A Companion To The Doctor’s Companions: Dodo Chaplet
Note to all aspiring actors and actresses: If you’re going for a part in a hugely successful science fiction series, one which looks like it might stand a chance of running for quite a while, try not to get saddled with a character who is named after an extinct bird. There’s a chance you may live to regret it.
Of course it all started rather well. Dodo – played with ebullient glee by Jackie Lane – is a happy-go-lucky teenager in ’60s swinging London, and she blunders into the TARDIS thinking it’s a real police box. It’s worth remembering at this point that the TARDIS was originally designed to be a camouflaged spaceship, something which wouldn’t even cause a second glance if it was spotted on a busy street. At the time, the police telephone boxes were still in public use. Nowadays if you see a big blue box in your road, the only sane response is to say “oh look, there’s a TARDIS.”
Of course, the wily First Doctor found a way around this problem:
So Dodo stumbled in, and found the Doctor and Steven reeling from their experiences in 16th century Paris. They’ve been unable to prevent the The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, in which 10,000 Huguenots died – including their friend Anne Chaplet – and as with the Doctor and Donna in Pompeii, it’s put a huge strain on their relationship.
In an incredible twist, Dodo reveals that her surname is Chaplet, and that she’s of French descent, leading the Doctor to wonder if Anne or her family somehow survived the massacre. In any event, her arrival convinces Steven that it’s worth continuing his travels, for now at least. So off they go.
In a way, the coincidence of her ancestry sets the tone for Dodo’s entire tenure in the TARDIS. Her effect on her surroundings is always greater when it’s accidental. Chaos simply follows in her wake. She offers the Doctor a sweet, it cracks his tooth. The crew travel to the far future in The Ark, and Dodo’s chief contribution is to infect everyone with the common cold: a virus which has long since disappeared. She nearly wipes out the entire human race!
And here are Dodo and Steven entertaining the Dodge City cowboys in The Gunfighters. Accent fans, there’s a lot to enjoy here:
The show’s producers wanted a character to provide the innocence and guileless charm that Susan possessed, someone to keep getting the Doctor into trouble, but there was always something brighter and more confident about Dodo, which seemed to indicate she would be equally at home with a Monoid as with a nice cup of tea with her aunt. Everything was new and exciting to her, and nothing seemed to worry her. She was like Space Tigger, so her character didn’t really develop or change, despite the many horrors and astonishments she witnessed.
Even in her final adventure, The War Machines, Dodo again takes a passive role, becoming hypnotised by a rogue intelligence, called WOTAN, who tries to use her to convert the Doctor to its cause.
Once the Doctor frees her, she disappears to convalesce, and never returns. As in EVER. She sends her TARDIS key to Polly and that is that.
There was probably something good on TV.
It would be a while before the idea of a Doctor offering TARDIS space to a contemporary teenager would crop up again. First with Ace, and then with Rose, and in both cases it resulted in a stronger, more lasting friendship for the Doctor. But then Ace and Rose were both feeling a bit lost and in need of a change, whereas Dodo always seemed perfectly happy and untroubled wherever she was.
Not unlike a certain flightless bird that’s is also no longer with us, come to think of it.
Next: Ben and Polly, the first humans to witness a regeneration.