She is the perfect balance of sexiness and sophistication, wit and whimsy. The object of many prepubescent lads desires, Mrs. Emma Peel dazzled television screens on both sides of the Atlantic from 1965-1967. Starring Dame Diana Rigg as Peel and Patrick Macnee as John Steed, the Emma Peel era of THE AVENGERS was the high-water-mark of the groundbreaking series, with adventures more fantastic than ever. A one-stop haven for DVD collectors, this special 17-disc Collectors Edition features all 51 digitally remastered Emma Peel episodes plus a new bonus disc containing three "lost" episodes from the debut season of THE AVENGERS, a making-of documentary film, a classic Emma Peel cameo episode from THE NEW AVENGERS 77, and more.
Along with Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Avengers practically defined British cult television, and it was never better than during the three years that Diana Rigg's Emma Peel character tossed out her witty barbs and karate kicks. The supercool 2006 edition of The Complete Emma Peel Megaset encompasses all 51 episodes from 1965-66 (in black and white) and 1967 (in color) plus a new bonus disc, all in 17 space-saving Thinpaks. Paired with Patrick Macnee as the dapper, umbrella-wielding John Steed, Rigg's Mrs. Peel turned heads with her sexy outfits, then broke skulls of the various would-be world-dominating bad guys who crossed her path. Like the mixed crime-fighting teams who came after them in shows like Moonlighting and The X-Files, Steed and Mrs. Peel had a constant platonic playfulness. In one episode when Mrs. Peel is working undercover at a department store, Steed drops in for a visit, remarking, "They told me 'Mrs. Peel is in Ladies Underwear.' I rattled up the stairs three at a time." However, unlike their spiritual successors, Steed and Mrs. Peel never jumped the shark; instead she bid a fond farewell as she passed the torch to Steed's next partner, Tara King (Linda Thorson), just as she had been passed the torch from Honor Blackman. (Blackman left her Kathy Gale character to go on to fame as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger--in one episode, Steed receives a postcard from Gale sent from Fort Knox.) But although Macnee had some enjoyable moments with other partners throughout the series' run, it's the Emma Peel years that fans remember most fondly, not only for the great chemistry between the lead actors, but the superb writing and distinctly British, and distinctly '60s, quirky charm.
The 216-minute bonus disc is the new addition to the 2006 set. Completists will appreciate the "lost" episodes from the first season. Of the very first episode, "Hot Snow," however, only the first 15 minutes were recovered. "Girl on the Trapeze" features a vanilla-esque Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel investigating the death of a circus performer, while "The Frighteners" perks things up considerably with the addition of Macnee's Steed character, who displays a bit of the comedic twinkle that would be the cornerstone of the series through its entire run. All in all, the episodes aren't nearly as watchable as the peak years of the series. Of greater interest to fans is "Avenging the Avengers," a 1992 documentary recapping the series through clips and interviews with Macnee, crew members, and actresses Honor Blackman (Cathy Gale, 1962-64) and Linda Thorson (Tara King, 1968-69). Diana Rigg appears briefly in older interview footage. The documentary lasts 25 minutes, and an additional nine minutes of interviews are added to the end. There's also a three-minute promotional film that Macnee and Rigg made to promote the series' switch from black and white to color, an alternate opening sequence, and a 1977 episode in which Mrs. Peel makes a cameo appearance. The bonus disc is also available separately for those who already have the 2001 Megaset and don't want to upgrade just for the sake of saving shelf space. --David Horiuchi