Emma Peel's name was taken from the British movie industry expression "M-Appeal", or "man-appeal", which is what the show's producers were looking for in her character.
During her first season, Dame Diana Rigg was dismayed to find out that the cameraman was being paid more than she was. She demanded a raise, to put her more on a par with her co-star, or she would leave the show. The producers gave in, thanks to the show's great popularity in the U.S.
Series Writer Brian Clemens noted in an interview the sexual chemistry that particularly existed between Steed and Emma Peel, and the common question of "Will they ever go to bed together?" Clemens' attitude toward the characters was that they already had done, and this was the next day. Patrick Macnee and Dame Diana Rigg confirmed later, in interviews, that they had decided their characters had a casual sexual relationship, "but just didn't dwell on it."
The look and character of Steed is an amalgam of Patrick Macnee's father (a racehorse trainer and dandy), fictional character The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Macnee's commanding officer in the Navy.
The vast majority of the first season is sadly missing from television archives and thought to be probably lost forever. Only the first fifteen minutes of the first episode, The Avengers: Hot Snow (1961), and three complete later episodes, The Avengers: Girl on the Trapeze (1961), (which is one of only two editions not to feature the character of Steed), The Avengers: The Frighteners (1961) and The Avengers: Tunnel of Fear (1961) are known to have been recovered and preserved.
At least two principal actresses and one principal actor in this show appeared in James Bond movies: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Dame Diana Rigg (Contessa Teresa "Tracy" Di Vicenzo Bond) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), and Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985).
In season four, episode thirteen, "Too Many Christmas Trees", John Steed (Patrick Macnee) received a Christmas card from Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), and it was postmarked "Fort Knox". This is in reference to Honor Blackman's appearance as Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger (1964).
At the end of season seven, episode thirty-three, "Bizarre", Mother (Patrick Newell) talks directly to the audience, promising that The Avengers would return.
Dame Diana Rigg was the first person ever to do Kung Fu on-screen. In 1965, Ray Austin went to his producers and said, "Listen, I want to do this thing called Kung Fu." They said "Kung what?" and insisted that Emma, like her predecessor, stick to judo. Instead, Austin secretly taught Rigg Kung Fu.
Mrs. Peel's maiden name is Knight. We learn more about her childhood and her relationship with her mother and father in an exhibition on the "late Emma Peel" in season four, episode twenty-three, "The House That Jack Built".
Patrick Macnee came up with John Steed's umbrella sword. He objected to Steed using a gun, as it reminded him of his military tenure.
To maintain the pure fantasy of it, there were strict rules about what could and could not be shown in an episode: 1. No "uniformed policemen". 2. No "colored people". 3. No blood. 4. No dead women. 5. No blatant sex.
Patrick Macnee and Dame Diana Rigg remained close friends ever since making the series.
John Steed's (Patrick Macnee's) signature cars were vintage 1926-1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleys and Bentley Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in season four, episode eighteen, "The Thirteenth Hole", he drove a Vauxhall 30-98), Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) rode a motorcycle, Emma Peel (Dame Diana Rigg) drove a blue Lotus Elan convertible, and Tara King (Linda Thorson) drove a red AC 428.
Steed's full name is sometimes said to be John Wickham Gascoyne Beresford Steed. In fact, this was never once given on-screen, and was only used in the 1971 stage version of the show, co-written by Brian Clemens and Terence Feely, and directed by Leslie Phillips. Simon Oates played Steed in this decidedly comic interpretation of the parent series, with Sue Lloyd appearing as his sidekick Hannah Wild. The play was staged at Birmingham Theatre (Thursday, July 15 through Saturday, July 24, 1971) and London's Prince of Wales Theatre (until Monday, August 2, 1971).
According to Script Editor Dennis Spooner, the series would frequently feature John Steed visiting busy public places such as the main airport in London without anyone else present in the scene. "'Can't you afford extras?' they'd ask. Well, it wasn't like that. It's just that Steed had to be alone to be accepted. Put him in a crowd and he sticks out like a sore thumb. Let's face it, with normal people, he's weird. The trick to making him acceptable is never to show him in a normal world, just fighting villains who are odder than he is."
Eleanor Bron turned down Emma Peel, and the role was taken by Elizabeth Shepherd, who was replaced by Dame Diana Rigg midway through filming her first episode ("The Town of No Return"). Shirley Eaton, Moira Redmond, and Katherine Woodville (who was engaged to Patrick Macnee at the time) were amongst the actresses who also screentested for the part when production on this episode was halted.
The original macho female spy, Cathy Gale, was a composite character based on two real-life women: LIFE Magazine's daring photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.
According to Patrick Macnee in his book "The Avengers and Me", Dame Diana Rigg disliked wearing leather and insisted on a new line of fabric athletic wear for the fifth season. Alun Hughes, who had designed clothing for her personal wardrobe, was suggested by Dame Diana to design Emma Peel's "softer" new wardrobe. Pierre Cardin was brought in to design a new wardrobe for Macnee.
When asked in June 1982 which female lead was his favorite, Patrick Macnee declined to give a specific answer. "Well, I'd rather not say. To do so would invite trouble", he told TV Week Magazine. Macnee did provide his evaluation of the female leads. Of Honor Blackman he said, "She was wonderful, presenting the concept of a strong-willed, independent, and liberated woman just as that sort of woman was beginning to emerge in society." Dame Diana Rigg was "One of the world's great actresses. A superb comedienne. I'm convinced that one day she'll be Dame Diana." (His prediction came true in 1994.) Linda Thorson was "one of the sexiest women alive".
Dame Diana Rigg auditioned for the role of Emma Peel on a whim, without ever having seen this show.
Footage of Emma Peel from one of the color episodes was re-used in an episode of The New Avengers (1976).
A movie version of the series was in its initial planning stages by late 1963 after season three was completed. An early story proposal paired John Steed and Cathy Gale with a male and female duo of American Agents, to make the movie appeal to the American market. Before the project could gain momentum, Honor Blackman was cast in Goldfinger (1964), requiring her to leave the series.
Emma Peel's revolver is a gold-plated, pearl-handled pocket version of the Webley Mk IV chambered for .380/200 (a.k.a. .38 Smith & Wesson).
Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg share the same thing in common. They starred in this show, they starred as a Bond girl in the James Bond film franchise (Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), and Rigg as Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), and they appeared in a series of Doctor Who (Blackman in Doctor Who (1963) season twenty-three, episodes five through eight, "The Trial of a Time Lord, Part 2: Mindwarp", and Rigg in Doctor Who (2005) season seven, episode eleven, "The Crimson Horror".
Patrick Macnee was a nudist. Honor Blackman claimed that he once invited her to play tennis in the nude. She politely declined.
Sydney Newman never received credit as Creator of the series. In his memoir, "The Avengers and Me", Patrick Macnee interviewed Newman about this. Newman explained that he never sought on-screen credit on the series because during his previous tenure at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, such credits were not given, and he never thought to get one for this series.
When the series began, Ian Hendry was the main star, with the idea being he would rotate between different partners (an early version of the Mission: Impossible (1966) format). The series title referred to Hendry's character, Dr. David Keel, and Steed, who worked together to find those responsible for Keel's fiancée's murder in the first episode. Early episodes focused more on Keel's character, and Steed doesn't even appear in a couple. When the first season was interrupted by a strike, Hendry quit the series during the hiatus in order to pursue a movie career. The same format was used for Steed with a couple of leftover Dr. Keel scripts retooled for a new character named Dr. Martin King, but other scripts, originally written for a male character, were re-written for another new addition: Catherine Gale.
A sequence dropped from Pulp Fiction (1994) had Vincent Vega confess to Mia Wallace about fantasizing over Emma Peel beating him up. Uma Thurman, who played Wallace, played Emma Peel in The Avengers (1998).
In season seven, episode six, "Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?", Linda Thorson (Tara King) spoke with her normal Canadian accent.
The naming of this show was the reason as to why in the U.K., The Avengers (2012) had to be renamed "Avengers Assemble" due to this show taking the original name.
Linda Thorson got the role of Tara King because she was dating Producer John Bryce at the time.
Steed's London address is, variously: 5 Westminster Mews (during the Cathy Gale run), 4 Queen Anne's Court in the monochrome Emma Peel editions, and 3 Stable Mews for the color episodes.
Despite the reputation of this show, In Britain it only made the top ten of watched shows four times between 1960-69. February 1964, November 1965, March 1967, and February 1969. Ian Hendry's subsequent series The Informer (1966) was more popular at the time. So when the production company [ABC (Associated British Corp.), nothing to do with the American ABC] was ordered to be wound up by July 1968 (due to breach of license on another matter), it was easy for the new company (Thames TV) to cancel the series.
A radio version began two years after the show ended: broadcast weeknightly on Springbok Radio, the South African Broadcasting Corporation's English-speaking wing, scripts from the filmed series (often earlier versions than had appeared on-screen) were re-worked into fifteen-minute serials of varying lengths. Sponsored by Cold Water Omo and starring Donald Monat as Steed, and Diane Appleby as Mrs Peel (including scripts written for Tara King from the final season; Mother also made occasional appearances, usually played by Colin Fish, the series ran from December 6, 1971 to December 28, 1973 (plus a mini reprise in "The Great Gong Robbery", a special drama celebrating Springbok's Silver Jubilee on April 30, 1975). Laurie Johnson's theme song was used throughout, and to smooth over the more visual aspects Springbok news broadcaster Hugh Rouse was engaged as the tongue-in-cheek narrator. This was South Africa's sole experience of the show (outside of rented movie prints) at the time, since their television service only began in the mid 1970s, and the parent television series wasn't purchased until many years later. It is unknown how many serials aired: from a potential eighty-three stories (some of which appear to have been remade), only nineteen are currently known to exist in full, thanks to private South African enthusiasts, as the SABC did not retain any copies.
Linda Thorson was requested to bleach her hair blonde to distinguish Tara King from Emma Peel. The process ruined her hair and she had to wear a wig for several episodes.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) had six partners in this show's eight-year run: Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry), Dr. Martin King (Jon Rollason), Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), Mrs. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), Mrs. Emma Peel (Dame Diana Rigg), and Tara King (Linda Thorson).
Linda Thorson narrowly won the role of Tara King after making the list of the final three candidates along with Mary Peach and Tracy Reed.
After Dame Diana Rigg left the series, the producers toyed with the idea of having guest actresses be John Steed's sidekick.
John Bryce was brought in as producer to replace Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell on the last season because the studio wished to bring the show "back to realism", as he had produced the Cathy Gale episodes. However, financial problems and internal difficulties undermined Bryce's effort. He also had to hurriedly shoot seven episodes to ship off to America with the last of the Emma Peel episodes. He only completed three ("Invitation to a Killing", a ninety-minute episode introducing Tara King, "The Great, Great Britain Crime", which had some of its original footage re-used in season seven, episode twenty-six, "Homicide & Old Lace" and "Invasion of the Earthmen", which survived relatively intact, except for the scenes in which Tara wears a brown wig) before he was replaced by Clemens and Fennell again.
Julie Stevens was the second choice for the role of Venus Smith after Angela Douglas turned it down.
In the U.S., ABC, who carried the final season chose to air it opposite the number one show in the country at the time, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967). Steed and King could not compete, and the show was cancelled in the U.S. Without this vital commercial backing, production could not continue in Britain either, and the series ended in May 1969.
The third season "shadowy man" opening titles were graphicly designed by Jerome Gask. Elements of this resurfaced in the early, but ultimately unused version of the season four titles.
Production of the first season was cut short by a strike. By the time production could begin on the second season, Ian Hendry had left the show.
Some of the episodes had a tendency to be remade. For example: "Look Out Behind You" became "The Joker" later on and "Dressed to Kill" being remade as "The Superlative Seven".
The distinctive jazz score by Johnny Dankworth was slightly altered for the third season.
With Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), Ralph Fiennes became the seventh major actor or actress who appeared in the "James Bond" and "The Avengers" universes, the latter being the English spy one, and not the comic super-heroes one. From this show, one actor and two actresses appeared in Bond movies: Honor Blackman played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Patrick Macnee portrayed Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985), and Dame Diana Rigg played "Tracy" Di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). The latter movie also featured as "The English Girl", Joanna Lumley, who appeared in The New Avengers (1976), which also starred Macnee. While Nadim Sawalha appeared in The Avengers (1998), as well as two Bond movies, The Living Daylights (1987) and The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Fiennes appeared in The Avengers (1998) appearing with former James Bond Sir Sean Connery, who played the villain Sir August de Wynter. Of these seven actors, Fiennes and Macnee have portrayed The Avengers' character of John Steed, in the theatrical film and television series, respectively, with the latter also voicing the Invisible Jones character in The Avengers (1998). In that movie, John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) and Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) get across the frozen river by "walking" on the surface inside inflatable plastic bubbles, which is similar to how James Bond gets aboard Ernst Stavro Blofeld's (Charles Gray's) oil rig in Connery's final official series Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever (1971).
Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman had a disagreement, at about the time she left the series. According to the book written by Macnee about the series, he became verbally abusive toward Blackman while drunk. The reason for their argument was due to disagreeing over the organizing of security staff for a party which the studio was hosting.
Following her time on this show, Dame Diana Rigg remained reluctant to discuss anything in relation to the series. When her former leading man and close friend Patrick Macnee died, she slightly relented and gave an exclusive interview about this show.
Relations between John Steed and Cathy Gale were usually depicted as being tense and rather unpredictable. As much as the two characters fought the villains together, they both had different ways of defeating their adversaries. Gale preferred abiding by rules and certain standards in getting the job done. With Steed, he would often employ more devious and unethical means of achieving success. This caused considerable friction between the main characters.
When Linda Thorson worked on the series, she took Patrick Macnee out on the town on one occasion. They went to a nightclub which was full of hippies and youngsters and Macnee later remarked that he felt a bit too old to be frequenting such an establishment.
"The Avengers" became ground-breaking for introducing regular female characters who were portrayed as being just as tough, brave, and tenacious as men.
The first season of this show was in direct contrast to how it would evolve by 1965. During the Ian Hendry (Dr. David Keel) era, the tone and style strongly resembled that of a gritty Police thriller. John Steed was portrayed as being more of a shadowy and mysterious figure, and who gave little detail as to his background.
During the time when episodes were shot on videotape, scenes had to be successfully filmed in one take in order to save money. Patrick Macnee, to save time, used to wear one outfit over another when moving to another set for the next scene.
The original choice for Emma Peel, Elizabeth Shepherd, was deemed physically wrong for the part. This was due to her rear end being too big. Her ideas for how her character should look, were deemed to be too revolutionary. Some publicity photos of Elizabeth Shepherd still exist during her short time on the series.
The Tara King period is regarded as being the most quirky and eccentric, with some decidedly unconventional episodes.
Emma Peel was the only regular character to be given a proper farewell episode. The final scene with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Dame Diana Rigg) still retains some of its dramatic impact. With Dame Diana having left, most of the fans consider the best of the series to have reached a conclusion by 1967.
The usual camaraderie between John Steed and Emma Peel wasn't immediately evident. In the first episode to be shot with Dame Diana Rigg, there are a couple of scenes which include tension between the two leads.
Given the pace in which the videotaped episodes were made, actors fluffing a line or props that didn't work properly quickly became the norm.
The village where season six, episode seven, "Murdersville", was filmed, was also used for a part of The Dirty Dozen (1967).
For season five, episode eleven, "Epic", Kenneth J. Warren was spoofing real-life Director Otto Preminger.
The iconic black leather suit worn by Honor Blackman wasn't part of her wardrobe until the third season.
One of the few times where there was anything resembling a story arc, was when the robotic villains the Cybernauts made a return appearance.
It was the Dame Diana Rigg era that led to this show becoming successful in America.
During production of the Emma Peel episodes, Patrick Macnee and Dame Diana Rigg paid a visit to the set of Hammer movie The Nanny (1965). A photo was taken of them with Bette Davis.
Cathy Gale episodes like "Warlock" and "Mr. Teddy Bear" were indicative of the style that the series would adopt by the time Dame Diana Rigg came along.
When Patrick Macnee was approached with the idea of playing John Steed, he had just returned to England after having had limited success in Canada and America.
As a rule, there wasn't much in the way of location shooting during the first season. However, the inital publicity photos with Ian Hendry, Patrick Macnee, and Ingrid Hafner were taken in different parts of London. Interestingly, Macnee is shown wearing a trench coat instead of his usual attire.
When Patrick Macnee was granted the status of "leading man", it was decided by default after Ian Hendry, the original lead, had left the series.
During the Dr. David Keel era, Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee would often learn their dialogue together while sharing a bottle of whisky.
During Dame Diana Rigg's time on the series, there were a few occasions when she strongly advised Patrick Macnee to refrain from consuming whiskey too often, on account of how it affected his behavior. Patrick Macnee confirmed this in his book on the making of the series.