Scots actor Mark Bonnar is following in the footsteps of an Oscar winner.
When you think of his work, the chances are Mark’s appearances in Line of Duty, Shetland or Guilt will spring to mind, or even a short spell in Casualty.
But Mark’s delighted with his latest role, which has taken him to the moon, for an audio remake of Gerry Anderson’s Space: 1999.
Space: 1999 was originally launched in September 1975, telling the story of the inhabitants of Moonbase Alpha, forced to journey into the unknown when a freak nuclear accident blasts the moon out of Earth’s orbit and into deep space. Martin Landau, who won an Academy Award for his role in Ed Wood, played Alpha’s leader Commander John Koenig.
Now, Mark – who grew up in East Kilbride before moving to Edinburgh – has taken on the part of Koenig for the audio series, which is being created by Big Finish Productions.
Mark is no stranger to the company, having played several parts in Doctor Who stories for them, including an ongoing villain, the Eleven, who has multiple personalities at once.
Speaking exclusively to Scottish Field, he said: ‘Space: 1999 and Martin Landau were two of my favourite things growing up. I auditioned for the part of Koenig – I sent in a recording saying some lines and, because I’ve played the Eleven for Big Finish, they knew I was always doing diffent voices. They specifically wanted an American accent and they wanted to know if I could maintain it.
‘The tone had to be right, but because I knew Space: 1999 so well, that made it a little easier than when you’re doing a ‘normal’ audition. I’ve always been interested in science fiction, whether it’s Star Wars, Doctor Who, Alien or The Thing – I’ve got a bit of history in being a fan. It’s a sign of a misspent youth! I know the genre fairly well, and that show in particular.
‘So I did the audition and sent off the recording, although I really didn’t know if I was right for the part or not. A couple of months later, I was doing a Doctor Who audio with Sylvester McCoy. At the end of the last day, they gave me the news that I’d got the part of Koenig. I was doing somersaults in my head – it was a great day!
‘Given the kind of parts that I usually play, who can be untrustworthy and often cross the line, Koenig’s a solid and dependable good guy, and very decisive.
‘It was just a brilliant script to work on. Everybody is really brilliantly cast in it.’
Executive producer, Nicholas Briggs, who is also writing and directing the series, said: ‘The possibilities for this series are endless. It’s an unplanned odyssey that starts with a catastrophe. Disparate personalities are thrown together, clinging on for dear life, finding themselves flung to the far reaches of a universe full of wonder and danger.
‘We’re being absolutely faithful to that central concept, but there is also an element of reinvention in this version.
‘Mark Bonnar is one of those actors who has an inner power and a really tangible imagination. He can be anyone. He can be strong dependable, he can be conniving and manipulative, charming, fierce, weird, loving… There’s really no limit to what he can do.
‘He’s a chameleon, but a rare chameleon in that he can also play those heroic, leading roles where he takes the audience on the journey with him. That last attribute and the fact that we knew he loves science fiction and Space: 1999 in particular led to us casting him. That and the fact that he’s so brilliant and rewarding to work with.’
There was an added surprise for Mark during a break in recording, when he donned a costume for an in-character photoshoot as Commander Koenig.
He grinned: ‘They said they were going to do a photoshoot, and they had some things for us to put on. I didn’t realise they were talking about these detailed replicas of the original costumes.
‘I was really pleased as I got to put on the original spacesuit worn by Martin Landau, so that was a special moment for me, getting to put on something that a childhood favourite had worn. I loved him – he was wonderful!’
The first episode of the audio Space: 1999 is available now, with more due to follow this year. For more details about Space: 1999 on audio visit HERE.