The actor Mark Eden, who appeared in the title role in Marco Polo in the first season of Doctor Who in 1964, has died at the age of 92.
His role in the series was just one entry in an extensive list of credits encompassing television, film, and theatre. With his air of youthful authority and leading man looks, he made a fine choice to play Marco Polo in John Lucarotti’s story, an epic tale which saw the TARDIS crew accompany the legendary traveller on a journey to Kublai Khan’s court.
The story sadly remains missing from the archives and no footage exists, though a flavour of Eden’s performance can be enjoyed in the audio recording and contemporary photos.
Fittingly for an actor who had played a key part in Doctor Who‘s early months, Mark Eden’s last screen credit was An Adventure in Space and Time, the 2013 drama which portrayed the genesis of the series, playing BBC1 controller Donald Baverstock.
Other notable entries in Eden’s CV include his very first TV appearance, in the landmark sci-fi chiller Quatermass and the Pit (1958) as a journalist, and The Prisoner episode It’s Your Funeral (1967) alongside Marco Polo co-stars Derren Nesbitt and Martin Miller. Film credits included The L-Shaped Room (1962), Heavens Above! (1963), and Doctor Zhivago (1965).
He was probably best known for playing Alan Bradley in Coronation Street, a role which brought mass public recognition as his character tormented long-term street stalwart Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox). A series of misdeeds including fraud, stalking, and attempted suffocation reached its climax in December 1989 when Bradley was hit by a tram whilst pursuing Rita in Blackpool in an episode watched by 27 million viewers, the kind of audience soap executives can only dream about today.
In a wonderfully bizarre real-life postscript which demonstrated the story’s hold on audiences, Eden later unveiled a plaque at the stop where the sequence was filmed. He would later marry another Coronation Street co-star, Sue Nicholls.
Born Douglas Malin in London in 1928, Mark Eden was inspired to take up acting after a long spell recovering from tuberculosis during which he read extensively. When he told his mother that he planned to become an actor, her blunt response was “Who’s going to look at you?”, a line he later used for the title of his autobiography.
Mark Eden died on January 1st 2021. Our sympathies to his family and friends.