Jackie Lane, who played Dodo Chaplet alongside William Hartnell’s Doctor, has died at the age of 79.
She was considered for the part of Susan in 1963 but told producer Verity Lambert she didn’t want a long-term commitment, a decision she later regretted. When she did join the programme, she had a relatively short run as a cast member, first appearing at the conclusion of The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve when her character wanders into the TARDIS, making Dodo one of the select group of companions to have mistaken the ship for a real police box.
Dodo would appear in The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters, and The Savages before making a rather abrupt exit in The War Machines. It’s difficult not to conclude that Jackie Lane received a raw deal in Doctor Who, with a change of producer leading to this sudden exit when her contract wasn’t renewed.
Conceived as a sprightly teenager, her character wasn’t as well-developed as it could have been, with Howe, Stammers and Walker reporting in their 1994 book Doctor Who: The Handbook – The First Doctor:
“It was originally intended that the character should have a Cockney accent, and Lane had already begun to rehearse the part in that way when producer John Wiles was informed by his superiors that this was unacceptable and that the Doctor’s companions should continue to speak ‘BBC English’.”
This accounts for Dodo’s varying accent in her episodes – an issue which could surely have been prevented with a clearer steer from those overseeing the production. She nonetheless made a good team with Hartnell and Peter Purves as Steven, and her time travelling in the TARDIS was impressively varied, with destinations including a spaceship millions of years in the future, the strange land of the Toymaker, and the American west in 1881.
She may have felt hard done by at the manner of her departure but Jackie Lane appears to have looked back on the experience fondly, saying in Peter Haining’s Doctor Who: A Celebration (1983):
“I found it very entertaining and of course in those days a programme dealing with time travel was a novel idea. It was also enormously enjoyable. Although putting together any television programme is a serious business, there were lots of laughs and I worked with some fine directors and actors.”
Jackie Lane gave up acting soon after leaving Doctor Who and later worked as a diplomatic secretary, an antique dealer and a theatrical agent, where one of her clients was Tom Baker.
A shy person somewhat baffled by fans’ continuing interest, Lane largely declined to involve herself in the world of Doctor Who fandom. She’s reported to have made just one convention appearance and never played Dodo again in audio appearances. Earlier this year, Big Finish announced that the character would be recast, with Lauren Cornelius taking on the role.
She did, however, record an interview for the Myth Makers series of releases and made a surprise appearance on 2013’s Doctor Who: The After Party. Screened after the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, this chaotic show was memorable for mainly the wrong reasons but Lane’s brief tribute to Doctor Who was a highlight.
Our sympathies to Jackie Lane’s family and friends.