For an index of the actors and actresses who have a dedicated page, see here.
Dr. David Keel
Played by: Ian Hendry (1961)
A medical doctor who investigated the murder of his fiancée and office receptionist Peggy by a drug ring. A stranger named John Steed, who was investigating the ring, appeared and together they set out to avenge her death in the first two episodes, hence the show's title (which would rapidly become an Artifact Title afterwards). Steed then asked Keel to partner him as needed to solve crimes.
- Early Installment Weirdness: He was the first major protagonist of The Avengers. Ian Hendry was considered the star of the series' first season, receiving top billing over Patrick Macnee, Steed did not appear in two episodes and there was no regular female partner.
- Revenge: He's driven by the need to avenge his fiancée in the first two episodes, hence the show's title.
John Wickham Gascoyne Beresford Steed
Played by: Patrick Macnee (1961-1977), Simon Oates (1971 stage play)
A British army veteran of World War II and agent working for an unnamed branch of the British secret services. In the first season, he investigated a drug ring and helped to avenge the fiancée of Dr. David Keel (hence the series' title, which would quickly become an Artifact Title). Steed then asked Keel to partner with him to solve crimes.
Following Keel's departure, Steed continued to investigate crimes and mysterious cases in the service of Her Majesty with the help of various recurring female partners. He also considerably refined his persona and fashion taste, to the point of becoming a Quintessential British Gentleman.
- Adorkable: He's especially funny and adorable when he fails at doing something mundane while Emma Peel watches and laughs.
- Agents Dating: Even though nothing overtly romantic ever comes out of it (save for the Tara King era), he regularly invites his female partners on dates, for dinners especially.
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Steed is a very well dressed secret agent, and knows how to kick ass.
- Badass in Distress: On a few occasions it's up to his female partners to rescue him.
- Battle Couple: With Cathy Gale, then with Emma Peel and finally with Tara King.
- Breakout Character: He was not the main protagonist of the show in the first season, he became this following David Keel's departure.
- Catchphrase: "Mrs. Peel, we're needed!" - He uses this to call for Emma Peel's help at the start of every episode in the show's first colored seasons, as she's always busy with her hobbies. He always delivers it to Emma in unexpected ways, be it through signs, arrows or even appearing in her TV. Laurie Johnson composed a special theme for this very sequence.
- Combat Pragmatist: A producer's write-up to guide writers of episodes specifically stated that "Steed fights like a cad and uses every dirty trick in the book".
- Cool Cars: He has a nice collection of vintage cars. From the fourth season on, Steed's signature cars were six vintage green 19261928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blowers and Speed Sixes (although, uniquely, in "The Thirteenth Hole" he drives a Vauxhall 30-98). In the final season he drove two yellow Rolls Royces — a 1923 Silver Ghost and a 1927 New Phantom.
- Cultured Badass: He kicks much ass throughout the series while remaining a refined and well-mannered gentleman, being knowledgable on a wide range of subjects and enjoying fine wines and collecting old-fashioned cars.
- Dashingly Dapper Derby: Perhaps the most famous bowler hat wearer in TV fiction.
- Deadpan Snarker: He always exchanges witty quips with his female partners, especially with Emma Peel.
- Gentleman Snarker: He never runs out of elegant wit.
- Great Detective: He can go to holmesian lengths to solve a case, even though it can lead him nowhere.
- Iconic Outfit: His tailor-made costumes, bowler hat and umbrella.
- Last-Name Basis: Everyone always addresses him by "Steed" or "Mr. Steed".
- Man of Wealth and Taste: He enjoys very refined (and expensive) things in life, such as fine wines (Champagne in particular), and he owns an old cars collection.
- Named by the Adaptation: The "Wickham Gascoyne Beresford" parts of his name were never pronounced in the series. They originated in the 1971 stage play that was written by Brian Clemens and Terence Feely and starred Simon Oates as Steed.
- Nice Guy: A genuinely charming, polite and well-mannered Quintessential British Gentleman... but if you're one of the bad guys, Beware the Nice Ones.
- Nice Hat: His iconic bowler hat.
- Old Friends: He knows a lot of old acquaintances, and they're generally doomed.
- Parasol of Pain: Steed's iconic umbrella conceals a Sword Cane, but he doesn't always feel the need to draw it.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Especially blatant with Emma Peel.
- Quintessential British Gentleman: British, polite, charming and a force to be reckoned with.
- Resemblance Reveal: In Mrs. Peel's last episode, her missing husband turned out to be still alive. He didn't appear in person until the final scene, at which point he was revealed to look exactly like Steed. What this might imply about Emma's reasons for hanging around with Steed for years was left as an exercise for the viewer.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: According to the book Reading between Designs by Piers D. Britton and Simon J. Barker, Patrick Macnee himself designed Steed's suits with the help of tailor Bailey and Weatherill of Regent Street (London).
- Shoe Phone: His umbrella contains knock-out gas.
- Sword Cane: He has a sword concealed within his umbrella.
- Weaponized Headgear: His bowler hat is steel-lined, which makes it useful as a bludgeon.
Dr. Catherine "Cathy" Gale
Played by: Honor Blackman (1962-1964)
John Steed's first regular female partner. A native of London, married a farmer in Africa and there learned to hunt, fight and take care of herself. When her husband was killed, Gale returned to London to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology.
She was the curator of a museum when she first encountered Steed and decided to work alongside him. She is also engaged in charities.
- Action Girl: Even though she's much less remembered, she came before Emma Peel and she's very much an Ur-Example of this for western television. She has a black belt in jujutsu.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: She has a strong penchant for leather suits. So much so that some versions of the series' title, the French one most notably, mention "Leather Boots".
- Iconic Outfit: Her leather suits.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Her partnership with Steed never went overtly romantic. It was her who taught him to respect women, actually.
Emma Peel, née Knight
Played by: Diana Rigg (1964-1968)
The daughter of an English industrialist, Sir John Knight. A certified genius, she specializes in chemistry and had success in industry at the helm of her family's company in her 20s. Her husband, Peter Peel, was a pilot whose plane disappeared over the Amazonian forest. She is a master of martial arts and a formidable fencer.
Her hobbies include a penchant for artistic activities... and for mystery and action too, as John Steed regularly calls her to work with him on mysterious or improbable cases. Thus she became Steed's second regular female partner, and the most famous.
- Action Girl: One of western television's first and prime examples. She is a skilled martial artist, as many villains she faces find out the hard way.
- Adorkable: On occasion when she is indulging in her hobbies (or imitating the sound of a machine gun in the "Strange Case of the Missing Corpse" promo short).
- Brainy Brunette: She has degrees in chemistry and ran her family's industries with much success when she was barely in her 20s. Furthermore, she's very helpful to Steed when it comes to solve mysteries and whatever problem gets in their way.
- Cool Car: Her Lotus Elan convertibles◊ (a white 1964 and a powder blue 1966), which, like her clothes, emphasized her independence and vitality.
- Create Your Own Villain: Professor Keller (from "The House that Jack Built") was already a nutcase before Emma fired him from her company because of his unethical and downright mad projects. He then plotted a diabolical revenge against her.
- Deadpan Snarker: The series has become particularly renowned for the witty quips exchanges between her and Steed.
- Given Name Reveal: Her maiden name, 'Knight', is revealed in the 1965 episode "The House That Jack Built".
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Continuing the trend initiated by Cathy Gale, she occasionally wore leather suits in her first black and white seasons, before shifting to flashier suits in her colored seasons.
- Iconic Outfit: Her leather suits and leather boots in the black-and-white episodes, then her avant-garde fashion in the following colored seasons.
- She only wore it once, but her Queen of Sin costume from "A Touch of Brimstone" is also fondly remembered. Diana Rigg designed it herself.
- Jumped at the Call: She never hesitates to help Steed, particularly when he calls for her help ("We're needed!") in her colored era.
- Lady of Adventure: 1960s version. Her main motivation to work on cases with Steed seems to be a need for adventure.
- Loving Details: When she departs in "The Forget-Me-Knot", she meets her replacement, Tara King, in the stairs. A little wistfully, Emma tells Tara about Steed "He likes his tea stirred anticlockwise".
- Meaningful Name: One can read "appeal" in her name quite easily.
- Nice Girl: Just like Steed, she's well-mannered and always polite, and the couple they form showcases perfect chemistry without ever becoming too romantic.
- Non-Idle Rich: She's from a family of rich industrialists and never hesitates to help Steed investigate.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Famously sported one in "A Touch of Brimstone" as part of her Queen of Sin outfit.
- Part-Time Hero: She's shown pursuing numerous hobbies that suggest she is rather lonely since the disappearance of her husband. No wonder she always looks happy to be solving mysteries with Steed.
- Passing the Torch: Her staircase scene with Steed's new partner in "The Forget-Me-Knot", Tara King, can be considered as one.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Her perfect chemistry with Steed never went overtly romantic. She eventually departed when she found out her husband was still alive.
- Spy Catsuit: One of the earliest examples in spy fiction, even though it has more to do with her personal fashion tastes than with mission purposes.
- Sword Fight: In addition to martial arts, she is also a skilled fencer.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: She never wears the same outfit twice between episodes. Heck, she's very much a walking mid-1960s avant-garde clothing catalog on her own.
Tara King / Agent 69
Played by: Linda Thorson (1968-1969)
John Steed's last female partner in the original series, and the youngest. Unlike Steed's previous partners, very few things are known about her background. She enlisted at an early age in the Intelligence Service as a trainee, under the number 69.
She considers Steed as an idol, and she is very much infatuated with him.
- Action Girl: Just as Steed's previous partners, if a bit clumsier.
- Agents Dating: Unlike the partnerships with Cathy Gale and Emma Peel, Steed and Tara were shown in unambiguously romantic scenarios, and both actors have indicated their belief that the two were in an off-screen MayDecember Romance.
- Boyish Short Hair: Occasionally. Most notably in the show's opening credits of her era.
- Cool Car: She drove an AC 428 and a Lotus Europa.
- Damsel in Distress: She gets regularly kidnapped (either bludgeoned or sedated with choloroform). It doesn't prevent her from regularly being a Damsel out of Distress though.
- Handbag of Hurt: She puts a brick in her handbag and uses it to great effect against mooks in "The Forget-Me-Knot".
- Improvised Weapon: She often uses whatever things she can get her hands on to fight, to great effects. Such as a brick in a handbag.
- She's Got Legs: Many of her outfits are just excuses to showcase her nice legs. Steed's previous partners' legs never had as much screentime as hers, if they were shown at all.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Much like Emma Peel was a walking mid-1960s avant-garde clothing catalog, Tara is one for the late 1960s.
Played by: Patrick Newell (1968-1969)
The chief of the British secret service John Steed and Tara King belong to. He was introduced in the 1968 episode "The Forget-Me-Knot", at the time of Emma Peel's departure, and would appear throughout the Tara King era.
- Code Name: "Mother" is a code name, naturally.
- Cool Car: Occasionally appeared in a silver Rolls-Royce.
- The Ghost: He was referred to since at least Emma Peel's first episode in late 1964 but appeared much later, in "The Forget-Me-Knot" in 1968, becoming a recurring character of the Tara King era.
- Home Base: He sometimes summons Steed in what could be best described as "excentric" headquarters, such as a base under a river or in a double-decker bus.
- Large and in Charge: He is fat, and he is the head of a secret service.
- Non-Indicative Name: The Code Name is "Mother"... and he's a man.
- Remember the New Guy?: Steed chats with him like he has always been part of the show (he was actually mentioned as early as Emma Peel stepped in), but he was one of the latest additions to the original show.
Played by: Rhonda Parker (1968-1969)
Mother's personal aid.
Dr. Clement Armstrong
Played by: Michael Gough
Appears in: "The Cybernauts"
A genius scientist in the fields of automation and burgeoning computer science. He also created the Cybernauts, and intends to establish a rule of machines over humanity.
- Evil Cripple: He moves around in an automatic wheelchair.
- Evil Genius: A brilliant and visionary automation scientist, with very unethical projects.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: He is killed by one of his own Cybernauts.
- Mad Scientist: He thinks computers make "better decisions" than human beings.
- Super Wheelchair: He has all sorts of buttons on his wheelchair, which allows him to control various things in his automated office and factory, such as music, elevators, sliding doors and the Cybernauts.
- Villainous Breakdown: He has one as he finds out he can't control his Cybernauts anymore once Steed tricks them into fighting each other. He gets too close of the fight trying to stop them, leading to his death.
- Villains With Good Publicity: He is a renowned genius and the head of a renowned automation company.
- Visionary Villain: He basically intends to establish a dictature of artificial intelligence to rule over humanity and sees it as a logical path to follow. He also has plans to design small, complex computers, which was seen as visionary science fiction back then.
Appear in: "The Cybernauts" | "Return of the Cybernauts" | "The Last of the Cybernauts" (The New Avengers)
Cybernauts are humanoid robots created by Dr. Clement Armstrong to serve him. They are mostly employed for assassinations and kidnappings, and they are quite unstoppable.
- Attack Drone: Roger, the first Cybernaut, is compared to a "guided missile" in that it is programmed to kill targets who carry a pen with a concealed homing device Armstrong offered to them beforehand. In "The Last of the Cybernauts", they are practically walking drones since Kane remote-controls them.
- Badass Longcoat: When Cybernauts are sent on operation outside, they are always dressed with a black longcoat, a black hat and sunglasses to conceal them as much as possible.
- Chrome Champion: They look like chromed humanoids.
- Hell Is That Noise: They emit a distinctive "swish" sound when chopping with their arms, to emphasize their strength and the real threat they are.
- Immune to Bullets: By virtue of being made of steel.
- Implacable Man: When they're searching for a target, virtually nothing can stop them.
- Killer Robot: A karate chop-like strike of their steel arms on the neck is enough to kill or knock out their targets.
- No-Sell: See Immune to Bullets.
- In "The Last of the Cybernauts", Mike Gambit tries to karate-chop the head of Kane's remote-controlled Cybernaut. Needless to say, this ends rather painfully for Gambit's hand.
- The Remnant: A few years after Armstrong's death, Paul Beresford finds a Cybernaut and plans revenge on John Steed and Emma Peel with it. A decade later, Felix Kane finds out Armstrong had a whole secret cache of remote-controlled Cybernauts and uses them to plan his revenge on Steed and the New Avengers for his crippling.
- Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: Roger (Armstrong's first Cybernaut) needs a homing device on his target to follow and kill it while the second one Armstrong created has a "brain of its own". Steed tricks them into fighting each other by putting the homing device pen on the second Cybernaut. Roger gains the upper hand by kicking the "electronic brain" out of the other Cybernaut's head, and Armstrong is killed in the brawl.
The Honorable John Cleverly Cartney
Played by: Peter Wyngarde
Appears in: "A Touch of Brimstone"
An aristocrat who heads the Hellfire Club, an organization based upon dressing up in old costumes and engaging in orgiastic rituals and which thrives in "ultimate sins".
- Aristocrats Are Evil: An upper class man who's a threat to international relations and leads an evil cult.
- The Casanova: He's a suave womanizer.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Falls to his death victim of his own "Circle of Justice" trap after accidentally pulling its torch lever with his whip while trying to hurt Emma.
- The Prankster: He sets up various pranks to ridicule important international figures.
- Villainous Crush: He is attracted to Emma Peel at first.
- Wicked Cultured: He's a Man of Wealth and Taste, plays the piano and he's well-mannered.
- Whip It Good: He uses a whip against Emma in the episode's climax.
Professor Jack Keller
Played by: Michael Goodliffe
Appears in: "The House that Jack Built"
A deranged automation technology engineer with a colossal grudge against Emma Peel, who fired him back when she was the head of Knight Industries. He turned a house into a giant computerized mousetrap to drive Emma insane.
- Best Served Cold: It took him more than a decade to put his revenge in motion.
- Evil Genius: Just as Dr. Armstrong, he is a brilliant and visionary automation / computer science engineer with very unethical goals.
- Mad Scientist: He firmly believes in the replacement of man by machines.
- Revenge: He patiently plotted one against Emma after she fired him from her company.
- Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: He turned a house into a giant automated / computerized trap for Emma Peel. He designed it to drive her insane and even built a Gas Chamber in case she would consider killing herself rather than being slowly driven mad.
- Stalker Without a Crush: He amassed a lot of informations about Emma, pictures of her as well as objects that belonged to her, and built a creepy exhibition for Emma with them inside the house, going as far as putting an obituary for her at the end of it.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: He designed computers to answer to Emma after his death should she ask questions, and the first ones she meets answer quite accurately to her questions with pre-recorded videos and Keller's voice.
- Thanatos Gambit: He is already dead and mummified in a glass box when Emma steps into the house.
- Visionary Villain: He is not unsimilar to Dr. Armstrong with his ideas to replace / dominate man with machines.
Played by: Peter Cushing
Appears in: "Return of the Cybernauts"
An upper class man who befriends Steed and Emma Peel, and even flirts with the latter. Unbeknownst to them, he is the brother of Professor Clement Armstrong, and plots a diabolical revenge against them for his brother's death, using one of the latter's creations, a Cybernaut, and Kidnapped Scientists.
- Avenging the Villain: Wants to avenge the death of his brother.
- Dirty Old Man: As he controls Emma like a puppet, he says she is now submitted to "his every will, his every wish". God only knows what he means...
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Steed tricks the scientists into putting the mind-controlling bracelet on the Cybernaut's arm, which sends the robot on an uncontrolable frenzy. The Cybernaut ends up killing Beresford with a deadly Bear Hug.
- Mind-Control Device: One of the scientists he kidnapped designs a mind-controlling bracelet, basically turning anyone who wears it into a zombified puppet, a "human Cybernaut" in Beresford's words.
- The Reveal: He is the brother of Professor Clement Armstrong.
- Revenge: He uses a Cybernaut and kidnaps a bunch of scientists to plot a diabolical revenge against the Avengers.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: He could have opted to simply kill Emma and Steed with the Cybernaut, but he wanted a more cruel and sadistic fate for them. Which led him to his demise.
Arnie Packer / The Winged Avenger
Played by: Neil Hallett
Appears in: "The Winged Avenger"
A comic book author who was wronged by his publisher and went mad, becoming the very comic book character he created. He goes on a killing spree against Corrupt Corporate Executives, his publisher being his first victim.
- Animal Motifs: A bird of prey.
- Becoming the Mask: He's become so mad that he practically thinks he is the comic book avenger he created.
- Bloodless Carnage: Since he claws people to death, one would expect to see blood. The show's nature didn't allow for it, of course.
- Disney Villain Death: Falls down to his death from a window after Steed hits him with a comic cardboard.
- Eat the Rich: He attacks Corrupt Corporate Executives, mainly.
- Feathered Fiend: A Serial Killer with a giant bird of prey disguise.
- Revenge: Against publishers who stripped him of any profit on his own comic book.
- Serial Killer: Kills several people who wronged him in a row.
- Shout-Out: The episode as a whole is a spoof of the very popular and campy Batman series which aired at the same time as the first season in colors of The Avengers, right down to a Musical Pastiche of that series' theme tune and Written Sound Effects.
- Wall Crawl: He uses special adhesive boots that allow their wearer to walk on walls and even on ceilings.
Z. Z. von Schnerk
Played by: Kenneth J. Warren
Appears in: "Epic"
A mad producer and film director who is obsessed with Emma Peel and wants to create a Snuff Film starring her.
- Affably Evil: He is full of reverence and admiration for Emma Peel, and plans to kill her for his art.
- Bald of Evil: He is hairless and plans to kill Emma.
- Last Words: As he's fatally shot, he puts his hand on his camera, utters "Cut!" and dies.
- Mad Artist: A mad filmmaker.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: His job, germanity, mannerisms and general look are pretty clearly a spoof of director Erich von Stroheim.
- No Name Given: There's no indication of what his double "Z" means.
- Snuff Film: He wants to film an epic starring Emma... with real danger coming to her, and wants her to die for real as an apotheosis for the film.
- Stalker Without a Crush: His obsession about Emma is driven by a need of magnifiying her on screen, then providing her a Dying Moment of Awesome for real.
- The Von Trope Family: von Schnerk.
Played by: Peter Wyngarde
Appears in: "Epic"
A washed up actor who helps out Z. Z. von Schnerk on his Snuff Film project starring Emma Peel.
- Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: He changes costumes and makeups pretty fast between the various film scenes Emma is forced into.
- Co-Dragons: Forms the two underlings of von Schnerk with Damita Syn.
- Iron Butt-Monkey: Gets his ass kicked by Emma in several of the movie scenes Emma is forced into, and yet he keeps coming back as different characters while von Schnerk films it all.
- Large Ham: He hams it up in practically every movie scene he has to play for von Schnerk.
Basil & Lola
Played by: Freddie Jones and Patricia Haines / Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg (swapped bodies)
Appear in: "Who's Who???"
Two enemy secret agents who get a hold of an experimental machine that swaps minds between two persons.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Using an experimental machine, Basil swaps minds with John Steed and Lola does the same with Emma Peel.
- Unholy Matrimony: They're two evil lovers. It gives us the one and only onscreen French kiss ever featured in the series between Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg, though only because the minds of Steed and Emma have been swapped with Basil's and Lola's.
New Avengers Characters
Played by: Joanna Lumley
A British intelligence agent and former ballet dancer, Purdey is a martial arts (learned, according to her, during her time with the Royal Ballet, of which she was expelled for being, still according to her, "too tall") and marksmanship expert.
Purdey sees Steed as an attractive, yet fatherly figure, and there is also ongoing banter and playful flirting between her and Mike Gambit (although the series never indicated anything more in her relationship with either man).
- Action Girl: Like all of Steed's previous partners.
- Boyish Short Hair: The bowl cut is one of her most distinctive features. It was requested by Joanna Lumley herself.
- Composite Character: She is essentially a combination of all of Steed's previous female partners.
- The Gunslinger: She is an expert markswoman.
- Meaningful Name: Joanna Lumley is credited with suggesting the character be named Purdey after James Purdey & Sons, a famous shotgun manufacturer.
- Only One Name: During the two-year run of The New Avengers, no other name was ever given to her and it was never revealed on screen whether "Purdey" was her first or last name.
- She's Got Legs: And she kicks much ass with them.
- Show Some Leg: She is often called upon to use her feminine attributes to distract villains.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Gambit.
Michael "Mike" Gambit
Played by: Gareth Hunt
A former Major in the Parachute Regiment who also had a short-lived career as a race car driver.