Jackie Lane, who played the First Doctor’s companion Dodo Chaplet, has died at the age of 79.
To Doctor Who fans, Jackie Lane was something of an enigma. Her stint on the show in 1966 was brief; her first appearance was tucked onto the end of ‘The Massacre,’ when her character burst into the TARDIS on Wimbledon Common believing it to be a real police box. Suddenly she was whisked off into time and space, and was quickly established as the new companion. She left five stories later – halfway through the serial, in fact – and was never given a proper send-off. Moreover, two of her stories are missing in their entirety from the BBC archives (with the exception of one episode of ‘The Celestial Toymaker.’)
Nonetheless, Jackie Lane’s character has proven popular with Doctor Who fans over the years, and Big Finish has even launched a new audio drama featuring her character.
This is even more impressive when you consider that Jackie Lane wasn’t given the smoothest of starts in Doctor Who. Right from the beginning, there were indications that the production team wasn’t quite sure who, or what, they wanted her character to be. Initially, she was Anne Chaplet – a French maid from 1572 who would escape with the Doctor and Steven during the famous massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve.
But this idea proved problematic; like Katarina before her, the production team realised that they would have to explain more things to a historical character than to a modern one, like what telephones and steam engines were.
Jackie Lane’s character, therefore, wouldn’t ultimately be Anne Chaplet, but Dodo Chaplet – played by a different actor, and merely a “descendant” of the version from ‘The Massacre’ (although the jury is still out as to how realistic this idea is!) But in a sense, it doesn’t matter; Dodo was very different from her French counterpart, and a strong enough character in her own right.
But even when Jackie Lane had her first full story as Dodo (‘The Ark’) there was still some uncertainty as to who she should be. Initially, Lane had been asked to deliver her lines with a northern accent – a decision that was reversed during rehearsals for ‘The Ark.’ Thus, if you ever watch that story, you will notice that Dodo’s accent wanders occasionally – although by the time ‘The Celestial Toymaker’ comes around, Jackie Lane is speaking entirely in her usual voice.
In many ways, Jackie Lane’s interpretation of Dodo paved the way for the companions that followed. Arguably, she was one of the more independent and head-strong; Dodo was not prone to twisting her ankle or screaming helplessly in the face of looming monsters. In fact, in ‘The Gunfighters’ she holds Doc Holliday at gun point when she forces him to take her back to her friends.
Moreover, Jackie Lane’s Dodo was the first of the young, contemporary companions. She was a late teenager(?) of the swinging 60s, often clad in the latest “groovy” apparel. And this point is really driven home in her final story ‘The War Machines,’ where she is seen going clubbing at the “hottest night spot in town,” the Inferno – and no, not Stahlman’s drill-head, for the easily confused.
It’s at this point that things started to unravel for Jackie Lane’s character. In ‘The War Machines,’ Dodo gets taken over by the evil computer WOTAN and is soon set to work doing its evil bidding. She tries to lure the Doctor into a trap, but he quickly discovers what she is up to and uses his own form of hypnosis to help her recover. At this point, she is shipped off to the countryside and is never seen again. The last we hear of Dodo is through the Doctor’s new companion Polly, who tells him that she has decided to stay in London and that she sends him her love.
Unsurprisingly, the Doctor is taken aback by the brevity of this message after everything they have been through – which is an appropriate reaction by all accounts, given that the viewer was probably thinking the same thing! This was a production necessity, though, as Jackie Lane’s contract expired halfway through the story, meaning that she was obliged to leave during episode two.
And despite this brief 19 episode stint, the character of Dodo has remained popular with fans. Jackie Lane made a rare TV appearance during the Doctor Who 50th anniversary celebrations, and her character was even name-checked during the Twelfth Doctor story ‘Death in Heaven,’ which features a scene set in the Chaplet Funeral Home.
Otherwise, Lane avoided the lime-light for the most part, and was rarely seen at conventions or on the VAM for Doctor Who DVDs. She did, however, give a rare interview to Reeltime Pictures as part of their Myth Makers series.
This may be due, in part, to the fact that Jackie Lane left acting shortly after her departure from Doctor Who. She went on to become a theatrical agent, and even represented the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker in the 1970s, as well as future companion Janet Fielding. And despite keeping a relatively low profile, Jackie Lane’s death in June 2021 made national headlines, being reported in popular British publications such as the Metro and the Radio Times. Doctor Who fans, too were quick to show their love for her on Twitter.
Thank you for everything, Jackie Lane. Do share your memories of her in the comments below.