Zienia Merton

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Zienia Merton
Born(1945-12-11)11 December 1945
Died14 September 2018(2018-09-14) (aged 72)
Years active1962–2018
TelevisionSpace: 1999

Zienia Merton (11 December 1945 – 14 September 2018)[1][2][3][4] was a British actress born in Burma. She was known for playing Sandra Benes in Space: 1999.[5][6][7]

Early career[edit]

Merton was the daughter of Minny and Cecil Burton. Her mother was Burmese, and her father was a half-English, half-French merchant. She was raised in Singapore, Portugal and England. She was educated at first in Portugal, but was later sent to Arts Educational school (today the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts) in Hertfordshire.[5] Her first stage performance was as a dancer (playing a rat) in a Christmas 1957 production of The Nutcracker ballet at the Royal Festival Hall.[5]

Merton's first significant science-fiction credit was as Ping-Cho in the 1964 Doctor Who story Marco Polo,[8] long since lost in its original form. Her other early television appearances included Strange Report (1968), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and Jason King (1971). She was a lead actress as Christina in the 1971 Dennis Potter TV adaptation of Casanova with Frank Finlay,[8] and appeared on The Benny Hill Show in 1972, playing the wife of Hill's Chow Mein character. Her film roles included a brief appearance as an Asian high priestess in the Beatles' film Help! (1965), as Ting Ling in the film The Chairman (1969) with Gregory Peck, and The Adventurers (1970).

Space: 1999[edit]

Probably her most notable role is that of Sandra Benes in Space: 1999, the science fiction series produced by Gerry Anderson and Sylvia Anderson between 1973 and 1976, with Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Barry Morse and Catherine Schell. In 1999, Merton reprised this role in the professionally produced short film Message from Moonbase Alpha, written by series writer Johnny Byrne. This short episode surprised everyone on its debut at the closing ceremony of the Breakaway 1999 convention[9] in Los Angeles, California, on 13 September 1999 – the date on which the moon is blasted out of Earth orbit in the pilot episode of the original series. Regarded by many fans as the 49th and final episode, and providing a closure to the series, Message from Moonbase Alpha is included as a special feature on the UFO and Space: 1999 Documentaries DVD, available exclusively from Fanderson.

Other performances[edit]

Following Space: 1999, Merton appeared in many popular television series including Grange Hill,[2] Return of the Saint (1979),[2] Bergerac (1983),[2] Angels (1983),[2] Tenko (1984),[2] Dempsey & Makepeace (1985),[2] Lovejoy (1986),[2] Crime Traveller (1997), Doctors (2001),[2] Dinotopia (2002), Casualty (1986–2002),[2] EastEnders (1998–2003),[2] The Bill (1999–2005),[2] Judge John Deed (2006), Coronation Street (2008)[2] and Wire in the Blood (2008).

In December 2008, Merton filmed a guest role for the eighth episode ("Samaritan") of the ITV drama Law & Order: UK. Although the series premiered on 23 February 2009, some episodes were held over for broadcast as "Series Two". "Samaritan" was first transmitted on ITV1 on 11 January 2010.

In May 2009, Merton returned to the world of Doctor Who, 45 years after her appearance in Marco Polo, to record a special episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures in the two-part episode The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, broadcast on BBC One on 29 and 30 October 2009.

In 2018, Merton narrated BBC Audio's release of the novelisation of Marco Polo. This turned out to be her final professional engagement.


Merton was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017, and died 14 September 2018.[5]


Zienia Merton; Robert E. Wood (2005). Anecdotes & Armadillos. self-published. ISBN 1411634845.



Year Title Role Notes
1962 Masters of Venus Marla
1965 Catch Us If You Can Allison Uncredited
Help! High Priestess Uncredited
1969 The Chairman Ting Ling
1970 The Adventurers Dax's Sister Uncredited
When You're With Me Princess Tamani West German film
1972 Henry VIII and His Six Wives Annette (scenes deleted)
1977 Cosmetics Revolution Lucy Ferner Norwegian film


Year Title Role Notes
1964 Doctor Who Ping-Cho Season 1: (7 episodes)
The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling Kashmiri girl Season 1, Episode 7: "Mark of the Beast"
1969 The Troubleshooters Liane Season 5, Episode 23: "It's a Very Bad Day for Travelling"
Thirty-Minute Theatre Rachel Season 5, Episode 6: "Trespassers"
Omnibus Noel Season 3, Episode 9: "F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Dream Divided"
Strange Report Zeba Hameed Season 1, Episode 7: "Report 3424: Epidemic - A Most Curious Crime"
The Root of All Evil? Medeline Season 2, Episode 5:"Floating Man"
1970 The Six Wives of Henry VIII Annette TV mini-series
W. Somerset Maugham Malay girl Season 2, Episode 8: "The Door of Opportunity"
ITV Playhouse Leila Season 3, Episode 10: "The High Game"
1971 Casanova Christina 6 part BBC serial
1972 The Benny Hill Show Mrs. Chow Mein Season 3, Episode 4: "Down Memory Lane"
Jason King Zenia Season 1, Episode 24: "Zenia"
Crime of Passion Nicole Martine Season 3, Episode 3: "Modeste"
1973 Madigan Natalia Season 1, Episode 4: "The Lisbon Beat"
Ego Hugo Guernsey Maid TV movie
Beryl's Lot Katy Papademitropoullos Season 1, Episode 1: "Getting Up"
1975–1977 Space: 1999 Sandra Benes Season 1: (24 episodes)
Season 2: (11 episodes)
1976 Journey Through the Black Sun Sandra Benes TV movie
Alien Attack Sandra Benes TV movie
1978 Destination Moonbase-Alpha Sandra Benes TV movie
Wilde Alliance Dolores Season 1, Episode 7: "Well Enough Alone"
Return of the Saint Mila Season 1, Episode 2: "The Nightmare Man"
Thank You, Comrades Olga TV movie
1979 The Other Side Kieu Season 1, Episode 5: "Contacts"
1980 Escape Unknown Season 1, Episode 2: "Hijack to Mogadishu"
1981 The History Man Miss Ho TV mini-series
1982 Cosmic Princess Sandra Benes TV movie
1983 Bergerac Cora Season 2, Episode 7: "A Miracle Every Week"
Angels Sister Davis Season 9, Episode 25
1984 The Brief Mrs. Francis Season 1, Episode 8: "Terry"
Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense Nurse Lee Parquet Season 1, Episode 5: "The Late Nancy Irving"
Tenko Nun Season 3, Episode 9
1985 Dempsey and Makepeace Lei Shan Season 1, Episode 7: "Make Peace Not War"
Grange Hill Mrs. Wallace Season 8, Episode 15
1986 Lovejoy Miss Taylor Season 1, Episode 2: "The Axeman Cometh"
1986–2002 Casualty Manson / Dr Helen Billington / Dr. Helen Billington / Hotel Receptionist 4 episodes
1989 Capital City Melinda Lau Season 1, Episode 5: "Pension Fund"
1994–2005 The Bill Registrar / Dr. Morgan / Magistrate / Surgeon 4 episodes
1995 Chiller Maria Monsanto Season 1, Episode 1: "Prophecy"
1997 Crime Traveller Receptionist Season 1, Episode 7: "The Lottery Experiment"
1998 Peak Practice Jennifer Kemp Season 6, Episode 5: "Another Day of Life"
Heaven on Earth Barbara Tucker TV movie
1998–2003 EastEnders Receptionist / Dr. Stokeley Season 1: (6 episodes)
1999 The Lakes Guest 2 Season 2, Episode 9
2000 Family Affairs Doctor Morrisey Unknown
2001–2011 Doctors Helen Waterman / Dr. Sarah Reed / Ms. Reed 3 episodes
2002 Dinotopia Teacher TV mini-series
2006 Judge John Deed Dr. Dolores Bleach Season 5, Episode 5: "One Angry Man"
2008 Coronation Street Doctor Season 1: (3 episodes)
Wire in the Blood Magistrate Season 6: (2 episodes)
2009 Law & Order: UK Judge Katerina Rose Season 2, Episode 1: "Samaritan"
The Sarah Jane Adventures Registrar Season 3: (2 episodes)
2013 Wizards vs. Aliens Tseringma Season 2: (2 episodes)


  1. ^ Hadoke, Toby (18 September 2018). "Zienia Merton obituary". The Guardian.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Zienia Merton 1945 - 2018". The Doctor Who News Page. 16 September 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ "E' morta Zienia Merton, la Sandra Benes di Spazio 1999 - Universal Movies". Universalmovies.it (in Italian). 14 September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Zienia Merton dead at 72". Hollywood.com. 14 September 2018. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Hadoke, Toby. "Zienia Merton obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  6. ^ Khorsandi, Peyvand. "Zienia Merton: actor who played Sandra Benes in Space: 1999". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-07. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  7. ^ Pollock, David. "Obituary - Zienia Merton, actress known for Space: 1999". The Herald. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Zienia Merton - the Doctor Who Cuttings Archive".
  9. ^ Willey, Martin. "Breakaway: 1999 Convention Report". The Catacombs: International Guide. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-17.

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