1998: 29 August Daily Record

Diana's A Sleuth With Sex A-Peel

She played the sassiest woman in crime prevention as The Avengers' leather-clad Emma Peel.

Diana Rigg might have left behind the body-hugging catsuit she wore 30 years ago, but the actress's latest incarnation is just as deadly as Emma.

She stars as an aristocratic detective in BBC1's one-off drama The Mrs Bradley Mysteries.

On the outside, Mrs Bradley is a demure lady of a certain age who likes to tinker in a spot of detective work.

Behind a smokescreen of silk dresses and chauffeur-driven cars, she is just as shrewd an operator as Mrs Peel ever was.

"It's not remotely like The Avengers," says Diana of the crime drama. "Emma Peel wasn't really a detective, she was Steed's right-hand man - or rather, woman.

"She did all the physical stuff and I don't think I'd be up to that any more."

While the big-budget Avengers movie has been panned, the original television show is still alive and kicking.

And a new generation of Avengers fans will be born as the series is repeated on UK Gold.

Diana says: "It's rather nice that the series has maintained its value as an entertainment, rather than just fade into obscurity.

"People still talk about it and I don't mind that because it was wonderfully helpful to my career."

The Mrs Bradley Mysteries might be set in the 1920s and steeped in period atmosphere, but its heroine is a thoroughly modern woman.

Diana was attracted to the stylish sleuth, based on the character in Gladys Mitchell's forgotten crime books.

She says: "Mrs Bradley is very liberated and unconventional, which was rare in the 1920s and 30s. She's been married, but was bored by it. If she were just another female detective, I don't think I would have been so interested. But she's fun to play."

Like any good TV `tec, the worldy-wise Mrs Bradley doesn't operate on her own.

Her chauffeur George Moody is her right-hand man in a partnership more like The X Files' Mulder and Scully than the traditional mistress and servant. Like the US FBI agents, there is an unsaid sexual tension between Mrs Bradley and George, played by Common As Muck star Neil Gudgeon.

But while X Files fans know there has been no funny business between Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, no-one knows what has been going on behind the doors of Mrs Bradley's Rolls Royce.

"It's all part of the tease," says Neil. "When you have any kind of 'are they or aren't they' relationship, we don't want to know if they are."

The 37-year-old actor was thrilled to work with the actress who put the curves into catsuits.

He says: "Diana has this twinkle in her eye. She still has the saucy look that she had as Emma Peel."

And with the actress approaching 60, that is better than a pensioners' bus pass any day.

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