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Obituary – Nikki van der Zyl

We’re sad to learn of the passing of actress and voice artist Nikki van der Zyl on March 6th 2021. Born in Berlin in 1935 her Jewish family fled to London in 1939 to escape the Nazis, where the young van der Zyl soon gained an interest in acting and performing that would eventually see her become a voice artist and dialogue coach most often employed to overdub other performers in UK-produced film productions. The reasons this re-voicing would be required ranged from technical problems marring the original performance, to a late decision to change a character’s accent, to entirely replacing the vocal performances of European actresses who struggled with English. Although best known for her work on all bar one of the James Bond films from Dr. No to Moonraker (where she provided the voices of such characters as Sylvia Trench, Honey Ryder and Domino Derval to name a few) she could also be heard in many other films and television series of the era, including such movies as The Ipcress File, One Million Years B.C, and Deadlier than the Male, plus various guest characters in episodes of ITC shows like Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S.

Her body of work was extensive and, since she rarely appeared on screen, almost always uncredited, making even a partial list of her voiceover roles difficult to compile. Van der Zyl’s CV on her own website included voiceover credits for UFO and Space:1999, although without specifying any particular roles. However, once you have learned to recognise her voice from various other productions of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it’s not difficult to spot that various live action female Anderson guest characters of the era have been re-voiced with the exact same ‘Bond girl’ sound.

These include such obviously dubbed characters as Loni von Friedl’s Lise Hartmann in Doppelgänger and several UFO guest roles including Jo Fraser, Jane Grant, and the SHADO Moonbase operatives played by Andrea Allan and Maureen Tann (although Allan’s own voice can still be briefly heard in The Man Who Came Back). Many female (and even occasionally teenage male!) guest characters in the second season of Space:1999 were also re-voiced by a similar-sounding actress in order to provide an American sound that the original performances lacked, including Diana Morris, Etrec, Cranston, Yesta, and Clea. The redubbing is particularly noticeable at the start of A Matter of Balance, where Lynne Frederick’s Shermeen is clearly talking with another woman’s voice when she first appears before reverting to Frederick’s own voice before the end of the scene.

The often-uncredited nature of van der Zyl’s profession means that we cannot confirm with 100% certainty that she provided the re-voicing for any of these characters, but the sound of each is certainly consistent with her acknowledged work elsewhere. In later years van der Zyl often struggled to receive the recognition she deserved for her work on the James Bond films, and if it really was her voice that could often be heard in the live action Anderson productions (as she herself claimed) then it would be a similar disservice not to acknowledge her work and passing here regardless of how difficult it is to verify exactly which roles she re-voiced.

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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