Ba-ba-baa-bah, da-da-daa-dah. Dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum, dum dum dum dum dum dum double-dum. Still with me? The Avengers was classic British television at its best, mixing 60's spy drama with science fiction elements, it was a show that never failed to deliver. Steed was the focal point throughout (even in that first series in which he was not officially the lead role) but it was the ladies that really defined each era.
1. Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)
2. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman)
3. Purdey (Joanna Lumley)
4. Tara King (Linda Thorson)
5. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman)
The original show ran for six series between 1961 and 1969, so all my viewing was based on repeat showings. It was Diana Rigg, therefore, who was the first Avengers lady I ever saw, and she was pretty much single handedly responsible for me watching it from then on. During those two series I was entranced by Rigg's beauty and confidence. The chemistry between her and Patrick Macnee was palpable and the show at the point found all elements combine to achieve the perfect drama.
Whilst Honor Blackman should take some credit for defining the blueprint for Mrs Peel, she did not provide the same underlying level of sexual tension. She is good though and whilst I've not seen as many of the series she starred in the ones I have seen are very watchable. The story that part of her characters style was a result of her performing lines originally written for Ian Hendry show that it's not always by design that a TV show hits the mark. I was 8 when The New Avengers came along and only rarely allowed to stay up and watch it. I must have seen the Peel episodes by that time as I remember being disappointed with it in comparison. It also failed to compete with the raucous excitement of The Professionals which was grabbing my attention around the same time. The one bright point of The New Avengers though was Joanna Lumley, a woman who would later make me stay up half the night with the prospect that she might strip for Children In Need (this was before the internet remember, you had to get your thrills where you could!).
I only discovered the Tara King shows when Channel Four ran a repeat in the late 80's. These shows were surprisingly good once I'd got used to Thorson's less confident style. Finding a 5th lady for this was always going to be tricky. There are a few (Carol Wilson a receptionist in the first series and Venus Smith who appeared in six episodes of the first "Cathy Gale" series) but I've not seen enough (if any) of them to really let them count. Emma Peel, therefore, gets a second spot in the list thanks to Uma Thurman's portrayal in the truly execrable Avengers Film. Uma certainly looks the part in her leather cat suit and is as feisty and capable as a Mrs Peel should be, but she's not a patch on Dame Diana so really only makes the list by default.