractive men on the set and spend her time with them! And I was never one of them.
“But she was terrific – and what a wonderful performance.”
The All Creatures Great and Small Christmas special will air on 22nd December 2020 at 9pm on Channel 5. While you’re waiting, take a look at our TV guide to find out what’s on this week.