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Episode 99: Emma Peel Era
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Cartney: "There's a spider on your nose."
Sara: "Put your boot in my face again, darling!"
Steed: "My word, what drug is she on?"

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Lord DarcyJohn Cartney (presumed)



English: "The Hellfire Club"

French: "Le club de l'Enfer"

German: "Zur Hölle, Sir!" or "Die Nacht der Sünder" (depending on the vintage of the print)

Italian: "Un pizzico di zolfo"

Spanish: "Un Toque Diabólico"



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Steed Joins the Hellfire Club
Emma Becomes the Queen of Sin

Produced: mid-late December 1965
UK Premiere (London, Season 4): 18 February 1966
US Premiere: Originally banned

Political Intrigue (click to see category list)A series of "innocent" practical jokes is disrupting foreign relations. When the jokes turn deadly, our Dynamic Duo discover the dastardly doings of an exclusive period club that is planning a political coup.


Absolutely the most overtly erotic episode ever, with the most intense Emma-watching imaginable. And she wasn't the only character to steam up the picture tube—Monty Python alumna Carol Cleveland also helped. This aside, it is well and truly a great episode, with some remarkable moments, starting right off with the opening scene wherein Cartney pushes a giant chair backward towards the camera, accompanied by a wonderfully odd bit of music. And who could forget Steed removing the pea before the axe fell? Peter Wyngarde utterly steals the show (and does it again in "Epic"). "Hellfire!"


While it was banned altogether in the U.S., the episode still aired in the U.K.—but not without some difficulty. Demands were made to cut down the whipping scene at the end, and since that was the version that was distributed worldwide, it would appear that no one has ever seen the complete whipping scene until its debut on A&E video. Well, sort of—it aired on cable in uncut form just a month or so prior to the video release. Still, if it's whipping women that upset the broadcasters of the 60s, why was nothing said or done about "Silent Dust," wherein Emma is subjected to more than a few cracks by Juggins?

Of course, it all looks rather tame by today's standards (as does Emma's Queen of Sin costume—Baywatch is more risqué), but back in the 60's, when the word "hell" could not be uttered on U.S. airwaves and navels could not be exposed, sensibilities were a bit different. Still, one must note that the whip is never seen touching Emma—just a lot of cracking and darting about and Cartney grimacing.

Oh, my.While feminists object to the excessive sexism, guess who designed that notorious costume? Why, Diana Rigg herself! (For an eye-popping view, follow the linked image at right.) But for a more balanced perspective, a female "boomer" observes: "Does anybody under the age of 45 today grasp the concept of High Camp? We real Mrs. Peels don't need pseudo-champions 'defending' us against sexism. We can manage very nicely on our own, and yes, some of us old dames even have a sexy sense of humour while we're going about cutting down Insensitive Diabolical Masterminds to their own teeny-peeny size!"

Diana Rigg recalls the worst part of filming the episode was spending an entire day holding a snake, and being told by the owner that it might pee on her at any moment.

Carol Cleveland (Sara) was a regular on Monty Python's Flying Circus, making three links between the respective series—the other two being John Cleese ("Look - (stop me if you've heard this one)...") and producer Ian McNaughton ("The Master Minds").

Pablo Alonso wonders, who is Boris Kartovski? A man from the East trying to improve the relationship between his side and the West? An enemy agent slain by Steed years ago whose brain has been preserved? Or just two Clemens characters with the same name?

It probably comes as no surprise that this is the all-time highest-rated episode in Avengers history at the time it was being run. It ought to come as a surprise what the other top-rated episodes were.

Bob Halloran of Jacksonville, Florida notes a tie-in to the Marvel comic X-Men: the writer in the early 80's, Chris Claremont, is an ex-pat Brit, and a story line he brought into the comic had them fighting a group of old-money types who were also mutants, using their powers towards World Domination (of course), called the Hellfire Club, and one of the members is named Jason Wyngarde (Wyngarde from Peter Wyngarde, and Jason from Jason King, the character he played in Department S) who managed to mind-control the X-Men's Jean Grey into becoming their "Black Queen." Of course, now they're even more blatant: the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club's London branch is a "Ms. Steed."

Video oops: James Hill directed this episode. Yet the A&E video credits Sidney Hayers! It would seem that Lumiere goofed when they remastered the episode. (Same thing happened to "The Town of No Return.")

 On Location

Steed and Emma drive past the old farm on Deeves Hall Lane.

 Best Scene

Steed's eyes pop at the sight of The Queen of Sin.

 Best Line

Emma: "I've come here to appeal to you, Mister Cartney." Cartney: "You certainly do that!"


On this occasion the mode of transportation is a vintage coach.



Teleplay by
Directed by

Brian Clemens
James Hill

Full production credits


John Steed
Emma Peel
John Cartney
Roger Winthrop
Willy Frant
Tubby Bunn
Big Man
Huge Man

Patrick Macnee The 007 Connection
Diana Rigg The 007 Connection
Peter Wyngarde*
Colin Jeavons*
Carol Cleveland
Robert Cawdron*
Michael Latimer*
Jeremy Young*
Bill Wallis*
Steve Plytas*
Art Thomas
Alf Joint The 007 Connection
Bill Reed


Robert Cawdron


Colin Jeavons

The Winged Avenger

Michael Latimer

The Positive Negative Man
Angels of Death

Steve Plytas

Immortal Clay

Bill Wallis

The Positive Negative Man

Peter Wyngarde


Jeremy Young

Never, Never Say Die
The Forget-Me-Knot

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Page last modified 10 May 2003.