Even though I am French, as far as I remember, I have always been fascinated by everything British. When I was young, I wanted to become someone like John Steed, with the umbrella, the bowler hat, the imperturbability and so on. Then I saw The Avengers for the first time on French television. From that moment on, I wanted to be John Steed, for the sole reason that he got to be with Mrs Peel a lot.
Emma Peel was one of the two lead characters in the British series "The Avengers", from 1965 to 1967. She was played by Diana Rigg who was 27 at the time. The first season was in black and white; the second season was in color.
While it was not the first time that a male/female duet was starring in a series, or a film, this time, the real lead was obviously the female character (don't tell John Steed, he still thinks he is the real star). Compared with John Steed, Emma Peel was clearly cleverer, stronger, and had more humour. And they took turns at who would rescue who.
Emma Peel was an acomplished woman. She was a first class scientist, an artist and an expert in martial arts. Needless to say, she was beautiful and attractive. For me, it was love at first sight.
Of course, Diana Rigg was the reason why Mrs Peel was so charming. She gave Emma her looks, her smile, her eyes and that je ne sais quoi that made her so special.
When she was not doing some scientific research, or painting, or working on a sculpture, Emma Peel helped John Steed with solving puzzles, usually involving mysterious deaths. They worked with the Ministry (we have never known which one), but it was not clear whether Mrs Peel actually was a Ministry employee, for Steed was the only contact with them.
It worked like this: the Ministry would wait until they had a few deaths with a pattern: all the dead people would be astronomers, or high ranking civil servants, or five star generals. Then they would contact John Steed and apparently send all the police home, for they were never to be seen.
Then Steed would go to Mrs Peel's place and try to be imaginative in the way he would break the news to her (a card with "Mrs Peel, we're needed" written on it was particularly popular with him). And off they would go, Steed in a vintage Rolls Royce or Bentley, Mrs Peel in a blue Lotus Elan, to catch whoever was threatening the remains of the British Empire.
The plots were pointless, really. They involved a lot of hiding, listening through keyholes, sneaking into houses, fighting and rescuing. Not all of them, though. Some episodes are now cult classics, because of their imaginative scenarios. But this is not the place to detail those few gems.
Sometimes names are meaningless (Tara King could have been Mary Smith and it would not have changed the face of the earth), while others are obvious (Superman, Batman, etc.). For Mrs Peel, it is a bit different.
There is some research: Man Appeal, M Appeal, Emma Peel. You get it?
Emma Peel was just gorgeous in any outfit, but she was famous for wearing tight leather suits when she was planning to sneak into the villain's lair. I don't need to explain the effect. If you still don't get it, I recommend a search on the Internet, but don't do it if you have a weak heart. You have been warned.
The hellfire club episode was controversial in the US when it was aired in the sixties. Some scenes were removed there because Emma Peel was wearing a revealing outfit, a necklace with spikes and she was handling a whip to keep the (male) villains at a distance. You don't know what you missed, guys.
Given a male lead character and a female lead character, ambiguity in the relationship is the key. How many series have become boring once the main couple has finally declared their love after numerous episodes where the audience was wondering when they would fall into the arms of each other?
The Avengers took that notion to new extremes. We will never know what was going on between John Steed and Emma Peel. They called each other "Mrs Peel" and "Steed". Not once did they use their first names, even if they got along very well. Very British, isn't it?
They were attracted to each other. Or were they really? We were only gratified with a few smiles, a few looks, and (shocking!) a slap on a butt once. Maybe they were just good friends.
But could something really have happened when Mrs Peel was married, her husband lost in some jungle abroad? Actually, the return of the husband was the reason Emma Peel left the show. We only saw this mysterious man from behind, and guess what? he looked exactly like John Steed.
Mrs Peel gone, the Ministry replaced her with Tara King (played by Linda Thorson). Alas, the magic would soon be gone. Everything that made the series so exciting disappeared: Tara King was silly, weak, and clearly in love with John Steed.
Let's face it, The Avengers with Cathy Gale and with Tara King were boring. (And I am not mentioning The New Avengers). The Avengers were Emma Peel. The series was really born when she arrived on the show and died when she left.
After that, she got to get married with none other than James Bond, only to be killed right after the wedding. Wait, was it Mrs Peel, or was it another character played by Diana Rigg?
isogolem spent time helping me with my English. Thanks very much.