Today is reflected: Emma Peel vs. Diana Rigg
Peel can be described as a wholly emancipated woman, as she said in Escape
in Time, who was widowed at an early age, since her husband, test pilot
Peter Peel disappeared during one of his flights over the Amazon. This
is at least what we assume during her partnership with Steed, but there's
no reason to believe that Emma was a woman of limited financial resources.
Quite the opposite, she seemed to be pretty wealthy after receiving the
legacy of her father, Sir John Knight, who left the Knight Industries
In Death's Door we find out that her first encounter with Steed was due
to a car collision. However, according to Brian Clemens, one of the main
scriptwriters and producer of the show during the fifth season, Emma and
Steed had enjoyed a passionate romance in the past, but at the time of
the series, they only remained as good friends...
When Emma Peel made her fist appearance in the show, back in December
1964, she was portrayed as "... a woman of independent means,
she was the complete one-jump-ahead jet-set female, a cool, luscious British
counterspy with wicked brown eyes and auburn hair who would effortlessly
karate chop and knee her opponent into submission" (The Complete
Avengers, Dave Rogers).
Two seasons, in which 51 episodes were filmed, have been all that Emma
Peel needed to turn into the most glamorous, sexy, mysterious and sophisticated
lady in television history. Her success was explosive: an exciting combination
of being desirable to men, and a model for womenand this has remained
intact for four decades.
In fact, when one thinks about the series, the first thing that springs
to mind, at least to those who were present at this cultural phenomenon
of the '60s, is the sensual elegance Emma displayeddressed in her kinky,
fine, black catsuit (by no means, nothing about her could imply a shade
of vulgarity), exchanging a smile or an accomplice's wink with the apparently
conservative Mr. Steed.
Many of these qualities (and some others which were added in as the character
evolved) are shared with Diana; some others are not.
Therefore, in the next pages we're going to analyze the divergences and
convergences between a character who has left an indelible landmark in
the lives of so many people around the world, and her creator, Diana Rigg,
who appears reluctant to admit that, from this success forward, she became
an erotic icon still fresh to the present day.