The Avengers was a 1960s British television series starring Patrick Macnee who played secret agent John Steed. He had a number of female assistants: Catherine Gale played by Honor Blackman, second (and longest) Emma Peel by Diana Rigg, and last Tara King by Linda Thorson. Each was notable for strength of character and an ability to beat men in hand to hand fighting.
The series aired in Great Britain from January 1961 to September 1969; there were a total of 161 episodes. The Avengers became one of the most popular television series of all time, eventually reaching audiences in 120 countries, a record that still stands today.
The Steed/Peel episodes used a standard but very effective formula; strange events take place (usually involving murder), Steed and Emma investigate, there is a big fight, and at the end our heroes ride off into the sunset, each time in a different mode of transport. The tone of the series was always tongue firmly implanted in cheek – goofy mad scientists and fiendish enemy spies abounded, and their frequent plots to take over the country/world are often quite silly. The attraction of the series was due to the style (acting, costumes, etc) and the action sequences, usually involving hand to hand fighting, often preceded by a bondage sequence.
The BDSM relevance of the series includes:
- the costumes were designed by the late John Sutcliffe and used strong fetish imagery such as leather catsuits and stiletto boots (kinky boots)
- there was much bondage (albeit mostly of an amusing nature), and
- an undercurrent of dominance (often female) and submission.
A subsequent series, the New Avengers (26 episodes, 1976-7), featured MacNee with Joanna Lumley as Purdey but was less successful.
In 1998, Warner Bros. presented a movie adaption of "The Avengers" starring Ralph Fiennes as John Steed and Uma Thurman as Emma Peel. The movie was mostly paying homage to the style of the series in its story, design and of course featuring Uma Thurman in a tight leather catsuit.