Friday, December 11, 2009

Who? Barry Letts 1925-2009, That's Who!

The partnership of Producer Barry Letts [left] with Writer Terrance Dicks [and below].

What if Barry Letts [1925-2009] was never born? Can you imagine? I simply cannot. Doctor Who would never have been the same. Who on Earth is Barry Letts you might wonder? Letts was producer on Doctor Who from 1969-1974. He was primarily involved as producer of the British TV series during actor John Pertwee's tenure.

Still, for me, fans of the Fourth Doctor [Tom Baker] and Sarah Jane Smith [Elisabeth Sladen] have Barry Letts to thank. Would the Tom Baker years have ever come to pass without Letts? The Sarah Jane Adventures [2007] clearly wouldn't be the same without Liz Sladen and the character that is Sarah Jane created by Letts and company during the Pertwee years. There is no shortage of influence by the man in the franchise that is Doctor Who. One could even go as far as to say would David Tennant ever become Doctor Who if it weren't for Letts? I jest you not. Would certain things have come to pass if the decision wasn't made to employ Sladen and more importantly Baker?

When 1974 rolled around Barry Letts was handling production to the end of John Pertwee's run. One of his final, greatest acts was to give the blessing to cast Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor in Doctor Who. It was a stroke of genius and sent the Doctor and the Tardis spinning ever forward into far greater ratings success. Would Doctor Who be as successful without the move? We'll never know thankfully, but we do know it was a masterstroke. Elisabeth Sladen and Tom Baker partnered from 1974-1976 and Doctor Who became magical through the partnership. It was like striking oil.

Barry Letts passed away October 9, 2009 and enjoyed eighty-four years on this wonderful planet. He's made it that much funner for me as a sci-fi guy. I'm a bit late in knowing this major news because, well, getting information on this side of the big pond can take awhile. "Sci-Fi Fanatic, it's 2010 almost damn it! Do you live under a rock?! Use you computer!" Sometimes I feel as though I do. I must have missed it out there on the blogosphere. It took the arrival of my Doctor Who Magazine issue #415 to discover this news and even that sat on my shelf for a week before I opened it. There's a lesson: try never to put things off, you might miss out on something important. For what it's worth, even Doctor Who Magazine isn't planning a proper tribute to the man until the January issue #417.

So there you have it, Barry Letts, a man who had a significant impact on one of science fiction's greatest franchises. The debt of gratitude should certainly not be taken lightly. He had a respectfully massive impact. It should be noted, Letts final production role came with Tom Baker's first episode as Doctor Who, Robot [1974] [written by Terrance Dicks, one of four during the Tom Baker years] before relinquishing those production reins to another wildly successful sci-fi production guy Philip Hinchcliffe. In honor of Letts, I am working diligently to bring Robot to you before Christmas. While Robot is certainly not the finest moment for Doctor Who or Tom Baker for that matter, it managed to successfully introduce and deliver promising newcomer Tom Baker as one of the series' greatest doctors. You'll find the effects laughable, but it was Letts who deserves tribute in bringing us the legend that is Tom Baker. I've been wanting to watch Doctor Who so what better time than to bring you Letts' final production credit that launched the formidable Tom Baker Years.

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