Date Of Birth/death: 26 March 1925 – 9 October 2009
Doctor Who Producer: 1970 – 1974
Preceded by: Derek Sherwin
Succeeded by: Phillip Hinchcliffe
Barry Letts was the sixth producer of Doctor Who, taking over from Derek Sherwin in 1970 – until 1974; when he was replaced by Phillip Hinchcliffe.
Letts originally came to the attention of the BBC Head Of Drama with his first Doctor Who assignment which was directing Troughton’s – The Enemy Of The World.
After previous producer Derek Sherwin left and fellow-director Douglas Camfield turned the vacant producer role down, Letts agreed to step in.
His one stipulation for taking the Doctor Who producer role, was that he would still be allowed to direct episodes of Doctor Who. This was agreed and he directed Pertwee serials; Terror of the Autons, Carnival of Monsters and Planet of the Spiders.
“When I got into television, I was just fascinated by the whole process of directing… …I’d been a writer for television since 1960… …I’d been a director a month short of three years when I took on the job of producing ‘Doctor Who’, which was slightly unusual. To be honest, I think I was asked to do it be cause nobody else wanted it, as the programme was on the skids. They didn’t think it would last more than a year, but I was to try it and see how it went. I arrived in the office, Derrick Sherwin had already gone and there I was – Producer. They just threw me in at the deep end!” – Barry Letts on his appointment.
Letts was an allrounder (he was originally an actor aswell) and aswell as producing and directing; he also occasionally performed the role of script-writer and script-editor.
Letts stayed for 4 years (which at the time made Letts – the longest serving producer) starting with Doctor Who And The Silurians and ending with Tom Baker’s opener Robot.
With an improved budget, Letts was able to perform more location filming and set-piece action sequences than had previously been possible before.
The increased budget also allowed Letts to embrace the technological innovations which came with moving the series into colour, most notably higher quality special-effects.
With a reduction in seasonal episode numbers, Letts was able to reorganise the shooting schedule to give his actors and crew more time to produce better quality work.
Letts worked closely with writer Terrence Dicks – who was script editor throughout the Pertwee era. He also co-wrote: The Dæmons (credited under the pen-name Guy Leopold), The Time Monster, The Green Death and The Planet of the Spiders.
“When John Nathan-Turner took over ‘Doctor Who’… …‘Doctor Who’ had a new producer and a new script editor, neither of whom had done that job before. My job was similar to head of department: keeping an eye on the scripts, advising John, seeing how it went, and then see the final programmes and make any comments that might be helpful for the future.” – Letts on helping JNT
After helping choose Pertwee’s replacement; Tom Baker. Letts produced Baker’s opening serial Robot. Before he left the role of producer in 1974.
Letts wasn’t finished with Doctor Who and aswell as writing some Doctor Who novelisations and radioplays. He returned to the show, twice.
Once to direct another Tom Baker serial – The Android Invasion – in 1975 and again, as executive-producer – to support new incoming producer John-Nathan Turner, in 1980; for one season.
After his retirement from television, Letts regularly appeared on the Who fan circuit and was regularly interviewed for the BBC Pertwee DVD releases. He died in 2009, aged 84.