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Barry Letts: Misc


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Up to date as of January 31, 2010

From TARDIS Index File, the free Doctor Who reference.

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Barry Letts (26th March 1925-9th October 2009) is perhaps best known as the producer of Doctor Who during Jon Pertwee's tenure as the Doctor. A former actor, he also has considerable directorial experience. Letts also made cameo appearances in a couple of Pertwee-era episodes.


Before Doctor Who

For years before entering the producing field, and being put in charge of Doctor Who, Letts worked as a film and TV actor. His earliest credit listed in the Internet Movie Database is a 1943 film called San Demetrio London. He later went on to appear in numerous UK TV series, including The Black Arrow, Z Cars and Softly, Softly. A foreshadowing of his later career occurred when he guest-starred on two series created by Sydney Newman - Police Surgeon and The Avengers. Newman would later create Doctor Who.

Impact on Doctor Who

His influence ran deeper than the average producer of "classic" Doctor Who, as evidenced by his wide-ranging credits. He was the only executive producer of the 1981 version of the show, overseeing the work of John Nathan-Turner's first year as producer, and Tom Baker's last year as the Doctor. He was the only producer of Doctor Who to have also served as a director. He also held a number of uncredited positions with the production, varying from uncredited acting jobs to writing. In this latter capacity, he paired with Robert Sloman.

As the person who cast Tom Baker as the Doctor, commissioned Baker's first year of scripts, and significantly advanced Robert Holmes' career as a Doctor Who writer, he also had a profound, but sometimes under-appreciated, impact on Philip Hinchcliffe's time as producer. With Terrance Dicks, Letts is also generally seen as the effective co-creator of the Master [1], Sarah Jane Smith[2] and Harry Sullivan[3].

His contribution to the casting of these characters was especially profound. He felt it his duty to be on the look-out for suitable actors to replace companions during his tenure as producer, and kept meticulous records of various actors, on the off chance that one might be required to play a companion. Elizabeth Sladen was about the 250th actor whose details he had recorded. (BBC DVD: The Hand of Fear) Meanwhile, he was so taken with Ian Marter's qualities that he twice gave the actor the chance to become a series regular. (BBC DVD: Carnival of Monsters)

Letts is also credited with introducing certain themes that later appeared in Doctor Who. He was the first writer to insist upon including eco-friendliness and Buddhism — later seen in stories like The Seeds of Doom and Kinda — in scripts produced on his watch.

Although Letts' final formal screen acting credit was in 1966, he did step in front of the camera to appear in unbilled cameo roles in episode 6 of DW: Doctor Who and the Silurians and episode 1 of DW: Planet of the Spiders.

Outside the world of televised Doctor Who, he was the first writer of "past Doctor" adventures on audio, predating the rise of Big Finish audios by half a decade. He also contributed to the Target Books range of television novelizations, and he adapted his own radio dramas. Interestingly, his adaptation of The Paradise of Death was the final book released by Target, before their license passed to Virgin Books. He has also written a couple of novels for the BBC Past Doctor Adventures range.

He was also a frequent contributor to the BBC DVD range. While he unsurprisingly appeared on commentaries of stories which he produced, he has also come to be used as a general "authority" on the classic series. Therefore, he has appeared in front of the camera as himself in various bonus documentaries. Depending on the subject, he is sometimes seen on DVDs of serials in which he had no formal role, as when he was part of a general retrospective on Sarah Jane for The Hand of Fear.

His autobiography, Who and Me, is scheduled for release in November 2009, and Letts had been scheduled to make several public appearances promoting the work. DW: The Waters of Mars was dedicated to his memory.



As Director

As Writer

As Producer


Prose Stories

Target Novelisations

Virgin Missing Adventures

BBC Past Doctor Adventures

BBC Radio Dramas


External links

This article uses material from the "Barry Letts" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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