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"Mrs Peel, we're needed."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator



Emma Peel was a fictional spy played by Diana Rigg in the British 1960s adventure television series The Avengers, by Diane Appleby in the South African radio series of The Avengers (1971-73) and by Uma Thurman in the 1998 film version of the show. She was born Emma Knight, the daughter of an industrialist, Sir John Knight.

The character was notable for a number of characteristics. She is a heroine; she is rarely bested in any fight and is capable of rescuing Steed if he is in trouble. She is a master of martial arts and a formidable fencer. A certified genius, she specializes in chemistry and other sciences. She is often seen in episodes engaging in artistic hobbies and had success in industry at the helm of the company of her late father, Sir John Knight. Her husband, Peter Peel, was a pilot whose plane disappeared over the Amazonian forest. He was presumed dead for many years, and Peel went on to work with Steed. She drove a convertible Lotus Elan at high speeds, and convincingly portrayed any series of undercover roles, from nurse to nanny. Her favourite guise was that of a women's magazine reporter, trying to interview big business tycoons and rich playboys.

Peel's verbal interactions with Steed range from witty banter to thinly disguised innuendo. Regarding the question of whether they had a sexual relationship at any time, Patrick Macnee thought they went to bed on a very regular basis (just not in view of the camera), Rigg thought they were engaged in a very enjoyable extended flirtation that ultimately went nowhere, and Brian Clemens said he wrote them with the idea they had an affair before Emma's first appearance in the series.

Her style of dress typified the period, and the character is still a fashion icon. John Bates was brought in as the costume designer for Emma Peel in the second half of the fourth series. He created a wardrobe of black and white op-art mod clothing and mini skirts. Before this, people had believed that lines, circles and other bold patterns would not work on the television cameras of the day. It was also filmed before the mini skirt had become mainstream. Bates even had to stop leaving hems on the mini skirts because the production team kept lowering them again. He also licensed his designs to several manufacturers under the Avengerswear label and these pieces were sold in various shops throughout the country. Diana Rigg is often remembered for the leather catsuit she wore early on in her first season. She in fact disliked wearing leather, so Bates designed softer stretch jersey and PVC catsuits for her instead.

For the colour season, the designer was Alun Hughes, who used bold colours and lurid, psychedelic patterns. Hughes also created the Emmapeeler catsuit, which was made of stretch jersey in bright block colours. The Emmapeelers and several other pieces from this season's wardrobe were also licensed and sold in the shops.

When Peter Peel surprisingly reappears, at the end of "The Forget-Me-Knot", Emma leaves Steed and her spy career behind. In the distant shot in which he appears, Peter Peel looks suspiciously like Steed (and was played by Patrick Macnee and his stunt double, Peter Weston), and like him drives a two-door convertible Bentley, albeit a contemporary model. Emma meets her replacement, Tara King, who enters the building as she herself is leaving, and tells her that Steed likes his tea stirred "anti-clockwise".

In real life, Diana Rigg had chosen to leave the series for a number of reasons, one of which was to accept a role in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. During her first series, as she eventually learned, she was making less than the cameraman: afterwards her salary was tripled, and that, combined with her loyalty to Macnee persuaded her to come back for 25 additional episodes (including her farewell episode, which was actually shot well into the Tara King season). However, eventually the arduous shooting schedules, conflicts with the producers, the lure of film and stage roles, and a desire to challenge herself as an actress all combined to make her decide to leave the show for good.

She was the last in a string of "talented amateurs" with whom John Steed was teamed: her successor was a neophyte professional agent named Tara King, played by actress Linda Thorson, but Emma Peel appeared on TV one last time, in an episode of The New Avengers entitled "K is for Kill." She speaks briefly with Steed over the phone and mentions in passing that her last name isn't Peel anymore; Steed replies, "You'll always be Mrs. Peel to me."

1.  The Town of No Return

October 2, 1965

"You stay there. Special experience to move without noise. Superior training. I can move like a cat... in carpet slippers."

- John Steed

Four agents have vanished, looking for each other, in Little Bazeley-by-the-Sea. Steed and Emma go in for the man who went in for the man who.... and meet the odd local landlord, blacksmith and vicar. Are they more than they seem?

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: Robert Brown, Patrick Newell, Terence Alexander, Jeremy Burnham

First episode to cast Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel. Eleanor Bron turned down Emma Peel and the role was taken by Elizabeth Shepherd, who was replaced by Diana Rigg midway through filming her first episode.

First episode introducing the now famous theme song composed by Laurie Johnson. This catchy tune was also the base for the theme of the TV series The New Avengers (1976) and again for the movie The Avengers (1998).

Guest star Patrick Newell would later play Mother in the Linda Thorson era.

Jeremy Burnham, who plays the Vicar, would later write five stories in 1968/69 for 'The Avengers'.

During the scene in which Smallwood is chased by bloodhounds, there is a shot of Patrick Newell running through some water - but whereas the actor playing Smallwood is obese and dark-haired, the stunt man seen front-on in the water shot is grey-haired and slim.

2.  The Gravediggers

October 9, 1965

"Oh, I don't know. At least it would've kept you to the straight and narrow."

- Emma Peel

Has the late Dr Marlow's proposed radar-jamming system been tested against British defences? If so, the dead scientist seems to be doing it from his grave. And what's the connection with the local hospital's bizarre operations and a train-crazy philanthropist?

Director: Quentin Lawrence Writer: Malcolm Hulke

Guest starring: Wanda Ventham, Steven Berkoff, Ronald Fraser

3.  The Cybernauts

October 16, 1965

"It's a karate blow. Delivered by an expert, it breaks the neck easier than a hangman's noose."

- Emma Peel

A vastly strong, bullet-proof killer homes in on and destroys several electronics executives. Could it have something to do with Dr. Armstrong's automated work place? Or with the activities of a nearby karate school...

Director: Sidney Hayers Writer: Philip Levene

Guest starring: Michael Gough, Burt Kwouk, Frederick Jaeger

The first appearance of The Cybernauts and the first episode broadcast in the US, on March 28th, 1966, on the ABC-TV network.

Actor John Hollis plays the karate sensai in this story. He would later make an uncredited appearance in the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only (1981) as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Both Burt Kwouk and Diana Rigg would also appear in Bond films later.

4.  Death at Bargain Prices

October 23, 1965

"I asked the chief predator where to find you and he said, "Our Mrs. Peel is in ladies' underwear." I rattled up the stairs three at a time."

- John Steed

When an agent is killed in the lift of Pinter's Department store, Steed and Emma get involved with King Kane, a tycoon who lives in a penthouse above the store. Why is Professor Popple, a missing atomic scientist, being held in the bargain basement?

Director: Charles Crichton Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: André Morell, T.P. McKenna, Peter Howell, Ronnie Stevens

Main guest star Andre Morell only has four scenes and T.P. McKenna had to turn down a part in Doctor Zhivago because he had signed the contract for this episode.

5.  Castle De'ath

October 30, 1965

Why have all the fish vanished from the Scottish coastline? Does it have anything to do with a dead frogman, found stretched as if on a rack? Steed and Emma think so, which is why they're guests of Ian, the 35th Laird of Clan De'ath, and in danger of being caught by the gillies.

Director: James Hill Writer: John Lucarotti

Guest starring: Gordon Jackson, Robert Urquhart, Jack Lambert

Substantially similar to a 1946 "Tommy Hambledon" story by "Manning Coles" ("Handcuffs Don't Hold Ghosts") - in turn re-tooled by Jim Steranko as the basis for issue #4 of "Nick Fury - Agent of SHIELD" as "Dark Moon Rise - Hellhound Kill", this is the only Avengers where all the guest credited roles are killed off.

One cousin is played by Robert Urquhart, later seen in "Wish You Were Here," but best remembered as Peter Cushing's reluctant assistant in Hammer's "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957). The other is played by Gordon Jackson, also a Hammer veteran (1955's "The Quatermass Xperiment").

6.  The Master Minds

November 6, 1965

"Your facetiousness, Mr. Steed, covers an edgy temperament. In fact, I'd say your nerves mostly jangle like wires in the wind."

- Dr. Fergus Campbell

A government official, dresssed as one of the Horse-guards, helps in a raid on secret files and is wounded. Recovering, he remembers nothing. Is his crime anything to do with his membership of Ransack, a club for those with high IQs? Emma can join, but Steed may have to cheat....

Director: Peter Graham Scott Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Guest starring: Laurence Hardy, Ian MacNaughton, Patricia Haines

"The Master Minds" was just the second episode that Diana Rigg shot once she replaced Elizabeth Shepherd as Mrs. Peel.

7.  The Murder Market

November 13, 1965

"Ruthless, devious, scheming. Have to be quite a girl. A mixture of Lucrezia Borgia and Joan of Arc."

- Emma Peel

What could an outbreak of motiveless murders have to do with the activities of a marriage bureau called Togetherness Inc.? Well, think of Hitchcock's 'Strangers On A Train' and you'll be close. Steed and Emma seek their ideal partners....

Director: Peter Graham Scott Writer: Tony Williamson

Guest starring: John Woodvine, Barbara Roscoe, Patrick Cargill, Suzanne Lloyd, Naomi Chance

"The Murder Market" was half finished with Elizabeth Shepherd in the role of Mrs. Peel, when she was abruptly replaced by Diana Rigg. Rigg had completed her new scenes by December 14th 1964, and the results would be aired as the seventh episode nearly a year later, November 12th 1965.

8.  A Surfeit of H2O

November 20, 1965

"They must have put the dog in it too!"

- John Steed

A poacher drowns in a field during a freak storm, and Jonah, the village carpenter, starts building an ark. But Steed thinks it's all got more to do with the permanent cloud that hangs over Grannie Gregson's Glorious Grog factory.

Director: Sidney Hayers Writer: Colin Finbow

Guest starring: Sue Lloyd, Geoffrey Palmer, Noel Purcell, Albert Lieven

The thunder sound effect used in this episode is the same thunder SFX used in the opening credits of Patrick McGoohan's series The Prisoner (1967).

9.  The Hour That Never Was

November 27, 1965

Following a motor crash, Steed and Emma explore the seemingly deserted RAF Hamelin, where they were heading for a party to celebrate the base's closure. Is this surreal landscape all a dream, or is it something worse?

Director: Gerry O'Hara Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Roy Kinnear, Gerald Harper, Dudley Foster

Ray Austin, appearing uncredited as the "Dead Milkman" was the stunt co-ordinator for the series, and directed some episodes as well.

Roy Kinnear ("Hickey") made a total of four appearances on "The Avengers" (including the final episode), in different roles each time.

10.  Dial a Deadly Number

December 4, 1965

"Agreeable, well-rounded, a little on the flinty side."

- John Steed

A series of sudden deaths in high finance leads Steed to dabble in shares while Emma investigates the makers of executive paging devices. Are companies being acquired through a simple and subtle form of murder?

Director: Don Leaver Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Peter Bowles, Anthony Newlands, Clifford Evans

11.  Man-Eater of Surrey Green

December 11, 1965

Deaf botanist Alan Carter's fiancee walks away from their floral bliss under some strange influence, and is picked up by an entranced chauffeur. Has it got anything to do with the giant seed from outer space that has landed nearby?

Director: Sidney Hayers Writer: Philip Levene

Guest starring: Athene Seyler, Derek Farr, Gillian Lewis, David Hutcheson

12.  Two's a Crowd

December 18, 1965

"If I had a twin, I'm sure mother would have mentioned it."

- Emma Peel

Colonel Psev, a mysterious and unseen foreign spy with a toy fixation, arrives in London to infiltrate a defence conference. His four aides bully Brodny, the ambassador, until he comes up with a cunning ruse: Gordon Webster, rakish male model, is Steed's double.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Philip Levene

Guest starring: Julian Glover, John Bluthal, Maria Machado, Alec Mango

13.  Too Many Christmas Trees

December 25, 1965

"What can she be doing in Fort Knox?"

- John Steed

Christmas. Steed is having bad, seemingly prophetic, dreams, involving festive themes and a dead agent. Can he find solace at a fancy-dress party in the country home of a Dickens enthusiast?

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Tony Williamson

Guest starring: Mervyn Johns, Edwin Richfield, Jeanette Sterke

When Emma arrives at Steed's apartment, she reads some of the Christmas cards he's received. She notes that one is from Fort Knox, opens it and reads, "Best wishes for the future - Cathy." Steed responds, "Mrs. Gale! And how nice of her to remember me. What can she be doing in Fort Knox?" This is a reference to Honor Blackman, who quit her part as Cathy Gale in this series to appear as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964) - which involved a scheme to make the gold held at Fort Knox, Kentucky radioactive and valueless.

14Silent Dust

January 1, 1966

"Ah, I like a wine that bites back."

- John Steed

The lack of martens in a pleasant stretch of English countryside alerts Steed to the possible release of a fertiliser that has failed, reducing a landscape to a wasteland. But why is the local farming community so aggressive?

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Aubrey Morris, William Franklyn, Jack Watson, Isobel Black

Patrick Macnee specifically asked producer Brian Clemens for a chance to show of his horse riding skills. Diana Rigg however only had the chance to take one riding lesson before production on 'Silent Dust' began. Macnee was provided with the horse Laurence Olivier had ridden in the "Once more unto the breach, dear friends!" scene from Henry V (1944). The horse had been a mere two years old during the filming of Henry V, but was still able to perform standing on its hind legs twenty years later.

For the scene in which Mrs. Peel is being chased by hounds and takes a fall, Diana Rigg was doubled by Ray Austin, who accidentally fell into a hole and was knocked unconscious for five minutes.

15.  Room Without a View

January 8, 1966

"Kidnapped. Right under my nose."

- John Steed

A brilliant scientist reappears at the house of his wife. Has he escaped from notorious Manchurian prison camp Ni-San? And why have so many missing people stayed at the Chessman Hotel? Steed and Emma book in.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Vernon Dobtcheff, Paul Whitsun-Jones, Peter Jeffrey


16.  Small Game for Big Hunters

January 15, 1966

"It's the truth, he was wearing war paint. Sacrificial knife, the lot.
He practically ruined my bowler hat."

- John Steed

A man dressed in tropical clothes is found in Hertfortshire with an Kalayan arrow in his back. He has then fallen into a coma, yet there is no poison to be detected. All clues lead to an delusional Colonel living close by in a simulated tropical climate as if he were still serving in Kalaya. While Emma watches over an increasing number of comatose men, 'Major' Steed is invited into the Colonel's officers club with open arms, but is not allowed to leave.

Director: Gerry O'Hara Writer: Philip Levene

Guest starring: Peter Burton, Bill Fraser, James Villiers, Liam Redmond

Razafi's facial hair alternates between stubble and a full beard throughout the story. This is especially evident in the scene where Steed captures him and takes him to the Colonel's house.

17.  The Girl From Auntie

January 22, 1966

"Steed, listen to this: S1, K9, K2 tog toble eck.
Don't you see, it's a code. It seemed very clue-like."

- Georgie Price-Jones

Steed returns from holiday to find that a quite different Mrs. Peel is inhabiting his old friend's flat. With the aid of actress Georgie Price-Jones, he discovers that Art Incorporated and the Arkwright Knitting Circle are doing more together than just sharing needles.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Bernard Cribbins, Alfred Burke, Liz Fraser, Sylvia Coleridge

The title was inspired by the another popular spy series at the time, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964). Interestingly, Patrick Macnee would play the new head of U.N.C.L.E. in that show's reunion movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair (1983).

The taxi that steed gets into at the beginning of the program is a completely different model to the one that drops him off. Also, when Steed re-enters the taxi telling the driver, "Follow her," the camera pulls back too far and you can see the rungs at the top of the backdrop painting passing for a London exterior.

18.  The Thirteenth Hole

January 29, 1966

"I wouldn't mind giving YOU a stroke or two, on or off the course!"

- Captain 'Berty' Waversham

An agent is shot on the thirteenth hole of the Craigleigh golf club, so Steed and Emma join the club. Steed puts his limited skills to use in a murderous tournament, but Emma helps him get a hole in one.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer: Tony Williamson

Guest starring: Patrick Allen, Donald Hewlett, Hugh Manning, Peter Jones

Maybe it was an eclipse? At about the 21 minute mark, Steed walks into darkness. Two seconds later he is standing on the fairway in daylight with no darkness nearby at all.

19.  Quick-Quick Slow Death

February 5, 1966

"And you're dancing with garlic sausage!"

- John Steed

An agent is run over disposing of the body of a man in a dinner suit, while he was pushing him along in a pram. This all has something to do with Terpsichorean Training Techniques, a dance school where Emma teaches and Steed enrols.

Director: James Hill Writer: Robert Banks Stewart

Guest starring: Maurice Kaufmann, Carole Gray, John Woodnutt, Colin Ellis

20.  The Danger Makers

February 12, 1966

"Whatever you do, don't touch the wrapped ones."

- John Steed

Several military figures have been killed in dangerous games of daring. Emma and Steed follow the trail to a secret society of military men with very dangerous aims.

Director: Charles Crichton Writer: Roger Marshall

Guest starring: Douglas Wilmer, Fabia Drake, Moray Watson

In the scene where Steed is carefully opening Emma's box of chocolates, a crew member's arm is visible.

21.  A Touch of Brimstone

February 19, 1966

"I've come here to appeal to you, Mr. Cartney."

- Emma Peel

Silly tricks are being played on various VIPs in diplomatic situations. All the clues point to the beautifully wasted John Cleverly Cartney, but would even a rake like that stoop to murder by electrified opening ribbon? It's Peter Wyngarde and his Hellfire Club.

Director: James Hill Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: Peter Wyngarde, Carol Cleveland, Colin Jeavons

The 1966 episode "A Touch of Brimstone" was banned in the US because of Diana Rigg's Queen of Sin outfit (corset, spiked dog collar and thigh high boots as seen in the color production still above), which Rigg helped designed herself. In addition original UK ITV transmissions heavily edited the final whipping scene between Mrs Peel and Cartney to one lash of the whip. All later video and DVD releases featured the full uncut print.

This episode inspired part of the Dark Phoenix storyline in X-Men comics, in which a hypnotist using the name Wyngarde transformed Phoenix into his "Black Queen", with a costume based on that worn here by Diana Rigg.

Guest star Carol Cleveland (right) was a stage actress and model who had appeared as an extra in The Persuaders!, a secretary in The Saint, and other films and BBC-TV comedy productions, including The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise and various vehicles for Spike Milligan. This brought her to the attention of the production team of Monty Python's Flying Circus. She appeared in 30 of the 45 episodes in the series, plus all four Monty Python movies. She typically played in sketches when a beautiful woman was called for - as opposed to the typical female role which had the male members in drag. Cleveland is sometimes referred to as the seventh Python.

22.  What the Butler Saw

February 26, 1966

"You know, you make an excellent butler, but a very poor forger. These references here: The Duke of Duffep, the Earl of Isley, the Honorable Flaghorn... You see, I've checked. The're all the names of pubs."

- Benson

According to Steed's double-agent barber, one of three military men is a traitor. But which one? To find out, Steed becomes a butler, and Emma starts Operation Fascination to trap the woman-hungry Group Captain Miles.

Director: Bill Bain Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: John Le Mesurier, Thorley Walters, Denis Quilley

23.  The House That Jack Built

March 5, 1966

"What happened to the shining armor?"

- Emma Peel

"It's still at the laundry."

- John Steed

Emma inherits some property from her deceased Uncle Jack. The property is a very bizaarre house, and when Emma goes to inspect it, she finds herself trapped in a labyrinth of psychological torture.

Director: Don Leaver Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: Michael Goodliffe, Griffith Davies, Michael Wynne

"The House That Jack Built" inspired "Murderworld," an assassination by amusement park themed deathtraps facility in the Marvel Comics universe; in particular "The Uncanny X-Men" title.

When the camera follows Emma Peel in the background and pans by the plastic dome in the foreground, close-up images of camera and crew can be seen in the rotating mirrors inside the dome.

24.  A Sense of History

March 12, 1966

"That looks a bit droopy."

- Emma Peel

"Wait until it's challenged."

- John Steed

A death by archery sends Steed and Emma undercover at St. Bodes Academy, where the arguments between staff and hip students, and between different theories of history, seem to have taken on a murderous edge.

Director: Peter Graham Scott Writer: Martin Woodhouse

Guest starring: Nigel Stock, John Barron, John Glyn-Jones, Jacqueline Pearce

25.  How to Succeed... at Murder

March 19, 1966

"Henrietta's been dead for years, just seen the gravestone,
it's all extremely odd."

- John Steed

When several top executives die, their secretaries take over their firms. Is it mere chance, or are women trying to take over the world? Steed employs a deadly secretary, and Emma finds sorority down at the gym.

Director: Don Leaver Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: Sarah Lawson, Angela Browne, Anne Cunningham, Artro Morris

26.  Honey for the Prince

March 26, 1966

"Oh Colonel Robertson? Steed here. Did Mrs. Peel call and tell you about the body in my apartment? She did. Well will you have it removed right away, please, it's very untidy."

- John Steed

Steed and Emma return from a party to find a dying agent in Steed's flat. What is the connection between honey, a firm which makes fantasies to order and the oil deal promised by a visiting Bavarian Prince?

Director: James Hill Writer: Brian Clemens

Guest starring: Ron Moody, Roland Curram, Zia Mohyeddin, Ken Parry

Last episode in black and white. A young Yaphet Kotto (known for Alien (1979), Homicide: Life on the Street (1993) and Live and Let Die (1973), appears uncredited as one of shirtless guards with simitar.


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