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Bookmark and Share Barry Letts (1925-2009)

10/09/2009 07:25:00 pm - Reported by Anthony Weight


Barry Letts, producer of Doctor Who through one of its most fondly-remembered periods with Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor from 1970 to 1974, has died at the age of eighty-four.

Previously an actor, Letts moved behind the camera in the 1960s, finding work as a director on several programmes for BBC television. He first worked on Doctor Who as director of the 1968 Patrick Troughton serial Enemy of the World, before accepting the job of producer during production Jon Pertwee's first season, in 1969. Working closely in association with script editor Terrance Dicks, Letts oversaw the creative direction and production of the programme for the following five seasons.

In addition to his producing role, Letts also directed several serials during his time in charge of the programme - Terror of the Autons, Carnival of Monsters and Planet of the Spiders. He also handled much of the direction for Inferno after Douglas Camfield was taken ill, and after leaving the series as producer he directed The Android Invasion for his successor, Philip Hinchcliffe. He also co-wrote The Daemons with Robert Sloman (under the pseudonym 'Guy Leopold') and worked closely with Sloman on the writer's other scripts for the programme.

Letts' legacy to the programme included the creation of the character Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen on the BBC to this day, and the decision to cast Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The latter was a decision for which Tom Baker was always ready to express immense gratitude, as when Letts appeared on his episode of "This is Your Life" in the year 2000.

Letts remained fond of and connected with the series right up until his death. When producer Graham Williams broke his leg during production of season 16 in 1978 Letts helped to keep an eye on the series, and more officially he served as Executive Producer in 1980, overseeing the inexperienced John Nathan-Turner's first season in charge of the programme. For many years thereafter Letts also penned novels, novelisations and radio serials connected to the programme. He also appeared on DVD commentaries and in various documentaries.

He also gained extensive credits outside of Doctor Who, most notably as producer of the BBC's "Classic Serial" strand during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In this role he produced many acclaimed and award-winning adaptations of classic novels, including "Great Expectations", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Jane Eyre". Later, he directed episodes for the soap opera "EastEnders".

Click here to read a 2004 interview with Letts on the BBC Doctor Who website.

Updated 13th October

The Guardian has published an obituary, describing Barry Letts' varied career and impact on Doctor Who.