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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 540 > THREE’S COMPANY

THREE’S COMPANY

Barry Letts, who died in 2009, produced all but the first of the Jon Pertwee stories broadcast from 1970-74. In this previously unpublished interview, he recounts stories from that time…

Barry Letts

Barry Letts in his BBC office, photographed by Susan Moore for Doctor Who Magazine on 1 September 1983.
Barry in the Doctor Who production office in 1970, with production secretary Sandra Brenholz and script editor Terrance Dicks.

“FROM THE BEGINNING, SCRIPT EDITOR TERRANCE DICKS AND I GOT ON AWFULLY WELL.”

In June 2008 Barry Letts was a guest of the Whoovers Doctor Who fan group in Derby. Though he’d been seriously ill with cancer, he was in remission and, in discussing his time on the show, proved lively and animated.

“It happened all of a sudden,” said Barry, recalling the time in 1969 when his old friend Shaun Sutton, the BBC’s recently appointed Head of Drama, offered him the producer role on Doctor Who. “Because of what is politely known as a cock-up on the part of the previous producers, Peter Bryant and Derrick Sherwin, they’d ended up having to make that very long serial The War Games [1969] – which everyone loved at first but which was just too long, with the result that the viewing figures went down and down. Patrick Troughton was leaving and it looked as if Doctor Who was finished. However, the bosses decided to give it one more year and to see how it went.

“Bryant and Sherwin cast Jon Pertwee as the new Doctor,” Barry continued, “but then it was decided that they would move on to take over the detective series Paul Temple, and there was nobody to produce Doctor Who. Because it was seen as such a failure, everyone they asked said, ‘You must be joking. I don’t want anything to do with it.’ The show was obviously not going to last. In the end, Shaun said to me, ‘I know you like science fiction, will you do it?’ Of course, I turned it down. I had stopped acting to become a director, not a producer. Shaun wouldn’t give up though and asked me to do it for a year, promising that I could direct the odd show as well. So I talked it over with my wife and convinced myself to take the job on the basis that there I was, a man of 40 and an unknown director. If I took this on, everyone at the BBC would know my name, which could prove very useful to me in my subsequent directing career.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE CELEBRATES JON PERTWEE’S CENTENARY WITH 30 PAGES DEVOTED TO THE THIRD DOCTOR! This issue includes: • The World Cup of the Third Doctor. How did your favourite story fare in our epic Twitter tournament? • Lost for more than 40 years – a candid interview with Jon Pertwee from the very first Doctor Who convention in 1977. • An exclusive interview with Jon’s son, actor Sean Pertwee. • A previously unpublished interview with Barry Letts, who produced most of the Third Doctor’s stories and co-wrote classics like The Dæmons and The Green Death. • An exclusive update on the production of Series 12 from showrunner Chris Chibnall. • Katy Manning, who played the Third Doctor’s companion Jo Grant, visits the Time Team. • The second part of an interview with costume designer Howard Burden, who created outfits for the Twelfth Doctor, Clara and Missy. • The Fact of Fiction explores the Twelfth Doctor story Time Heist. • DWM’s review of the Doctor Who: The Collection – Season 10 Blu-ray box set. • The Legacy of Time – DWM talks exclusively to the cast and crew behind one of the most ambitious Doctor Who adventures ever, which features no fewer than six Doctors. • Part One of Power of the Mobox, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!