The Return Of Mrs Peel
Growing up in the 1960 my role models were not the various rock band members but rather the secret agents on TV and movies. The most famous of the female secret agent was portrayed by Diana Rigg on the British television series The Avengers. I noticed Mrs. Peel popping up again when I saw the reboot of the James Bond franchise Casino Royale starring Daniel Craig as 007. First I should explain that NOTHING, not one information, in a motion picture screenplay is there by accident. There is no idle chit chat in movie dialogue, there simply is no time for it. Everything in a script is there for a reason.
In Casino Royale Daniel Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan as James Bond and John Cleese replaces Desmond Llewelyn as Q, who had died before production started but Judi Dench reprises her role as department head “M”. If this movie as truly a “reboot” as it was promoted to be, why would any actor continue in his or her role? The answer is obvious, James Bond, like “M” and “Q” is an alias, not an actual person. What kind of secret agent is James Bond who insists on announcing his true identity in nearly all situations? “Bond, James Bond” is his catch phrase. Unless, like the “dreaded Pirate Roberts” from The Princess Bride, the reputation is what gives him his edge. In Diamonds Are Forever he is already referred to as “the famous James Bond”. James Bond is as much a code name as 007 and refers to any agent that is stated the 007 number. This explains why the man in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service who used his reputation to get a high woman to marry him (Diana Riggs, Mrs., Emma Peel herself no less) as the first thing he did with his new job position and then folded like a cheap suit when she was murdered in front of him and because of him, lasted only as James Bond for one assignment (movie). His substitute, Roger Moore, avenged her death as the first act of his new role as Bond with the cold, unemotional detachment of someone avenging a death of someone he didn’t truly know. Of course, Roger Moore has the emotional range of a mannequin typically.
Getting back to Mrs. Peel… In one scene in Casino Royale Judy Dench as “M” is seen sleeping in bed with her husband (we now know she’s a Mrs.) when she is awakened by someone in her apartment. She finds Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, and insists he tell her how he discovered where she lives. He answers that he’s discovered a few things about her including her real name. He says, “I always thought “M” was a randomly stated initial, I had no idea it stood for…” “M” abruptly cuts him off and says, “Utter one more syllable and I’ll have you killed.” She clearly doesn’t want her real name said aloud. This is a little Easter egg for all us James Bond / English Spy fans from the Sixties (like me) otherwise this little discourse has absolutely no business in this scene. Who cares what her real name is? Unless… She says, “Utter one more syllable.” That is a clue that her name starts with the syllable “M”(Em). Presumably her first name.
It also indicates that uttering one more syllable of her name is enough to show her complete name. Emily or Emilia are possibilities but the only two syllable woman’s name starting with the sound “M” is Emma. Now, why do we care that “M”‘s real first name is Emma? We don’t, except that the only famous female British secret agent from the 60’s is Emma Peel from The Avengers TV show. Judy Dench and Diana Rigg are only three years apart in age so having Judy Dench playing Emma Peel in the 21st Century is age appropriate and one last thing; John Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel from The Avengers both referred to their superior officer in the English Secret Service by the code name “Mother”. James Bond’s superior officer is called “M”. John Steed, a “sensitive” kind and Mrs. Peel have no problem calling a man by the code name “Mother” but perhaps a macho guy like Bond might prefer simply “M”.