The Doctor took to her within seconds of their first encounter, citing her physical similarity to his granddaughter. Dodo had limited contact with other companions, only spending significant time with Steven Taylor. She met and hit it off with Polly Wright briefly in London on 20 July 1966, and was with her when Polly first encountered Ben Jackson. Neither Ben nor Polly had yet seen the TARDIS when Dodo chose to stop travelling with the Doctor, sending word of her decision to him via Polly.
However, most details of Dodo's life — her childhood, the reasons she started and stopped travelling with the Doctor and even her possible death — were shrouded in a confusion created by several highly contradictory and speculative accounts.
Dodo was born in 1949. (PROSE: Salvation) Her grandfather was French. Having just visited France in the era of the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, on hearing Dodo's surname and her French ancestry, Steven speculated that Dodo was a descendant of the apparently doomed Anne Chaplet. This would mean that Anne had survived the massacre of the Huguenots, the St Bartholomew's Day massacre, on 24 August 1572. (TV: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve)
For a school project, Dodo researched her family tree and found evidence that she was descended from Huguenots who left France to escape persecution, suggesting that Steven's theory may have been correct. (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy)
Dodo went to live with her great-aunt Margaret before joining the First Doctor on his travels. Their relationship was likely strained. Dodo said that she would not be missed. (TV: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve) She expressed delight that she was not going back home any time soon. (TV: The Ark)
She was not a good student and likely never made it to sixth form, much less university. (PROSE: Salvation) She neither spoke nor understood French, largely because she skipped her French lessons in school to learn how to kiss behind the school gymnasium. (PROSE: The Man in the Velvet Mask)
Beyond these statements, accounts of her youth widely differed on details. According to one account, she grew up in one of the poorest parts of London. When her parents died, she moved in with an aunt (possibly not her great-aunt Margaret) who was wealthier than her parents and was a social climber. This afforded Dodo exposure to a wide variety of social experiences in her young life. She had difficulty believing that the squalid existence into which she had been born and the world to which her aunt aspired were part of the same reality. To cope, she continually reinvented herself according to her immediate situation, claiming to have "acted all [her] life". Thus, her accent was situational. (PROSE: The Man in the Velvet Mask)
An alternative account of her youth claimed that Dodo's parents did not both die when she was young. Rather, her mother died in an accident. Her father suffered a mental breakdown and had to be hospitalised, but was still alive at the time of Dodo's first encounter with the Doctor. Neither were they poor. This account of her life maintained that her parents were wealthy enough to take her to the Florida Everglades. This trip gave her a deep appreciation of the variety of life on Earth and a wish to see more of the world. Nevertheless, after the death of her mother, Dodo went to live with her great-aunt, Margaret. Amongst other things, she forced Dodo into elocution lessons. Dodo developed a "natural" and a "posh" accent. Life with her formal great-aunt also caused her to see herself in two ways: "Dorothea", the proper young lady Margaret wanted her to be, and "Dodo", the plain kid at school she probably really was. (PROSE: Salvation)
How she got the nickname "Dodo" was no clearer than anything else in her youth — other than it clearly being a diminutive of her given name "Dorothea". According to one view, it was given to her by her classmates. At some time after she went to live with her great-aunt, she switched schools mid-term. Her new classmates ridiculed her northern accent, thinking her ill-educated. They nicknamed her after the dodo, an extinct, stupid bird. Instead of rejecting the name, she tried to change people's perception of the name by becoming "cool". (PROSE: Salvation) As an adult, she intimated to James Stevens that she didn't know where it came from — though her memory was notably unreliable. (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy)
Meeting the Doctor
Like later companion Tegan Jovanka and her Aunt Vanessa, Dodo was one of only a few people to ever attempt to use the TARDIS as an actual police box. As a young adult in the 1960s, Dodo saw a small boy knocked down by a car. Seeking help, she saw a police box on Wimbledon Common and entered it. Instead of a policeman, she found the Doctor. (TV: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve)
Another account speculated that Dodo's great-aunt also made her spend time helping an elderly neighbour do his shopping and other menial tasks. One night, an alien ship crashed nearby. Its pilot killed the neighbour and assumed his physical form. When Dodo learned what had happened to him, the alien kept her prisoner. When she escaped, she rushed across Wimbledon Common, heading for what she thought was a police box — but was, in fact, the TARDIS. According to this view, then, Dodo met the Doctor because she was fleeing from an alien, with her story about witnessing an accident an attempt to cover up the truth in case she had run into the alien's ship by accident. (PROSE: Salvation)
Just as he had done with Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, the Doctor dematerialised the TARDIS without giving his new passenger a choice in the matter. This time, however, the cause was different; two approaching policemen would have forced their way into the TARDIS had the Doctor not taken off. Steven protested, but wasn't able to counter the Doctor's logic. (TV: "Bell of Doom")
Dodo's first trip in the TARDIS was in space, not time. They went to New York City in 1965, where they met and defeated the compatriots of Joseph, the alien who had briefly kidnapped her back in London. (PROSE: Salvation)
After New York, the TARDIS crew found themselves on the Ark. At first, Dodo thought they were at Whipsnade Zoo. She told the others that she had been there as a child, and displayed some knowledge of nature. Unfortunately, she had a cold, the virus of which was inadvertently passed on to the humans and Monoids in the Ark. As they had no resistance to it, it became a plague. Dodo, a caring person, was distraught that she had caused this terrible event. (TV: The Ark)
Dodo's caring nature was probably what made her dislike cheating and other unfair behaviour. Whilst this annoyance could be seen many times, it was most visible when the travellers met the Celestial Toymaker. It was his games, attitude, and Cyril's cheating which frustrated Dodo. (TV: The Celestial Toymaker)
Whilst travelling with the Doctor, Dodo had one of her lifelong wishes granted. She was keenly interested in the Wild West and said she had always wanted to meet Wyatt Earp. When the travellers arrived in the American West, the Doctor introduced Dodo as "Miss Dodo Dupont, wizard of the ivory keys". During their time in this era the Doctor noted that Dodo was "fast becoming a prey to every cliché-ridden convention in the American West." (TV: The Gunfighters) After the Doctor, Steven and she landed in Russia where they spent a time relaxing after their adventures. One of the local gentry asked her to be a companion to his daughter, provided she taught her the piano. (AUDIO: Mother Russia)
Despite this and the sad events on the Ark, Dodo's interest and excitement were still evident as the travellers continued on their journey. She was not frightened to investigate on her own, and on the next planet she wandered off while the Doctor and Steven were busy with the Elders and the Savages. Steven had commented on this occasion: "If it wasn't allowed, Dodo would be first in the queue!" She had a look around the Elders' City and discovered the laboratory of Senta, which was used for the life-force transference that kept the Elders alive. (TV: The Savages)
After Steven's departure, she travelled alone with the Doctor for an indefinite time. During this period, she recognised that the Doctor was becoming increasingly frail. At one point, he explicitly said she would have to leave the ship as Steven had done; he had to face the next phase of his life alone. During this melancholy period, when Dodo often had to nurse the Doctor, they arrived in a kind of alternate timeline in France, and defeated a man intent on unleashing a virus that could have taken over the world.
While on this "alternate Earth" Dodo believed she contracted the virus by losing her virginity to a known carrier — although it was not definitively known if she had the condition diagnosed. When asked, she said that she wanted to keep the virus as a reminder of the world that had been lost when the timeline righted itself. (PROSE: The Man in the Velvet Mask)
While accompanying the Doctor to a planet that was in the grip of a crystalline parasite, Dodo wondered, not for the first time, if she was cut out for adventure. (PROSE: There are Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden)
At some point thereafter, she and the Doctor arrived in London on 20 July 1966 and discovered the sentient computer WOTAN and its War Machines. WOTAN conditioned her to betray the Doctor. The Doctor broke her conditioning and sent Dodo to the country to recuperate. Dodo never returned. She sent a message with Polly Wright, saying that she had decided to stay in London. (TV: The War Machines)
Undated adventures with the Doctor
At some point, Dodo, along with all the other companions, was scooped out of time by Adam Mitchell and held captive until all eleven Doctors arrived. She was later freed and returned to her own time. (COMIC: The Choice, Endgame)
Life after the Doctor
Accounts of Dodo's life after leaving the TARDIS differed.
At some point, Dodo was taken to the Black Archive by UNIT to have her record as a companion of the Doctor taken. Her memories of the visit were subsequently erased and she was sent on her way. (TV: The Day of the Doctor)
By one account, Dodo suffered severe and recurrent psychiatric problems as a result of having been controlled by WOTAN. Shuttled from hospital to hospital, she was eventually sent to the Glasshouse, where she was interrogated brutally by its director, the Master, about the Doctor. Turned out into the street, the homeless Dodo eventually met and fell in love with journalist James Stevens, at that time investigating UNIT. While Stevens was being interviewed on a live television broadcast, Dodo was murdered by Francis Cleary, a former UNIT soldier, Glasshouse patient and another of the Master's hypnotically controlled pawns. Only after her death did Stevens learn that she had been carrying his child.
The Doctor attended the funeral in their second or seventh incarnation and attempted to offer solace to Stevens. After hearing of Dodo's death, the Third Doctor told Stevens that he still saw Dodo as being his responsibility. (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy)
Another account suggested that she hadn't been murdered by the Master's agent. She had gone on to a mundane career as a secretary. The torpor of her life made her regret her decision to leave the Doctor and long, in adulthood, to again travel in the TARDIS. She thought that she'd be better able to appreciate such travels, now that she was "older and wiser". It was during a particularly nostalgic moment that she accidentally bumped into Sarah Jane Smith, though neither recognised the other as a friend of the Doctor. (PROSE: Ships)
It was later revealed by Stevens that Dodo had been saved by Stevens’ future self who used a Time Ring to stop Cleary from killing her after the Twelfth Doctor intervened. (PROSE: Who Killed Kennedy, 20th anniversary edition)
Skills and abilities
Behind the scenes
Will the real Dodo Chaplet please stand up?
Because she only had four-and-a-half stories on television, Dodo is one of the companions least featured in other media. Unfortunately, almost all of these other appearances conflict. The Man in the Velvet Mask differs from Salvation on what Dodo's childhood was like. Salvation differs from "Bell of Doom" over why she first approached the TARDIS in Wimbledon Common. Mask, Who Killed Kennedy and Ships all disagree over what might have killed her in the 1960s or 1970s — or even whether she died in those decades. To be sure, other companions have stories which differ over the odd biographical detail. We can wonder, thanks to The Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, whether Liz Shaw actually died in the novel Eternity Weeps. However, the degree of difference between individual Dodo stories is unusually high and approaches that of the conflicting descriptions of the life of Ace, who effectively has several largely irreconcilable alternate timelines.
Did Dodo die from syphilis?
There is a widespread belief in fandom that Dodo's fate in the novels is that she contracted syphilis. This view was taken by the long-running podcast, Radio Free Skaro, some of whose hosts vociferously maintained in episode 177 that she "died of syphilis" in Who Killed Kennedy. Even David Bishop, the author of Kennedy, said in his notes to the e-book version of his novel that Dodo contracted "an illness interpreted by some as a form of space herpes".
All that's pretty wide off the mark, however. The idea that she died of syphilis is a common conflation of Who Killed Kennedy, where she's simply killed by the Master, and The Man in the Velvet Mask, where she contracts the genetically-engineered Minski's virus through sexual contact. However, she doesn't die from it, nor was it even possible for her to do so, according to the Doctor. Minski's virus wasn't anything close to a venereal disease and could have been contracted by drinking water or consuming food contaminated by it. Perhaps more to the point, the word syphilis doesn't occur once in either novel. Dodo does have two sexual tragedies in Kennedy, however; she admits to having killed her would-be rapist in unarmed combat and she is murdered while pregnant.