Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Is Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) the Doctor Who companion given the shoddiest treatment? Her arrival is tacked on to the end of The Massacre in an attempt to give that story an ending that isn't as bleak as reality and her departure in The War Machines happens off-stage. She says goodbye to the Doctor through her replacements, Ben and Polly.
In between she starts off vaguely Mancunian - which is where Jackie Lane herself hails from - in The Massacre/The Ark before someone, somewhere has a fit of the vapours and Dodo goes all RP. She's got no background and no character. It's as if no one in the production team gave any thought to the character at all except that they wanted 'young woman'. As a result, you've got to say Jackie Lane does a fine job of the little she's given.
In some respects, Dodo reminds me of Mel, except without the showbiz baggage that Bonnie Langford brought with her, who is the other companion I think gets really shoddy treatment in the classic series. You can argue that Susan is also a companion that never quite lived up to her potential but at least she had potential. You can argue that Leela's departure is probably worse than Dodo's in that it really doesn't feel like the reward for either the character or the actress.* But at least Leela has a character for us to feel annoyed on behalf of. Dodo just is.
That's not to say there wasn't potential there, The Gunfighters shows what Jackie Lane could do when allowed to. The scene where she holds up Doc Holliday is funny and sharply played. In The Savages it is Dodo that smells a rat when being guided around this perfect world before she returns to the sort of slight stupidity that seems to be Dodo's default setting. The worst case being in The Celestial Toymaker.
One shouldn't forget that Jackie Lane had to help Peter Purves carry stories when William Hartnell was being nudged out of the way by the production team. Whilst I think Purves does most of the heavy lifting (and has the charisma to be the 'leading man'.) Jackie Lane does her share. This is an odd time to be in Doctor Who with companions being suddenly shown the exit. The lack of sentimentality is the most shocking difference between this period of Doctor Who and New Who, where the series might sometimes err in the other direction.**
In the end, Dodo is doomed to be the least remembered Doctor Who companion. She appears in less than twenty episodes. She never gets a story where she really gets a chance to shine, although The Gunfighters is probably her finest hour. Then she's written out as if she had never been there at all. I suppose the fact that Jackie Lane never speaks about her time in the series contributes to that 'invisibility.'
There's nothing I can say here that is going to see a suddenly change that. Dodo's appearances in other media - books and Big Finish - are limited too, which means she's even more likely to be forgotten. Although Dodo's treatment in Who Killed Kennedy and The Man in the Velvet Mask could possibly make her the most ill-used companion***. As if writer's want to make up for her invisibility by treating her terribly in the hope that it would make her memorable. It doesn't work. Perhaps Big Finish could convince Jackie Lane to do a....but it still wouldn't help. Dodo is doomed to be forgotten.
I'm not sure whose fault that is but it certainly wasn't Jackie Lane's.
*In my head canon Leela goes down fighting in the Time War leading Gallifreyan troops against the Daleks. The nearest thing to a warrior that the Time Lords have to hand. That is a better end than marriage to someone she barely acknowledges in six episodes.
**I'm thinking of the many exits of Rose Tyler here. Mostly.
***Except possibly Peri. Discuss.