Who And Me

Who And MeOrder this bookStory: Doctor Who producer Barry Letts (1923-2009) narrates the story of his own beginnings in TV and theater, from second-string actor to writer to producer of one of the BBC’s most popular series during its first seasons in color starring Jon Pertwee. This first volume, featuring Letts reading his own memoirs, covers his early career, his first Doctor Who directing gig (Enemy Of The World starring Patrick Troughton) and his eventual ascension to the chief creative mind behind the series. Jon Pertwee’s first two seasons are covered in depth, including many remembrances of Pertwee himself and his co-stars, the introduction of Roger Delgado as the Master, and more.

Review: I had Who And Me sitting on the shelf for a long time before former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts died in October 2009, but I just hadn’t listened to it; Letts has already been interviewed, and has written up anecdotes about his time working on Doctor Who, and has done enough DVD commentaries…I wasn’t sure there was anything new to tell. Who And Me proved otherwise.

Letts doesn’t just talk about Doctor Who in his autobiography (released in audiobook form a couple of years before it landed at a publisher just prior to Letts’ death). He covers his entire career and his personal background in detail, namely the fact that his original ambition was to be an actor. This eventually led to writing and directing, which led to producing Doctor Who. And yet, all along the way, there were practically omens of his future work on the series, such as early acting gigs alongside Patrick Troughton, who also starred in one of Letts’ most prestigious early turns behind the camera, the Doctor Who story Enemy Of The World.

Letts warmly recalls his close working relationship with script editor Terrance Dicks, and his occasionally difficult leading man as well. There’s no character assassination of the late Mr. Pertwee to be found here, but just a few mentions of how often the star of the show would try to push the envelope with his boss (and how, occasionally, his boss was a little bit naive about it, being a rookie producer). There are anecdotes here that I’ve heard/read often enough that they’re like old friends, and there are also incidents of which I had never heard before. Nothing scandalous, mind you: Mr. Letts seemed to be quite aware, in writing his memoir, that he was treading into uncharted territory that involve fondly-remembered, well-loved figures in the British entertainment business. While he occasionally admits to being a little irritated with Jon Pertwee’s attitudes or extracurricular activities, never does he leave the impression that they didn’t get along.

I was most fascinated with some of the non-Who-related material, particularly Letts’ discovery of Zen Buddhism. Even that, really, is related: it informed how the Doctor was handled as a character, and directly influenced at least one story (Pertwee’s final regular outing as the Doctor, Planet Of The Spiders, is steeped in Buddhist imagery). It was interesting to hear how Letts first encountered it, and I wish he’d gone into a little more depth about the effect it had on his life.

If there’s a genuinely sad thing about Who And Me, it is that a second volume has yet to be released. As Mr. Letts recently passed away, I have no idea if he recorded a second volume. A printed version of Who And Me – covering Letts’ entire association with Doctor Who, including the textual edition of this audiobook – is forthcoming from Fantom Films Books, publishers of many an autobiographical book/audiobook written by former Doctor Who notables; whether Letts recorded an audio version of his story covering Day Of The Daleks onward remains to be seen. I hope that he did; he had a unique story and a singular influence on the world’s longest-running science fiction TV series, and there’s nothing quite like hearing the man tell his own story.

Year: 2008
Author: Barry Letts
Publisher: BBC Audio
Total running time: 3:22:43