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Barry Letts (1925-2009)
October 9, 2009 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Barry Letts, classic Doctor Who producer, has died.

Barry became producer of the programme in Jon Pertwee's first year and was then instrumental in casting Tom Baker as his replacement and Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith and co-created The Master. His contribution in terms of selecting talent and collaborators did much to define the legacy of the programme. This is a great loss.
posted by feelinglistless (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Ironically, his biography is out next month.
posted by feelinglistless at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2009


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posted by hubbit at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2009


I'm sorry... I'm so sorry.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 12:49 PM on October 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


And here's where that legacy is taking us next: A raw-kid Doctor and a companion with great gams.
posted by Faze at 12:49 PM on October 9, 2009


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posted by Jon_Evil at 12:52 PM on October 9, 2009


Considering Tom Baker is my favorite doctor by dint of being the first I saw (thanks, PBS!) and Sarah Jane Smith was my first ever childhood crush, the news that the man responsible for this kind of childhood influence has died is quite upsetting.


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posted by Spatch at 1:16 PM on October 9, 2009


Tom Baker was my favorite doctor! What a great show. Thanks Barry Letts.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 1:28 PM on October 9, 2009


And here's where that legacy is taking us next: A raw-kid Doctor and a companion with great gams.

Hey, Young Doctor Who Adventures might be great, let's not shoot it before it's out of the gate.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on October 9, 2009


"Young Doctor Who Adventures"

Damn, I wish I'd thought of that.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2009


I don;t really mind the new logo, but I hope the DW box thing is used sparingly.
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 2:16 PM on October 9, 2009


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posted by webmutant at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:45 PM on October 9, 2009


Ugh, I love him for casting Tom Baker, but I hated the character of Sarah Jane. Give me Leela any day over that simpering screeching fool. It was probably partially the fault of the scriptwriters, sure, but she was extremely annoying.
posted by HopperFan at 2:56 PM on October 9, 2009


Ah, Leela... I liked it when she hurt people.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I liked that at the smallest perceived threat, she would threaten anyone and anything with her knife.
posted by HopperFan at 3:55 PM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


God, it'd be easy to say he was the most important producer or the best producer or my favorite. But doing so would be like choosing the most important or the best or my favorite Doctor. And by that I mean totally impossible and so missing the point.

So instead I'll just say

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Or should I say

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posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:16 PM on October 9, 2009


I'd like to think that The Producer is out there somewhere. Admittedly it might be rather hard to find him, since he might well be much younger, six inches shorter, and suddenly inordinately fond of colorful scarves.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:29 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know Doctor Who almost completely from the new series. My sister's boyfriend, who's a Brit, recently showed me some clips from the older episodes. He always jokes that, in the old episodes, every single alien planet they go to just happens to look like the same granite quarry behind someone's house. And then the Cybermen come marching over a hill, and they're just some guys in silver jogging suits with some spray-painted pipes and buckets taped to their heads.
I was surprised that the Daleks weren't just traffic cones with googly eyes hot glued on.
The fact that they managed to make the show a classic anyway probably says something good about the people involved.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:32 PM on October 9, 2009


Uppity Pigeon, you should watch The Talons of Weng-Chiang (4th Doctor, Feb '77).

That one has no quarries or cybermen, and scared the crap out of me.
posted by HopperFan at 4:45 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 4:55 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


That one has no quarries or cybermen, and scared the crap out of me.

Wow. Even that grainy little Wikipedia picture is completely terrifying. I have no idea who Magnus Greel is, but whatever he's going to do to me, I hope I'm dead first.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:58 PM on October 9, 2009


you should watch The Talons of Weng-Chiang

Probably the single-best episode of the "old" series.

Blink is probably the single-best episode of the new. Well, that or Father's Day, if you don't mind the maudlin.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 PM on October 9, 2009


Also,
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posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:11 PM on October 9, 2009


Blink is probably the single-best episode of the new.

Seconded. I literally tried to crawl into my sofa when I first watched it. Even my third viewing of the episode gives me the heebie-jeebies.
posted by Alnedra at 5:49 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:04 PM on October 9, 2009


Aw, man, we just finished watching Genesis of the Daleks yesterday. (We started with the First Doctor a couple of years ago and are watching them in order, and will probably finish sometime in the next century or so.) This news is very sad. I wish I could reverse the polarity of the neutron flow and make it all better.
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posted by ilana at 6:19 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There has just been a vote on the best Doctor Who serials in Doctor Who Magazine.

It's discussed over the The Reg

The top 10 were:

1. The Caves of Androzani (1984 - Peter Davison)
2. Blink (2007 - David Tennant)
3. Genesis of the Daleks (1975 - Tom Baker)
4. The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977 - Tom Baker)
5. The Empty Child (2005 - Christopher Eccleston)
6. Human Nature (2007 - David Tennant)
7. Pyramids of Mars (1975 - Tom Baker)
8. City of Death (1979 - Tom Baker)
9. The Robots of Death (1977 - Tom Baker)
10. Bad Wolf (2005 - Christopher Eccleston)
posted by sien at 6:21 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


That one has no quarries or cybermen, and scared the crap out of me.
It does however have the least-convincing Giant Rat in the history of Giant Rats in cinema and TV.

People always remember the good bits of that story - Li H'sen Chang (in light of the blackface thread, I probably shouldn't mention that he's played by a white guy) dying in an opium den; Mr. Sin, the Peking Homunculus; Magnus Greel, the Butcher of Brisbane - while forgetting the giant rat, & the rather large pile of straw obviously covering up a car that wasn't moved off the street.
posted by Pinback at 7:43 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by crataegus at 7:47 PM on October 9, 2009


People always remember the good bits of that story

That sort of sums up Dr. Who for me. Remember fondly the Daleks creating a pan-dimensional planetery death-engine and forcing the Doctor to confront his own complicity in the deaths of others, despite his non-violent ethos; conveniently forget that time when Queen Victoria was attacked by space werewolves.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 8:07 PM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by lysdexic at 8:20 PM on October 9, 2009


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posted by Dr. Zira at 9:01 PM on October 9, 2009


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posted by oonh at 9:31 PM on October 9, 2009


The new ones I understand, because new stuff is always dispraportionately represented in lists like these, and they're pretty good picks regardless. The Tom Baker ones I understand because everyone likes the classics. But The Caves of Androzani at number 1 just seems inexplicable. I'm wondering if it's something to do with the small readership of DW magazine and it's readership being comprised of the, um, dedicated fans who hung on till the bitter end and beyond into the wildrness years.

of course it might just be that it's a cherished classic and I'm being hampered in my understanding of this by the fact that I remember bugger all about it.
posted by Artw at 11:38 PM on October 9, 2009


The Caves of Androzani is a really great serial. The politics of the different groups and character of Sharaz Jek is really well done. I borrowed it recently from the library and was plesantly impressed.

The older shows, particularly in the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras had some really interesting plots and ideas, they were pretty much 'proper sci-fi'. There were shades of grey in the aliens, some of whom appeared malevolent but were often just misunderstood. Of course there was lots of silliness, cliffhangers every 24 minutes and far too much running around quarries and down corridors but there is also something interesting it in. The new series is much slicker, but quite a bit of the subtlety of the originals has gone. Some episodes, like the brilliant Blink and The Empty Child have that though.

I'm a bit into Doctor Who, but not that much. I recently watched, or tried to watch, some of the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy serials but often only parts of serials because frankly many of them are just terrible. It's not hard to see why the show was axed.

If you're curious about Doctor Who also check out the radio serials. The popularity of the radio serials of Doctor Who had a lot to do with the return of the TV show. Some are dire, but some are great. Chimes of Midnight is well worth checking out and listening to. Human Nature was a radio serial that became a script for the new series. A friend said some of them might be on the torrents but I wouldn't know.
posted by sien at 11:55 PM on October 9, 2009


I missed Androzani first time around and rented it a bit back, partially on the back of it always doing well in polls like this ... and though it does have a great cliff-hanger for one of the eps, a reasonable plot and villain and the ever wonderful Peri (oh why oh why was she mostly paired with the most annoying Doctor evah) I was left fairly mystified just why it rates so highly - it's got one hell of a crap monster for a start.

I also only saw Weng Chiang fairly recently and it still really holds up, piss-poor rat, yellow-face and few other minor details withstanding. And you get to see Leela in a wet t-shirt camisole.

I've been watching a lot of the classic (and not so classic) eps on DVD in the last few years especially those I missed or can barely remember and what's interesting, from the extras, is how the program was effected by politics in the BBC at the time... going from dark gritty gothic early Baker to the bright semi-humorous stuff towards the end of his time (and then on into terrible in-jokery of its dying years). For which I blame Mary Whitehouse.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:06 AM on October 10, 2009


... And JNT.

But thanks Barry for making my childhood a more-interesting, if scarier, place.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:08 AM on October 10, 2009


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posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 6:16 AM on October 10, 2009


@sien Human Nature was not a radio serial. It was a novel, part of the Virgin New Adventures. It's available to read online:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/ebooks/human_nature/index.shtml

Also, don't torrent audio Doctor Who, please. They're created by a company called Big Finish on tiny little profit margins.
posted by feelinglistless at 1:08 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


@feelinglistless: Apologies for the torrent reference.
True about Human Nature.
posted by sien at 4:19 PM on October 10, 2009


least-convincing Giant Rat

Well, yes, but seeing the rat was not the scary part. It was hearing the really loud rat squeaks coming from somewhere off in the tunnels, and possibly getting closer.
posted by HopperFan at 10:30 PM on October 10, 2009


I guess I should really just be glad that Ghostlight isn't on the list.

"No, no, it makes sense! It's about evolution and stuff!"
posted by Artw at 11:55 PM on October 10, 2009


It makes perfect sense... if you watch it three times with all the commentaries.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:16 AM on October 11, 2009


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posted by kuppajava at 8:19 AM on October 11, 2009


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posted by orrnyereg at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2009


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