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Emma Peel - Diana Rigg
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Divergences: Emma Peel — Diana Rigg

The Cigarette: We don't know if ABC (UK) or all television networks around the world decided against the use of the cigarette, but the point is that in The Avengers everyone stopped smoking overnight, coinciding with Emma Peel's first appearance. Steed, who occasionally shared a cigarette with both Dr. Keel and Cathy Gale, left the vice surprisingly aside as soon as Emma season began. We assume the resolution of not showing the two stars of the series with cigarettes in their hands, was included as part of the strategy for selling the show in the United States, since the producers had that idea in mind from the beginning of the fourth season. The thing is that Emma was never seen with a cigarette between her fingers, whereas Diana has been and still is a heavy smoker. On more than one occasion she even has allowed photographers to picture her while brandishing one of her smoky Marlboro's, either on set or at charity events. However, she has received some complaints at restaurants, since her cigarette smoke annoys the other people. Her passion for tobacco is so deeply rooted in her, that inevitably her daughter Rachael has inherited the vice, which she seems unwilling to give up.

The Way She Dressed (Fourth Season): Although Emma Peel's wardrobe was designed by John Bates to keep pace with the current fashion for at least five years, Diana wasn't too happy with her leather suits as they prevented her from moving freely. There are countless photos around the web of each one of the exclusive black and white clothing designs: however many of these never appeared on the small screen. The idea of wearing leather suits, inherited from Cathy Gale, was intended to show an "animal look" of Steed's new partner. But such garments weren't easy to wear, and they made the simple act of going to the toilet become a 45 minute operation. In some of them, Diana really felt like a caged beast. Although the audience went wild for these outfits, boots included, once they were put on the market, Diana has often stated that she wore none of Emma's clothing outside the recording studio. The firm intention of Diana to approach Emma more as herself was what led her to take an active part in Emma's new wardrobe design during the Fifth Season.

Domestic Habits: "Our relationship hasn't been exactly domestic," said Emma to Steed in Escape in Time, once he was left impressed on discovering she can sew. Maybe Emma has had a hidden ability for household chores, but the thing is that during her partnership with Steed, we never had the chance to see her cooking, washing or ironing. She preferred, instead, to be going after utterly deranged scientists or combating villains who were plotting against her mother country. When she wasn't busy with her assignments, she chose to carve sculptures (which, by the way, we never saw finished) or paint pictures: that is, typical activities of an extremely independent woman.

In contrast to this behavior, and in line with one of the stronger qualities Cancerians are credited with, Diana has always been a very domestic person, incredibly attached to her family, being in search of peace and tranquility constantly. During her time as an "Avenger girl", Diana decided to grow her own herbs to be used in the meals she cooked for house guests. Even when she was advised of the unsuitability of London's climate for that kind of crop, Diana placed each handful of seeds in small boxes and prayed that the sun entering by the windows of her house was sufficient. A few months later, she'd proudly comment on the variety of herbs that added flavor to her dishes.

Her attitude towards marriage: Although Emma Knight became Emma Peel when she married test pilot Peter Peel, she was conveniently "widowed" years or months (we quite don't know) before Cathy Gale left Steed, which allowed him to ask for Emma's services. Several theories exist as to why she had to be Mrs. Peel instead of Miss Peel. Some people affirm that she "had to be married" to imply that Emma knew about sex, and others think that this was a strategy planned by the producers to make it clear that, apart from a good friendship, "nothing else happened" between Steed and Emma. However, what the producers overlooked, was the special "chemistry" flowing between Patrick and Diana, which would lead to countless debates over the "Did they or didn't they" game. This even reached the ears of the actors, but they each had their own answer (according to Patrick: "of course they were lovers"; according to Diana: "sure they weren't"). Whatever the reason was to include a marriage as a part of Emma's past, evidently she supported the institution from a young age, as she married in her 20s. Conversely, the idea of getting married never crossed Diana's mind, at least until she was 35. Her eagerness to boast about her independence regarding men, as well as her lack of belief in marriage was well known. When Philip Saville, her companion for 8 years, proposed marriage to her, she rejected it, even though his wife was divorcing him. This is a reflection of her thoughts on that matter, which may be summed up in the following statement: "No man will ever conquer me or make me his slave. Nobody owns me. Nobody will. I don't yearn for security. Marriage might be fine for many people, but I find its permanence appalling" (Diana Rigg, Fatal Text of Ronald L. Smith, "Femmes," USA, Volume 7 Number 4, September 1998).

Diana always said that she had no intention of becoming a respectable woman, and failed to see, at least for a while, why marriage should be sacramental. She even went on to explain her theories of love and her refusal to profess her love to a man simply to justify having gone to bed with him. Likewise, she never wished someone said "I love you" to her either. Diana always thought of sex as the most amusing communication in earth, which may precede a much deeper communication where no commitment is needed, but merely the confidence to be together. And as we can see, she never was sorry about any of her actions: "I was quite naughty in the Sixties. Sexually free. That's what we could do. And we did it and I don't regret it for an instant" (Diana Rigg, cited by Grace Bradberry, The Times Newspaper, 3 May 1999).

Her passion for karate: Since her first appearance in The Town of Return, Emma always has demonstrated that she was able to defy the baddies on her own, no matter if they were men, women, robots, aliens, etc. Her secret weapon has been that combination of kung-fu, tai-chi and dance movements. It is impossible to forget how many men wound up biting the dust or hanging from the ceiling as a consequence of the stiff-handed blows or the millimeter-accurate kicks Emma gave to them. Unlike Honor Blackman, Diana didn't take a self-defense course, but she was coached by Ray Austin, the stunt arranger of the show. As a consequence, she immediately began hitting hither and thither, certainly with the help of a troupe of "doubles," that is, those who take care of the riskiest scenes, in order to prevent the stars of the show from being put in danger. After her experience with The Avengers, Diana no longer wanted to hear a thing about kung-fu and tai-chi, to the point of rejecting substantial offers to do certain Hollywood movies in which the only requirement was a sexy pose or appearing through a door with a gun in one hand and a flame thrower in the other. However, despite her stand on this, much of what she learned was useful when she came to play Tracy Draco, the "Bond girl" in On her Majesty's Secret Service, where she had to defend herself once more.

The feminism: Emma Peel not only proved that women can be independent, strong and intelligent, but also allowed herself to go further, refusing to be the victim. Every menace Emma faced was treated as a mere annoyance, something beneath her abilities, something that she never got scared over. The more pressure and risk that arose in her job the better she did it. And if sometimes she got to feel fear, it never surpassed her tenacity. When in Escape in Time Emma stared at the villainess handcuffed to a pillar, and asked her with ironic smile, "Didn't we get the vote?" she is referring to feminism as a fact. But there's something that Diana, unlike Emma, never has defended, and it has been, believe it or not, feminism-related topics. Feminism is something she has always found "boring," to the point that she refuses to be associated with it. Moreover, on several occasions she has pointed out that Emma was never fully emancipated—making an obvious reference to the problems she had with the producers, either financial or personal, especially those derived from the way she dressed or spoke.

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