Barry Letts 1925-2009

As you may have heard already this weekend, influential former Doctor Who director, producer and writer Barry Letts has sadly passed away.

Barry Letts – whose association with Doctor Who began with 1967’s The Enemy of the World – began his career as an actor in the 1950s before moving behind the camera to work as a director. Taking over the role of Doctor Who producer from Derrick Sherwin in 1969, Letts was in charge for the entire Jon Pertwee era of the show, as well as overseeing the casting of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. His career also expanded beyond Doctor Who, and Letts worked extensively as a director for the BBC well into the 1990s.

With director duties on various Fourth Doctor adventures and the role of Executive Producer during Tom Baker’s last season on the show, a number of now iconic episodes and a close association with Terrance Dicks and Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor in general, Barry Letts had an incomparable influence over the direction and shape of Doctor Who during and beyond his time in charge.

Autons, Silurians, Sea Devils, the Master – all of these had their first appearance during Letts stewardship of the show, while other memorable villains include Azal the Daemon, Omega and of course the giant maggots of The Green Death. The very first multi-Doctor story The Three Doctors was during Letts run in charge, a story which also saw the first in-depth portrait of the Time Lords.

He was someone with a unique vision for the show – he took the straight-laced, authoritarian Third Doctor on some remarkable, transcendental adventures – and enjoyed a very long association professionally as well as on the convention circuit and was a remarkably intelligent and erudite speaker

I was lucky enough to see him last year at a small event in Sheffield which discussed ideas of faith in Doctor Who – hardly surprising given his input into serials such as The Daemons, The Time Monster, The Green Death and Planet of the Spiders all of which he co-wrote with Robert Sloman.

An utterly fascinating man with plenty to say that was both insightful and original, he remained active within the Doctor Who world even throughout 2009, recording DVD commentaries.

It is with much regret that Doctor Who fans young and old must bid farewell to a man who more than most can claim to have had both a direct and indirect guiding hand in the Doctor Who universe for 40 years and beyond.

Press obituaries for Barry Letts can be found at:

The news was first revealed on Gallifrey News Base on Friday, who subsequently published this notice from the Letts family:

“Barry always had a warm respect for the fans of Dr Who. As Barry’s family, we would like to thank everyone for their good wishes on the websites and forums following the news that Barry had died. We have been very touched that the many messages and tributes show such an appreciation and understanding, both of his work and of the very kind and wise man that Barry was.”

The Letts Family
October 2009

(Updated 19/10/2009)

Christian Cawley

A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

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