Question: Did anyone besides Diana Rigg ever play Mrs. Peel in The Avengers? My uncle says "No" and I say "Yes." Also, is there anywhere I can buy old episodes as a gift? Right or wrong, I love him and want to get him something special for his birthday. Thanks. Beth K.
Televisionary: Sorry, Beth, but your uncle's right on this one. Mrs. Emma Peel (named for her male or "M" appeal), the beauteous and capable partner to Patrick Macnee's dashing John Steed, was played only by Dame Diana. Coming off a stint with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the actress took what was seen as a step down to work in the TV biz, but what do the cultural elite know? The role of the intelligent, catsuit-complementing, karate-chopping babe, her male partner's equal in every way, launched her into the realm of TV legend. And Rigg herself doesn't mind that a bit she once told reporters that in her line of work, it's important to be known, provided you're not ashamed of the reason for your fame.
You're probably thinking of Steed's two other alluring colleagues, Cathy Gale and Tara King. During the show's 1961-64 run on Britain's ITV, Gale was portrayed by Honor Blackman, who went on to play Bond villain Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. U.S. audiences never saw the Blackman episodes during the show's initial run; when ABC introduced The Avengers to them in March of '66, Rigg was on board.
Rigg and Mrs. Peel bid Steed adieu in '68, when the character rejoined long-absent hubby Peter Peel. In came King (Linda Thorson), who stayed on until the series's cancellation in 1969, when Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In dispatched our heroes as Cybernauts and various villainous geniuses never could. Steed briefly returned to British screens in 1976 with two younger partners in The New Avengers, the reruns of which CBS showed in '78 and '79 as part of its Late Movie.
What's worth noting, by the way, is why the show was called The Avengers in the first place. Steed was originally partnered with Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry), who was avenging the murder of his fiancée and was initially the star of the show. When Hendry left after 26 episodes were shot, Steed stayed soldiered on with his new cohorts.
As far as purchasing goes, A&E Home Video has a wide selection of remastered episodes (though not the entire run) available on DVD and VHS. See for yourself here.