Barry Letts


Barry Letts

Barry Letts (born 1925) is a British actor, television director and producer best known for his work on the BBC science fiction television series "Doctor Who". He was associated with "Doctor Who" for many years, with active involvement in the television programme from 1968 to 1981, and later contributions to its spin-offs in other media. His son Dominic Letts has followed him as a successful actor.

Early career

His initial work was as a repertory actor, following his service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He later played one of the leading characters in the Terence Fisher directed film, "To the Public Danger", a heartfelt plea against dangerous driving. He also appeared in the highly regarded Ealing Studios production, "Scott of the Antarctic", in a supporting role.

From 1950 he appeared in various television productions including "The Avengers" and a live drama, "Gunpowder Guy" in which future "Doctor Who" actor Patrick Troughton played Guy Fawkes and Letts a fellow conspirator.

Much of this television work was for the BBC and Letts abandoned acting after completing their director's course in 1967. His early directorial work included episodes of the long-running police drama "Z-Cars" and a soap opera, "The Newcomers".

Doctor Who

Letts' first involvement with "Doctor Who" was in 1967 when he directed the Patrick Troughton serial "The Enemy of the World". This was a complex serial to direct as Troughton played both the Doctor and the Mexican dictator "Salamander" in the same story and sometimes in the same scenes - a rare and demanding directorial requirement for the 1960s.

He became the show's producer in 1969 in succession to Derrick Sherwin. Jon Pertwee had just been cast as the Doctor. Letts' first story as producer was Pertwee's second, "Doctor Who and the Silurians", and he remained the producer for the rest of the Pertwee serials, becoming the father figure in the 'family' atmosphere that had developed on the show at that time. It was an exciting era for "Doctor Who", with episodes broadcast in colour for the first time. He also oversaw the celebrations of the programme's tenth anniversary in 1973.

When he was offered the chance to become producer on the series, Letts asked that he be allowed to also direct some of the stories. The BBC agreed to this and Letts directed several "Doctor Who" stories during his period as producer: "Terror of the Autons", "Carnival of Monsters", "Planet of the Spiders" and the remaining studio scenes of "Inferno" after Douglas Camfield had been taken ill. He returned in 1975 to direct "The Android Invasion" during the era of Philip Hinchcliffe as programme producer.

Barry Letts formed a particular partnership with two other contributors to the programme: Terrance Dicks, who was the script editor on the programme at that time; and Robert Sloman, with whom he contributed four stories to the Pertwee era: "The Daemons" (credited as Guy Leopold); "The Time Monster" ; "The Green Death" ; and "Planet of the Spiders", which was Pertwee's swansong. Barry Letts is a Buddhist, and this has influenced several of his contributions to "Doctor Who". Indeed, he provided an official obituary to Sloman in December 2005.

He was still producer when Tom Baker was cast as the Fourth Doctor. Letts cast him after the actor was recommended to him by Bill Slater, an experienced director and Head of Serials at the BBC. After one story with Baker, "Robot" he left the position of producer in 1974, having been the longest serving producer on the programme to that time.

In the 1980-81 series, he returned to be executive producer alongside John Nathan-Turner as the producer. This was for one season between "The Leisure Hive" and Tom Baker's final story "Logopolis". Letts' return to the programme was because Nathan-Turner had not previously served as a producer and a restructure of the BBC Drama Department meant that Head of Series & Serials Graeme MacDonald was unable to offer the support previous producers had had. As it happened, 'JNT' as he was known stayed for nine years, overtaking Letts as the longest serving producer on "Doctor Who". When the programme returned in 2005, Letts was involved in the hectic round of interviews to promote the show, most unusually appearing for a lengthy discussion piece on "The Daily Politics" with Andrew Neill on BBC2.

Barry Letts also wrote two scripts for two radio plays broadcast in the 1990s; "The Paradise of Death" and "The Ghosts of N-Space". He has written several "Doctor Who" spin off novels including "Deadly Reunion" with Terrance Dicks, "The Ghosts of N-Space" novelisation, "Paradise of Death" novelisation and "The Daemons" novelisation for Target Books. His latest book, "Island of Death", featuring the Jon Pertwee Doctor, the Brigadier and Sarah Jane Smith, was published in July 2005.

Letts' work on the show is inextricably linked with the character of the third Doctor, as played by Jon Pertwee. With the exceptions "The Enemy Of The World", "Robot", "The Android Invasion" and his one season as executive producer in 1980-81, every Doctor Who story regardless of media in which Lets has been involved - whether as producer, director or writer - has involved this version of the character.

Later work

His other work includes producing and co-creating "Moonbase 3" with Terrance Dicks.

He further produced "Nicholas Nickleby" 1977, "A Tale of Two Cities" 1980, "The Hound of the Baskervilles" 1982 and "The Invisible Man" 1984, amongst others which include "Pinocchio", "Gulliver in Lilliput" and "Alice in Wonderland", all as part of the BBC's "Sunday Classics" strand. His production of "Jane Eyre" starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke was nominated for a BAFTA award.

Later he was a director on the soap opera "EastEnders" from 1990 to 1992.

Letts also taught directing for the BBC at Elstree Studios.

External links

*imdb name|id=0504818|name=Barry Letts
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/news/cult/news/drwho/2004/01/01/13727.shtml Barry Letts, BBC Doctor Who interview]


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