THE SERPENT SON

It is well known that the Lustrian goddess Rigg in early Warhammer was inspired by the British actress Diana Rigg. Some years ago Zhu Bajiee suggested that specifically her appearance in a 1979 BBC TV adaptation of the Oresteia might have been an influence. The adaptation was The Serpent Son, and was notable, amongst other things, for its distinctive costumes. The programme has rarely been repeated and few images exist of it. However, I have found several photographs and stills from it that were apparently unavailable to Zhu Bajiee. I thought I would share them here, including colour images of Helen Mirren’s “punk hairstyle the colour of raw carrots”.

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A restoration of the cover of Radio Times 2886 (3-9 March 1979), featuring Diana Rigg as Clytaemnestra

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2012 promotional poster, featuring Diana Rigg as Clytaemnestra

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Diana Rigg and Denis Quilley as Clytaemnestra and Agamemnon

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Denis Quilley as Agamemnon

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Images of Denis Quilley and Terrence Hardiman as Agamemnon and Aegisthus, from Radio Times

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Stills of Helen Mirren as Cassandra

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Helen Mirren and Diana Rigg as Cassandra and Clytaemnestra

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Promotional still of Dennis Quilley, Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren as Agamemnon, Clytaemnestra and Cassandra

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Sylvia Kay, Siân Phillips and Linda Thorson as Furies

Although the Serpent Son costumes seem to blend ancient and futuristic elements in a fashion not dissimilar to that of Halliwell’s Lustria, there are no specific details in these costumes that are repeated in the illustrations of the goddess Rigg or her Amazon followers. Instead, the illustrations seem to combine punk, classical, Mesoamerican and native north American influences.

This does not, of course, prove there was no connection. The influence might have been less direct. Moreover, the illustrations were drawn not by the creator of Rigg and the Amazons, Richard Halliwell, but by Tony Ackland and John Blanche. It is possible their inspirations were different from Halliwell’s. Halliwell’s only comment on Rigg’s appearance describes her as “giant… at least nine feet tall, red hair and eyes”. We might very tentatively connect the “red eyes” with Diana Rigg’s eye make-up in The Serpent Son, but ultimately we have very little to go on.

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Illustrations of Amazons and the goddess Rigg from the second Citadel Compendium (1984)

Internal art by John Blanche and Tony Ackland. Images used without permission. No challenge intended to the rights holders.

6 thoughts on “THE SERPENT SON

  1. It’s a nice theory (and some stunning images), but I doubt it’s true.
    Now it was before my time at GW and I never discussed it with Hal so I can’t be 100% certain, but I think the name of Rigg was suggested by her legendary role as Emma Peel in The Avengers from 1965-1968 and endlessly in reruns. Mrs. Peel was a real icon, firmly embedded in popular culture. By contrast, a BBC production of an ancient Greek tragedy would probably have been seen (if it was seen at all) as too effete and highbrow for the Warhammer of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Emma Peel does seem a more likely inspiration. In defence of the Clytaemnestra connection, Richard Halliwell could have seen it on the cover of Radio Times, which at the time was bought by about one in three British households, but even so, The Avengers was far more prominent.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Goddess Rigg is one of the few Warhammer gods to get their own miniature – the oversized C30 Amazon in the illustration you shared in the article:

    Like

  3. I play a lot of Blood Bowl 2 and the Amazons of Lustria are alive and well in that setting so it is always interesting to see the early version in the ‘main’ game and how the look changed over the years.

    Like

  4. Incidentally Barbara Kidd’s costumes for The Serpent Son were said to have been inspired by Minoan dress, and there are clear similarities. For example, Clytaemnestra’s dresses closely echo so-called serpent goddess figurines excavated from Cnossos, and the hairstyles of Clytaemnestra and the Furies resemble those in Minoan frescoes.

    Liked by 1 person

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