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Series / The Avengers (1960s)

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Mr. John Wickham Gascoyne Beresford Steed and Mrs Emma Peel (née Knight)

"Always keep your bowler on in times of stress, and a watchful eye open for diabolical masterminds."

The Avengers is a very popular British Spy Fiction series that ran from 1961 to 1969. It was created by Sydney Newman, mainly written by Brian Clemens and produced by Associated British Corporation for ITV. It ran for a total of 161 episodes across six seasons and singlehandedly started the Spy Catsuit trope.

Its most famous male-female partnership, between 1965 and 1968, was Patrick Macnee (who would later appear in a James Bond film) and Diana Rigg (who would later appear in a Bond film). In earlier seasons (1962-1964), the female co-star was Honor Blackman (who would later appear in a Bond film).

The series was originally created as a vehicle for Ian Hendry (who would not-quite appear in a not-quite Bond film), to capitalise on the popularity he had developed during his previous show, Police Surgeon. In the pilot, his character, Dr David Keel, was recruited by spy John Steed (Macnee) as a part-time expert assistant in return for Steed's help capturing the murderers of Keel's wife; this was pretty much the last time in the series any actual avenging took place. This first series was generally a grim-and-gritty crime affair, centring around drug smugglers, arms dealers and endless cases involving stolen diamonds.


A TV strike delayed the start of the second season, so Hendry left to pursue a film career. Steed became the show's central character and the production team started to explore other partnerships. The first, lasting just a few episodes, was Dr. King, a blatant Suspiciously Similar Substitute. He was followed up by stories that alternately paired Steed up with nightclub singer Venus Smith (The Chick) (played by Julie Stevens, who has never appeared in a Bond film) and female spy Catherine "Cathy" Gale (arguably TV's first true Action Girl, and played by Blackman, who, as noted already, would later appear in a Bond film). Cathy, who was mostly written identically to Dr. Keel (Word of God is that some of her early scripts were actually written for Hendry), proved to be the most popular and Venus was quietly dropped.


This retooling of the show became a massive smash. With a consistent Agents Dating format, the show began to move away from more mundane villains and towards science fictional supervillains, Mad Scientists and Diabolical Masterminds.

Blackman left to pursue a film career (playing Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, a Bond film) and was replaced by Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel, described as a "talented amateur". Simultaneously, production switched from videotape to 35mm film. The show became much more stylish and faster-paced and even gained a new theme tune, although it wasn't until the next season that it was produced in colour. Mrs. Peel — whose husband didn't make an appearance until her final episode — set the trend of the Spy Catsuit and continued the gentleman spy / Action Girl setup. Steed and Mrs. Peel became the show's iconic pairing, helped by the introduction of filmed and colour episodes raising the show in the public's consciousness.

The stories became crazier and crazier — Space plants from the moon! Assassination by laser! Invisible spies! Housecats trained to kill! Politicians hypnotised into becoming children! A Shrink Ray! — and typified the swinging cool of 1960s Britain.

Eventually Rigg left Steed for the doomed embrace of George Lazenby's James Bond, and Steed took on his last partner, Tara King. Tara (played by Linda Thorson, who has not appeared in a Bond film, but made up for it by being the only one of the bunch to appear on Star Trek) was a more feminine character, though still an Action Girl, but the series never survived the loss of Rigg, massive problems behind the scenes and being put up in America against Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. The series finished after just one season with Tara King. As of late 2020, Thorson is the last living main cast member, with both Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg having passed away earlier that year.

A short-lived revival was attempted in 1976, titled The New Avengers, starring Macnee and Joanna Lumley (who's better known for Absolutely Fabulous, but had earlier appeared in a Bond film) as Purdey. Oh, and Gareth Hunt, the guy off the Nescafe adverts (but not Bond films, before or after The Avengers), as Mike Gambit.

The show was later made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes (who now appears in Bond films) and Uma Thurman (who may or may not appear in some future Bond film yet), whose only redeeming quality was Sean Connery (who had appeared in many Bond films) hamming it up as an evil Scotsman. For more on this film, which is pretty much disowned by fans for straying too far from the concept of the series, see The Avengers (1998).

In the 1990s, the franchise was revived by Eclipse Comics and writer Grant Morrison. It could not be titled The Avengers thanks to Marvel Comics, and so was instead retitled Steed and Mrs. Peel, as it had been in the short-lived 60s Gold Key Comics series. This comic was reprinted twenty years later by Boom! Studios, who then continued it as an ongoing series with newly-written stories, starting with writer Mark Waid (who became the only person to write for both these Avengers and the other Avengers).

In January 2018, Shane Black and Fred Dekker (who both worked on The Predator) announced to be working on a reboot series set in the 1960s, reimagined as "The Ipcress File meets Doctor Who" according to them. Nothing has emerged since.

Not to be confused with the American comic book superhero team or its film adaptation, the latter of which was renamed Avengers Assemble for the British market for precisely this reason.

Character tropes include:

  • Action Girl: Cathy Gale, Emma Peel and Tara King.
  • Actor Allusion: In "Too Many Christmas Trees", Cathy Gale sends Steed and Peel a postcard from Fort Knox.
    Steed: (after Mrs. Peel hands him a Christmas card from Cathy Gale) Mrs. Gale! Oh, how nice of her to remember me. What can she be doing in Fort Knox?
  • Almost Dead Guy: Countless episodes.
  • Anonymous Ringer: The Prime Minister in "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Station" is very clearly supposed to be then-incumbent Harold Wilson since he looks like him, but he's never explicitly identified by name.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Aside from Steed's slightly dated "British gentleman" look throughout, "A Touch of Brimstone" features a bunch of prankster villains, the Hellfire Club, with a taste for 18th century styles.
  • Ax-Crazy: "Escape in Time", "The Joker", "Don't Look Behind You".
  • Bad Boss: "A Touch of Brimstone".
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Steed is a very well dressed secret agent, and knows how to kick ass.
  • Bench Breaker: In "The Thirteenth Hole", Mrs. Peel gets handcuffed to a wooden chair. When the time comes, she swiftly breaks the chair and beats up the baddies with the sticks. At the end of the episode, as they stroll off across a golf course, Steed asks her what her handicap is. She shows him the chunk of wood still cuffed to one of her wrists.
  • Big Bad: The puppeteer in "Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellas".
  • Biker Babe: Cathy Gale.
  • Boxed Crook: Many episodes.
  • Bungling Inventor: Quilby in "The See-Through Man".
  • The Chick: Venus Smith.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Steed; a producer's write-up to guide writers of episodes specifically stated that "he fights like a cad and uses every dirty trick in the book..."
  • Cool Car: The automobiles used in the series became almost as famous as the actors.
    • From the fourth season on, Steed's signature cars were six vintage green 1926–1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleys and Bentley 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 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and a 1927 Rolls Royce New Phantom.
    • Peel drove Lotus Elan convertibles (a white 1964 and a powder blue 1966), which, like her clothes, emphasized her independence and vitality. During the first Peel series (Season 4), each episode ended with a short, humorous scene of the duo leaving the scene of their most recent adventure in some unusual vehicle. Mother occasionally appeared in silver Rolls-Royce.
    • Tara King drove an AC 428 and a Lotus Europa.
    • Lady Diana Forbes Blakeney drove an MGC Roadster.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: "The Fear Merchants", "Silent Dust".
  • Cultured Badass: Steed.
  • Damsel in Distress: Tara often gets chloroformed or clubbed and kidnapped.
  • Dashingly Dapper Derby: John Steed is likely the Trope Codifier. His often had a steel plate built into the crown, useful for giving villains a quick clonk on the head.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: The bread-and-butter trope of the series, which has no shortage of diabolical villains with plans. It may have even originated the term, and certainly was a Trope Codifier - the characters frequently actually refer to their opponents as "diabolical masterminds".
  • Doomed Appointment: Countless.
  • Double Agent: Merlin - actually a quadruple agent - in "The Morning After".
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Steed gets a classic one in "The Living Dead". Asked by his firing squad if he has any last requests, he responds "Yes - could you cancel my milk?"
  • Film Felons: "Epic".
  • Funny Foreigner: A few, most notably the Russian diplomat in "Fog".
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: The heroes occasionally tangled with The Other Side.
  • Heel–Face Mole: "The Correct Way To Kill".
  • Hot Scientist: "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green", not to mention Mrs. Peel all the time.
  • Iconic Outfit:
    • The Spy Catsuits, which came to be known as "Emma peelers".
    • Emma's leather outfit from her first season (later replaced by the aforementioned catsuits).
    • Although it appeared only once, the S&M-themed outfit worn by Diana Rigg in the episode "A Touch of Brimstone" became instantly iconic (even if it caused the episode to be banned in some places).
    • Steed's bowler hat, umbrella and suit was itself a style-setter.
  • Implacable Man: The Cybernauts in "The Cybernauts" and "Return of the Cybernauts".
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Brodny in "The See-Through Man" and "Two's A Crowd".
  • Last-Name Basis
  • Large Ham: Mother.
  • Loony Fan: "Epic", "The Joker", "Don't Look Behind You".
  • Mad Scientist: Countless episodes.
  • Meaningful Name: When charged with coming up with a new character, the writers were told to create one with "Male Appeal", abbreviated as "M. Appeal".
    • And also when you look at her maiden name: Knight and Steed.
  • The Mole: Many episodes.
  • Mooks: Countless episodes.
  • The Napoleon: "Escape in Time".
  • Old Friend: Countless, generally doomed.
  • Part-Time Hero: Tara King was the first of Steed's associates to be a professional agent like him; all those that came before were "talented amateurs" who maintained their own careers between outings with Steed. The having-to-balance-heroing-with-real-life side of the trope rarely came up with any of them, though. Emma Peel is 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.
  • Plant Aliens: "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green".
  • Platonic Life-Partners:
    • Steed and Mrs. Gale.
    • Steed and Mrs. Peel.
    • Steed and Miss King — though that may be debatable, as unlike Gale and Peel, Steed and King were shown in unambiguously romantic scenarios and both actors have indicated their belief that the two were in an off-screen relationship. Macnee has also stated his belief that Steed and Peel were lovers, too, though there is no indication of this on screen.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Steed: British, polite, charming and a force to be reckoned with.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The clowns in "Look (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellas".
  • Red Scare: "The Correct Way to Kill".
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: "The Mauritius Penny", "The Eagle's Nest".
  • Serial Killer: "Fog", "Game".
  • The Stoic: Steed, Mrs Gale, Mrs Peel and sometimes Tara King generally treat horrible murder with barely a flicker of emotion.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dr. King, an occasional partner of Steed's during the second season who was basically just a stand-in for the now-departed Dr. Keel. Also, in-universe, when the viewer catches a glimpse of Mrs. Peel's returned husband, he looks a lot like Steed.
  • Technical Pacifist: Steed.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Countless episodes.
  • Throw the Book at Them: During a fight in the village library in "Murdersville", Steed grabs an armful of books off the shelf and hurls them at an attacker.
  • The Vicar: Numerous episodes.
  • The Voiceless: Mother's bodyguard, Rhonda.

Plot tropes include:

  • Alien Kudzu: In "Man-Eater of Surrey Green", a Man-Eating Plant from outer space lands in Middle England and takes several top horticulturists as its prisoners in an effort to germinate and spread across all of the Earth.
  • Alone with the Psycho: "The Joker" has Emma Peel trapped in a house with a psychopath who is obsessed with her, and wants to drive her as insane as he is. The script was recycled from "Don't Look Behind You", which starred Cathy Gale.
  • Animal Assassin: In "The Hidden Tiger", house cats are turned into man-killers.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: "Hellfire Club".
  • Avenging the Villain: "Revenge of the Cybernauts" sees Paul Beresford (Peter Cushing) concoct a scheme to avenge his brother Dr Clement Armstrong (Michael Gough), the villain of "The Cybernauts".
  • Botanical Abomination: In "Man-Eater of Surrey Green", a Man-Eating Plant from outer space lands in Middle England and takes several top horticulturists as its prisoners in an effort to germinate and spread across all of the Earth.
  • The Boxing Episode: "Killer Whale".
  • Brainwashed: "The Hour That Never Was", "Pandora".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Occurs in the final original series episode, "Bizarre," when Mother directly addresses the viewers.
  • Busman's Holiday: "A Chorus of Frogs".
  • The Butler Did It: "What the Butler Saw".
  • Christmas Episode: "Too Many Christmas Trees".
  • Circus Episode: "The Girl on the Trapeze", "Conspiracy of Silence".
  • Class Reunion: "The Hour That Never Was".
  • Clear My Name: "All Done With Mirrors", "Who Was That Man I Saw You With?".
  • Damsel out of Distress: Emma in "The House That Jack Built".
  • Dead All Along: Professor Keller in "The House That Jack Built".
  • Deadly Prank: "Hellfire Club", "Game".
  • Doppelgänger: Any way you can think of — Magic Plastic Surgery, Latex Perfection, Identical Stranger, Grand Theft MeThe Avengers did it at least once.
  • Enemy Mine: "The Morning After".
  • Enemy Without: In an episode where a man's brainwaves are projected into a series of hapless British spies.
  • Fake Town: In "House of Cards" a Soviet spymaster has trained sleeper agents to pose as impeccable British citizens. This training includes a very London-like town where the agents are given immersion training in British mannerisms. The regimen is so intense that one trainee makes the mistake of addressing his commander as "comrade," which nets him a bullet to the head.
  • Faking the Dead: "November Five" has an MP who gets assassinated at the moment the East Anglia bi-election results come. He turns out to be one of the ringleaders behind a ransom plot involving a stolen nuclear warhead and still alive.
  • Fauxtastic Voyage: "Escape In Time", "Pandora".
  • Finger Poke of Doom: "The Positive Negative Man".
  • From Camouflage to Criminal:
    • In "The Golden Fleece", three army officers are involved in gold smuggling in order to support pensioned-off soldiers who find it hard to adapt to civilian life. They appeal to Cathy not to reveal the names of the men who have been benefiting from their well-meant crime, and she burns their account book.
    • In "Espirit De Corps", a highland regiment plans an armed insurrection. Cathy infiltrates them by doctoring records stating that she's a descendent of royalty.
    • "The Danger Makers" features a mad doctor mentally regressing fatigued soldiers being regressed into crazed thrill-seekers as part of a plot to steal the Crown Jewels.
  • Grand Theft Me: "Who's Who???"
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "Stay Tuned", and kind of, in "You Have Just Been Murdered".
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "The Superlative Seven".
  • Hypno Fool: "The Master Minds".
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: "Mission... Highly Improbable".
  • Invisible Main Character: Kind of, in "The See-Through Man". Definitely in "Get-A-Way!"
  • Killer Robot: "The Cybernauts", "Return of the Cybernauts".
  • Knife-Throwing Act: "Conspiracy of Silence".
  • Man-Eating Plant: "Man-Eater of Surrey Green".
  • Nasty Party: "The Superlative Seven".
  • Ontological Mystery: "The House That Jack Built".
  • Orgy of Evidence: "The Curious Case of the Countless Clues", had John Steed go up against a killer who planted clues over each of his hits, and then posed as a detective attempting to "solve" each of the murders he himself committed.
  • People Puppets: "Return of the Cybernauts".
  • Sequel Episode: The Cybernauts were such a hit they were brought back for a rematch in "Return of the Cybernauts".
  • Snuff Film: "Epic".
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: "The Superlative Seven", which was a remake of "Dressed to Kill".
  • Thanatos Gambit: "The House That Jack Built".
  • Town with a Dark Secret: "The Town of No Return", "Murdersville".
  • Treasure Map: "Dead Man's Chest".
  • Weather-Control Machine: The villain in "A Surfeit of H20" had technology that could create localized rainstorms severe enough to drown his opponents in rainwater.
  • Your Worst Nightmare: "Too Many Christmas Trees", "Death's Door".

Other tropes that appeared on the show include:

  • Absentee Actor: Only two episodes of the first season do not feature John Steed (but Patrick Macnee is nevertheless in the credits): "The Girl on the Trapeze" and "The Far Distant Death".
  • Agents Dating: Played pretty much straight throughout, with John Steed and his various female partners in a state of perpetual UST, and often seen in romantic or dating-esque scenarios, though, in keeping with the tone of the series, rarely more than hints were offered, with Steed and Peel (a Mind Swap scenario notwithstanding) kissing only once. The relationship between Steed and Tara, despite its May–December Romance aspects, was allowed to be somewhat more suggestive, with the final line of the final episode featuring a character expressing concern about Steed and Tara being unchaperoned while riding a rocket ship into earth's orbit.
  • Amphibious Automobile: In the coda to "Castle De'ath", Steed and Peel are driving back, when he decides to go fishing. When Peel increduously says, "In those clothes?" he promptly drives his amphibious car into a nearby loch.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Steed and Tara accidentally launched in a rocket, and Mother saying to the camera that they'll be back. (They weren't.)
  • Animal Assassin: In "The Hidden Tiger," house cats are turned into man-killers.
  • Auction of Evil:
    • "Have Guns - Will Haggle": Thieves steal 3,000 highly-secret, brand-new rifles and stage an auction for the guns for buyers on the black market.
    • "The Girl from Auntie": An organization which steals items for collectors kidnaps Mrs. Peel and plans to auction her off to them.
    • "The Hour That Never Was": A team of technicians at a Royal Air Force base is brainwashed by a team of criminals using ultrasonics. The Big Bad intends to set up an auction of the brainwashed personnel to the highest bidder.
  • Baby Carriage: "Quick-Quick Slow Death" opens with a man pushing a pram along the high street. He stops to make a phone call, then is aghast to see the pram start rolling away - he chases it but after a contretemps with a sports car it's upturned, and a man's corpse rolls out, bullet holes in his starched shirt-front.
  • Bad Santa: In "Too Many Christmas Trees", Steed suffered from disturbing dreams featuring a creepy Father Christmas.
  • Bag of Holding: In "The Town of No Return", Steed and Peel take a train journey, where Steed, in the absence of a restaurant car, produces a carpet bag containing a full tea service, including a stand of small cakes and a boiling kettle.
  • The Blank: In "Death's Door", Lord Melford has a nightmare about attending a peace conference where he is greeted at the door by a faceless. Steed and Emma later discover he had been drugged and the nightmare staged. During the final fight against the bad guys, Emma shows up wearing the costume and mask used to create the faceless man.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The series actually made a point of not showing blood, to maintain the lighthearted tone of the series, despite numerous deaths by gunshot, stabbing, explosion and so on. There were some episodes where a little blood was shown, but they were few and far between. In one episode, we are led to believe a character was mauled to death by a tiger; the victim's clothes are in shreds, but there's no blood at all.
  • Bound and Gagged/Distressed Damsel: Happens fairly often to the female lead, considering the time period.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: In "Castle De'ath", a man is being tortured on the rack and the sound of bagpipes drowns out his cries.
  • Cartwright Curse: "Dead Man's Treasure" featured a race where participants were assigned to partners. Steed's partner was a young woman who recounted the tragic deaths of her many husbands, apparently by bad luck, as Steed grew more disconcerted each time she revealed a new former spouse.
  • Casting Gag: Christopher Lee appears in "Never, Never Say Die" as Doctor Frank N. Stone, a nod to his role in The Curse of Frankenstein.
  • Catchphrase: "Mrs Peel - we're needed!"
  • Cat Fight: "The Living Dead", between Mrs. Peel and a female guard.
  • Characterisation Click Moment: In the first season, Steed was a hard-edged, trenchcoat-wearing operative with ambiguous morality. During the Cathy Gale era, he started to soften a bit, though he had a casually manipulative streak. It wasn't until the Emma Peel era that his familiar sophiscated, dapper gentleman persona kicked in.
  • Chekhov's Wardrobe: Mrs. Peel's amazing ability to always wear a catsuit if she would be involved in a fight later.
  • Clip Show: "Homicide and Old Lace".
  • Chained to a Railway: Parodied in "The Gravediggers", in which Mrs Peel is tied to the tracks of a miniature railway.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: One episode had a villain escape prison and attempt to murder John Steed with such a gimmick.
  • Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: One episode had a villain who changed outfits every time he was off camera. This gets really ridiculous in the fight scene at the end of the episode, where the focus changed from him to Steed and back every ten seconds or so for the entire thing.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: In 1968, Gold Key Comics published a one-shot comic book based on the series, reprinting a British comic strip. However due to the fact Marvel Comics owned the name The Avengers in comics, the adaptation was titled John Steed Emma Peel, though its official title remained The Avengers in the indicia. In 1990-1991 Eclipse Comics published a 3-issue comic book mini-series (written by Grant Morrison), but it ran into the same problem so it was titled Steed and Mrs. Peel; it also suffered from a months-long delay before the release of part 3. An Avengers comic strip also ran in one of the UK weekly comic magazines, but there were no problems using the original title over there. The Steed and Mrs. Peel title of 1991 was revived by Boom! Studios in the early 2010s (beginning with a reprint of the Morrison mini-series and then moving into original tales) and ran for about 18 months. The New Avengers was adapted in comic strip form in a pair of UK-published Annuals.
  • Compilation Movie: Two season five episodes - "The Winged Avenger" and "Return of the Cybernauts" - were coupled together and given a theatrical release in Europe.
  • Continuity Nod: Cathy Gale sends a Christmas card in "Too Many Christmas Trees" from Fort Knox. Doubles as a Shout-Out to Goldfinger.
  • Conveyor Belt o' Doom: "Epic".
  • Cool Car: Several:
    • Steed's signature cars were six vintage green 1926–1928 Bentley racing or town cars, including Blower Bentleys and Bentley 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 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and a 1927 Rolls Royce New Phantom.
    • Emma's Lotus Elan.
    • Mother's silver Rolls Royce.
    • Tara's AC 428 and Lotus Europa.
    • Lady Diana Forbes Blakeney's MGC Roadster.
  • Denser and Wackier: The series started off with the intent of becoming a gritty crime drama. Around the time Emma Peel took over as Steed's partner, plots became a lot more cartoony and the lead spies much quippier. By the time the series shifted to colour, the show featured plots like man-eating plants, housecats trained as assassins and an actual shrink ray. Uniquely for this trope, it's the wackier seasons that are more fondly remembered, and any attempts to bring the series back to its 'realistic' roots have been met with hostility.
  • Early Instalment Weirdness: Or rather, an early instalment lack of the weirdness that most people associate with the series. The first season, with Steed paired with Keel, was a straightforward crime drama. Even the early Cathy episodes were pretty much just straight crime stories as well (along with those featuring short-term partners Venus Smith and Martin King). It wasn't till Cathy became Steed's only partner that the bizarre and occasionally SF-tinged stories began.
    • During the first season, Ian Hendry's Dr. Keel was the lead character, so much so that there are a few episodes in which Steed does not even appear.
    • The characterization of Steed in the first two seasons was markedly different, with the character being more brusque and rough-and-tumble and less-friendly. His attitude towards Cathy in her early episodes is also more sexually aggressive than it became later.
    • Several of Cathy Gale's early episodes were actually written for the David Keel character, with the dialogue left more or less unchanged; this led to some characterization refinement as scripts written specifically for Cathy began to emerge.
    • The first two seasons had Steed answering to an on-screen superior; this was abandoned for the better-known Cathy and Emma eras, but it was revived with the introduction of Mother in the Tara era.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: "The Living Dead" had a huge underground city built by the villains for the purpose of raising an army.
  • Energy Weapon: The murder weapon of choice in "From Venus, With Love".
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: "The Living Dead".
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Steed and Mrs. Peel in "Escape in Time".
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: In "Death's Door", a potentially world-changing conference is put on hold when a key delegate pulls out, having had a bizarre recurring dream in which a chandelier falls on his head. He interprets this (with good reason) as a warning not to attend the conference, lest he meet his demise in this manner. The heroes inspect it and find nothing wrong, but the villain still ends up crushed by it.
  • Fanservice: Mrs. Peel in "The Girl from Auntie", "A Touch of Brimstone", "Honey for the Prince", just to name a few.
  • Flynning: Steed gets into some of this in "A Touch of Brimstone" when forced to duel a member of the Hellfire Club.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Quite a few.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Villains were often referred to as to "the other side" instead of "Russians".
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Cathy and, initially, Emma had a taste for leather outfits.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "A Touch of Brimstone," the Hellfire Club has a dungeon with a trap door (presumably leading to a fatal fall) activated by a secret lever attached to a wall-mounted torch. They use it to dispose of an underling who threatened to go to the police. At the end of the episode, Mrs. Peel is fighting the whip-wielding head of the Hellfire Club, Cartney, in the dungeon. As she dodges his whip strikes, he accidentally snags the torch, activates the lever, and falls through the trapdoor to his doom.
  • Hospital Hottie: "The Gravediggers" has Emma infiltrate a hospital by posing as a nurse.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think:
    • In "The Gravediggers", Emma, while posing as a nurse at a hospital, has to endure such a talk from the sister.
    Emma: I though that when the flowers arrive-
    Sister: You're not here to think.
    • In "The Living Dead":
    Geoffrey: Well I thought you'd-
    Marquand: You're not required to think, but to do as you're told.
    • In "The Hidden Tiger", Angora tells Peters that he wasn't hired to think, but to do as he's told.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: In "Intercrime", Cathy infiltrates a member of a gang by posing as a member, Hilda. Unfortunately, the real Hilda escapes from custody and confronts her. The boss, Felder, decides there's only one way to decide it, and leads them both to Kressler, declaring the real Hilda wouldn't hesitate to carry out the penalty, and produces a revolver. He hands it to Cathy and she's about to shoot him, then turns the gun on the villains - but the gun is empty and she's apprehended.
  • Instrument of Murder: One enemy agent in had a clarinet with a blade that would slide out of the bell when the right key was pressed.
  • It Must Be Mine!: "The Girl from Auntie" features a villainous firm which collects items like this for...collectors. The "item" they've currently stolen and plan to auction off is Emma Peel.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: In "Intercrime", Cathy infiltrates a crime gang. When her cover is blown, she is told to shoot a man, but turns the gun on the villains, only to discover that the gun is empty.
  • Jumped at the Call: Both Steed and Mrs Peel clearly enjoy their adventures, even though it occasionally means killing lots of people.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: This exchange from "The Girl from Auntie":
    Steed: Six murders in an hour and twenty minutes, what do you call that?
    Georgie: A good first act.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Steed.
  • Loving Details: When Emma Peel departs, she meets her replacement, Tara King, on the stairs. A little wistfully, Emma tells Tara, "He likes his tea stirred anticlockwise." The series had always been very coy about the nature of the relationship between Emma Peel and John Steed, so this plays as a final bit of Ship Tease.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: In "The Superlative Seven," Steed is abducted to a secret island with five other men and one woman to participate in a deadly game. Steed survives, of course, as does one other person; no surprise who it is.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: Many episodes, and a literal one in "False Witness".
  • Monochrome Casting: Done deliberately. In order to maintain a fantasy setting for the series, there were strict rules about what could and could not be shown in an episode, one of which was "no coloured people".
  • Monster Clowns: "Look - (Stop Me if You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers..."
  • Most Writers Are Male: In this case, all the writers - which explains a lot about Mrs. Peel in particular.
  • Musical Pastiche: "The Winged Avenger" pastiched Batman's Theme Tune in the climactic battle, complete with The Hit Flash, which took the form of huge comic book panels reading "POW!", "SPLAT!" and "BAM!" being smashed into the bad guy's face.
  • Never Found the Body: Mrs. Peel's husband Peter; a pilot found to be alive in the Amazonian jungle years after a plane crash, which signals Mrs. Peel's exit from the series.
  • New Weird: Some of the episodes delved into "Weird Fiction," John Steed was once shrunk to "doll-size."
  • Nice Hat: Steed and his bowlers, complete with a steel plate in the crown for clonking people on the head with.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Science in this milieu seems to be a little mad by default.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: "Don't Look Behind You".
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Mrs. Peel wore one in "A Touch of Brimstone", which was about a resurrected Hellfire Club.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In "The Town of No Return", Steed and Peel are seperated during a fight by a large door and Steed faces four soldiers. By the time Emma subdues her assailants and opens the door, the soldiers are all unconcious and Steed's hat is wonky.
  • Oh, Cisco!
  • Opening Narration: The American screenings of the Emma Peel episodes.
  • Outfit Decoy: In "Death's Door", Steed gets trapped behind a fence by an enemy agent with a carbine. He puts his bowler on top of his umbrella and lifts it above the fence twice for the agent to shoot: to gauge the man's position and lure him into position for Steed's counterattack.
  • Parasol of Pain: Steed's umbrella had a sword inside, but he didn't always feel the need to draw it.
  • Parent Service: The producers were pretty blatant as to their motives when they brought Diana Rigg onboard as M(an) Appeal, er Emma Peel.
  • Pretty in Mink: Emma Peel wore a few furs, as well as some other ladies.
  • Pressure Point: Emma Peel in "The Living Dead" applies pressure to two points on the neck of a female guard's neck to render her unconscious.
  • Product Placement: In "The Golden Eggs", Steed is cutting a cowboy off the back of a packet of "Wild West Cornflakes" as the titles dissolve. Cathy joins him for breakfast, but the whole scene is played for product placement, the packet taking up the entire screen for several seconds, and remains clearly in view for nearly a minute, until Steed has demolished the box and thrown cornflakes everywhere. It's not a last-minute inclusion either, as it's in the camera script.
  • Professional Killer: The titular "Mr Teddy Bear", who communicates with clients via his talking teddy bear. Among his victims are Herr General Grantz (killed emulating the Führer - went to hit the table with a microphone while addressing the population of Talona and was electrocuted with several 1000 volts), Herr General Freiber (gassed when opening his safe) and Admiral Mindel (a souvenir hunter who has an American grenade turned into a table lighter; he discovered one night it had turned back into a live grenade). After the war, he disappeared for 5 or 6 years, his current price is believed to be £100,000, with a private or public execution, to the taste of the client. He likes £20,000 beforehand for expenses, the rest on completion. Only one client has ever welched - and was dropped from a helicopter into exhibition square in Zagreb.
  • Pulling the Rug Out:
    • Used as a method of murder in "Look — (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers...". The two murderous clowns slide a length of red carpet under Lord Dessington's door. When the distracted Dessington steps on it, they yank it out from under his feet, and Dessington plummets to doom out of an open window.
    • Steed does this during a fight in "The Gravediggers".
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: John Steed, though only after the series was tweaked in an attempt to make it more appealing to American audiences.
  • Rail Enthusiast: "The Gravediggers" gives us Sir Horace Winslip, an eccentric hospital proprieter whose Big Fancy House, "Winslip Junction", is done up like a railway station - Steed even has to blow a whistle and buy a platform ticket to gain entry. His butler Fred is dressed like a conductor and the drawing room has been decorated with false tracks, platform awnings, a signal box and half a train carriage, where he dines while Fred turns on fans, rocks the carriage, and runs a revolving scenery canvas and gramophone during meals. He even has his own miniature railway. He longs for the good old days of the steam train and has a low opinion of cars, which leads the villains to dupe him into having a signal box he assumes is for disabling car, when it's really for putting England into a blackout.
    • The same episode ends with Steed driving the miniature train backwards as he tells Emma he always felt he was cut out to be an engine driver, but the family objected ("No sense of security, always on the move").
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: It originally had a theme tune by Johnny Dankworth. It also underwent a complete makeover when production was switched from videotape to film, simultaneous with Diana Rigg's arrival, resulting in the more familiar Laurie Johnson theme.
  • Resemblance Reveal: In the episode that writes out Mrs. Peel, her husband (a pilot who was lost in a plane crash some years before her entry into the series) turns out to be still alive. He doesn't appear in person until the final scene, at which point he is revealed to look exactly like Steed. (What this might imply about Mrs. Peel's reasons for hanging around with Steed is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
  • Retool: The show changed dramatically with the introduction of Cathy Gale.
  • Re Vision: Mother.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The idea to give Steed a female sidekick was drawn from a news report from Kenya featuring a woman whose family was being ravaged by terrorists.
  • Roadside Wave: In "Death's Door", the diplomat Steed and Mrs Peel are assigned to protect has a seemingly prophetic dream that he will die if attends the peace conference. The dream is full oddly specific details, and when Steed and Emma ride his route to the conference, each of the details comes true; except for being splashed by a car driving through a puddle as he gets out of his limousine. Then Steed realises that made the run early, and Lord Melford would have been arriving at exactly 10:30. When they drive around the block and arrive at exactly 10:30, Mrs Peel is splashed by a car driving through a puddle as she gets out of the limo.
  • The Series Has Left Reality: The first three seasons were a grounded crime series. The Emma Peel years were increasingly characterised by a futuristic, science-fiction bent, with mad scientists and their creations wreaking havoc. Our heroes dealt with being shrunk to doll size ("Mission... Highly Improbable"), pet cats being electrically altered to become ferocious and lethal "miniature tigers" ("The Hidden Tiger"), killer automata ("Return of the Cybernauts"), mind-transferring machines ("Who's Who???") and invisible foes ("The See-Through Man").
  • She-Fu: The female leads were clearly all black belts...
  • Shot at Dawn:
    • In "Espirit De Corps", Steed is sentenced to death by firing squad. He survives by bribing the regiment with his diamond tie-pin.
    • In "The Living Dead", Steed appears calmer than the commander of the firing squad, who accepts the One Last Smoke that Steed declines. Unusually for this trope, Steed accepts the blindfold, so doesn't realise that the eruption of gunfire is actually Mrs Peel coming to his rescue. The suspense of the Big Damn Heroes is drawn out by an Overly Long Gag of the firing squad maneuvering to shoot Steed while Peel is still battling her way past a minion.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrink Ray: Episode "Mission...Highly Improbable" has a device that sends out a ray that shrinks objects or people down to the size of toys.
  • Sickbed Slaying: In "The £50,000 Breakfast", a killer disguised as a doctor slips into the hospital room of a smuggler in a coma, dismisses the policeman guarding him, and administers a lethal injection.
  • Snuff Film: "Epic" sees a deranged film director attempt to kill Mrs. Peel as part of his newest film - The Destruction of Mrs. Emma Peel.
  • Spiritual Successor: The first season was a follow-up to the crime series Police Surgeon, which starred Ian Hendry as a physician who helped the police solve crimes. In fact, the series was created to give Hendry a star vehicle following Police Surgeon's cancellation.
  • Spy Catsuit: Emma Peel and Cathy Gale wore this outfit frequently. It didn't look so out of place in The '60s. Peel also had a purple one.
    • This was, essentially, the entire point behind the character. Her name alludes to it, even: Emma Peel ==> M. Appeal or Man Appeal. (Her original name was the less subtle 'Mantha Peel, but it was changed perhaps on account of being the unsexiest name in television history)
    • This ended up as a Justified Trope. Rigg insisted on switching from the black leather catsuit to a colour jersey version — just as skintight, but far more practical for gymnastically kicking mooks in.
    • It worked in the sixties just because it was less Stripperiffic than modern versions, and looked like something a motorcycle-riding woman would wear. In fact, many male and female bikers wear something similar but more colourful right now. As the time went on, catsuits began to shine, reveal and tighten to the point of asphyxiation.
  • Spy Drama
  • Spy Fiction
  • Sticky Shoes: In "The Winged Avenger" Professor Poole invents climbing boots that let one walk up walls and on ceilings.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: The John Steed/Emma Peel. At least once.
  • Sword Cane: Steed had a sword concealed in his umbrella.
  • Take That!: "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station" ends with a dig at Harold Wilson. When he comes around to congratulate our heroes for foiling an assassination attempt on him, they leave him to hang outside on the basis that he's a bore.
    Steed: A speech. A long speech.
    Mrs Peel: Did you vote for him?
    Steed: Did you?
    Mrs Peel: Let's...pretend we're out?
  • Taking a Third Option:
    • In "A Touch of Brimstone," Steed, trying to join the Hellfire Club, is told there is a last test he must pass: grabbing a dried pea from a table before a man with an axe can cut the pea in half. The axe-wielder is incredibly fast and accurate, as evidenced by a member of the club who is missing two fingers. Steed happily goes along with the test. When the test starts, he blows the pea out of the axe's path.
    • In "Have Guns — Will Haggle," the villains have stolen thousands of new rifles and are attempting to sell them. They demonstrate the rifles' effectiveness by standing two men together, placing two rifles an equal distance apart, and making the men run for them and try to shoot each other. Then the bad guys make Tara King participate, and her opponent is rather psychotic and an unerring shot. When the start is called, Tara doesn't go for her rifle; she runs after the guy towards his rifle and knocks him out before he can pick it up.
  • The Tag: Humorous variety.
  • There Are No Police: In order to maintain the fantasy feel of the series, one of the guidelines was that there be no policemen about.
  • There Was a Door: One episode has Steed always entering through a window. Doing this saves Mrs. Peel's life when she's Bound and Gagged and opening the door would have triggered a fatal trap.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In "The Charmers", during the final fight, Kim (the Girl of the Week assigned to Steed) saves Steed's life by hurling a sword through the villain Keller's back. She learned the skill from her great-grandmother, who was a knife-thrower.
  • Traintop Battle: Delightfully parodied in "The Gravediggers" when Steed fights a pair of villains on a miniature train.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: "The Cybernauts".
  • Unbuilt Trope: Emma Peel is one of the codifiers for the Spy Catsuit. And yet she switched to a practical one rather quickly, and even so it still looks more like something a biker would actually wear.
  • Virtual Reality Interrogation: Tara King was victim of such a ploy by villains trying to locate John Steed and whoever he was protecting. Another episode had a fake "training seminar" orchestrated by enemy agents. British agents would not crack during the "interrogation simulations", but would later casually discuss the subject matter at the bar...
  • We Help the Helpless: The Avengers' scope of action varies from episode to episode — sometimes it's impossible or unusual crimes, sometimes it's purely spy-based, sometimes it's breaking smuggling rings.
  • Weaponized Headgear: Steed sometimes used his steel-lined bowler hat as a bludgeon.
  • Whole Plot Reference: "Dead Man's Chest" is basically It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; "The Superlative Seven" is a riff on The Most Dangerous Game; "Murdersville" is Bad Day at Black Rock.
  • Will They or Won't They?: There was a palpable sexual chemistry between Steed and Mrs Peel. And between Steed and Mrs. Gale. And between Steed and Miss King.
  • Wolverine Claws: A bad guy in "A Touch of Brimstone" has metal prosthetic fingers to replace two that had been cut off. In a climactic battle, he pulls the ends of his metal fingers off to reveal claws beneath.
  • Yellowface: An astoundingly bad example in "The Superlative Seven," in which actor Terrence Plummer is given a Fu Manchu moustache and some Chinese clothes to play a character named "Toy Sung." He does not look remotely Chinese.
  • You Got Murder: One episode had letters containing an enhanced cold.

Alternative Title(s): The Avengers Series


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