Monday 19 January 2015

Zienia Merton

British actress Zienia Merton in ITC series 'Space: 1999'

Zienia Merton:

† Dec 11 1945 – Sep 14 2018

With her elegant gamine good looks and sophisticated demeanour, Anglo/French/Burmese actress Zienia Merton was cast in a number of 'vaguely exotic' roles in her early days, including the 'Marco Polo' story strand from the William Hartnell-era Doctor Who (now sadly wiped), a Kashmiri girl in 'Tales from Rudyard Kipling', and as the middle-eastern Zeba Hameed in an episode of the 'Strange Report'. On the big screen, she turns up as an Indian priestess in 'Help!' (1965 ), and as Maoist Mata Hari, Ting Ling, in the Gregory Peck spy romp, 'The Most Dangerous Man in the World', aka 'The Chairman' (1969).

In 'The Most Dangerous Man in the World' (1969) 

Dennis Potter's (very racy for the time) 'Casanova' in 1971 saw her playing Cristina to a world-weary Frank Finlay's eponymous libertine. Although the screenplay was intended to highlight the sadness, religious guilt and regrets behind his great romantic reputation (it is Dennis Potter, after all), most people, Mary Whitehouse included, tended to remark on the indulgent use of nudity (did I mention Dennis Potter?).      

In 'Casanova', the BBC's most talked-about drama of 1971

However, it was the Gerry Anderson sci-fi drama 'Space: 1999' which ran for two seasons of 48 episodes and gave her international exposure. Playing sensitive officer Sandra Benes, she featured in most of the show's heavy-handed plots, as the Andersons attempted to prove that it wasn't a children's show. Personal melodramas and cod-mystic astro-psychedelia vied for prominence, as the kids waited patiently for some explosions and spaceships. 

Since her Moonbase days, she has been in an interesting mix of mundane and fantasy fare, from 'EastEnders', 'Coronation Street', 'Casualty' and 'The Bill', to 'Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense', 'Dinotopia', 'Wizards vs Aliens' and 'The Sarah Jane Mysteries', which ties in nicely with her early adventures in 'Doctor Who'.       

Zienia Merton officiating at the wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (the late Elizabeth Sladen),
until the Doctor (in this case Tennant) arrives to stop her marrying Nigel Havers      
Zienia Merton-imdb