Jo the Heart of Who

joCompanion Tropes 9

Most television series have a character who could be identified as the heart of the show.  I don’t mean that in the sense of being the most important character.  The heart of the show is the one who is the moral compass, the one who keeps the others on the straight and narrow, the one who always does the right thing, whatever the cost, the honest one, the one who cares.  In Doctor Who it’s easy to spot the heart of the show, because it’s generally the companion, but that’s a modern perspective.  It wasn’t always the case.  You would have to look long and hard to find a heart companion during the 80s, for example.

That’s not to say the classic era is devoid of heart companions.  Jamie in The Evil of the Daleks is a very good example, taking the Doctor to task for being callous and calculating, and threatening to leave because of it.  But this is ahead of its time and a rarity, with heart companions much more prevalent during the new era post-2005.  So we have Rose in Dalek empathizing with the Dalek and tackling the Doctor over his murderous rage, Donna in The Runaway Bride stopping the Doctor before he goes too far, and then begging him to save somebody in The Fires of Pompeii, and then a Doctor devoid of companions losing his moral compass in Waters of Mars.  But the classic series also has a shining example of a Heart of Who companion: Josephine Grant.

Even in her very first story, Jo is already acting as a moral compass, taking the Doctor to task for being mean to the Brig, and it works:

DOCTOR: Do you know, Jo, I sometimes think that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.
JO: You’re not very grateful, are you?
DOCTOR: What? For having my time wasted?
JO: He did save our lives, you know. Well? Didn’t he?
DOCTOR: You’re quite right, Jo. I’ll apologise, if I have the time.

In Day of the Daleks she’s on Mike’s case for stealing Benton’s food and wine:

YATES: Yes, well I want you to go and check on number three patrol. Move, Sergeant Benton.
YATES: Jo, how thoughtful.
JO: That wasn’t very kind of you.

If a character is needed who can empathise with others, it’s Jo.  In Terror of the Autons she puts the welfare of newly widowed Mrs Farrel first, offering to come back another time although the Doctor needs information from her that “could help us save hundreds of lives”.  In The Mind of Evil she is the one who shows concern for the prisoner Barnham, who has been basically lobotomized by a machine.

BARNHAM: I heard, I heard the shooting and I didn’t know what to do.
JO: It’s all right, it’s all over. We’ll take care of you. Has he been given anything to eat?
BENTON: Well, no, Miss, we were going
JO: Well, don’t just stand there, show me where I can find him something.
BENTON: Yes, Miss. Sorry.

She is even able to feel empathy for the Master in The Sea Devils, and recognise those feelings in the Doctor as well.  The heart of the show is often astute in that way:

JO: You felt sorry for him, didn’t you. You wanted to come down here and see that was all right.
DOCTOR: Well, he used to be a friend of mine once. A very good friend. In fact, you might almost say we were at school together.

Similarly, she recognises the Doctor’s sorrow for another vanquished enemy in The Three Doctors:

JO: I know what it is. It’s because you had to trick Omega.
DOCTOR: I didn’t exactly trick him. I promised him his freedom and I gave it to him. The only freedom he could ever have.

As the heart of the show, Jo is always keen to see the best in people.  In Colony in Space she refuses to assume the worst of the Primatives, and encourages the colonists not to give up:

JO: Your primitives don’t seem too hostile.
WINTON: They were when we first got here. Some of my friends were killed.
JO: You get on all right with them now.
NORTON: So did we, till we were defenseless.
WINTON: Maybe now Robert Ashe will listen to me. We must move on to another planet.
JO: You’re not just going to give up, are you? After all the work you’ve done here?
WINTON: Well, there’s a time to cut your losses. We can’t even grow our own food.
JO: I’m sure the Doctor will be able to help you.

Assuming the best of people will always backfire on a heart character from time to time, and Jo is no exception.  In Day of the Daleks she verges on gullibility, believing the nonsense the Controller sells her.

JO: You’re being a bit unreasonable, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Am I now?
JO: Well, look, the Controller wants to help you.
DOCTOR: Does he? I wonder why?

Heart characters also tend to be the least xenophobic, and Jo is generally keen to see beauty where others might have been scared or revolted.  A good example is Alpha Centauri, who Jo finds “rather sweet”.  When she makes her triumphant return to the world of Doctor Who in the Sarah Jane Adventures story Death of the Doctor, Jo is still finding beauty in aliens:

SHANSHEETH: I’m so sorry for your loss.
JO: Thank you. Aren’t you lovely?

A heart character will tend to put others before themselves.  In Colony in Space Jo is willing to risk her life for a virtual stranger, and refuses to take the easy option:

WINTON: Now back to the dome and warn Ashe.
JO: I’m not leaving here without you!
WINTON: Look, don’t you see this is just the evidence we need for the Adjudicator?
JO: I’m not leaving here without you.

In The Daemons we have our most famous example of Jo putting others before herself, saving the day by offering up her life in place of the Doctor’s.  In The Time Monster she tries to sacrifice herself for the greater good again:

MASTER: Nonsense! You can’t bring yourself to destroy her. Now admit it! It’s that fatal weakness of yours, Doctor. Pity, compassion. You know, for a moment there, you almost had me believing you.
JO: Don’t listen to him, Doctor! Think of all those millions of people who’ll die. Think of all those millions of people who’ll never be born. Do it, Doctor, quickly!

In her final story, The Green Death, Jo heads off on a crusade of her own to make the world a better place, insisting on going to help Cliff Jones when she finds out what he is trying to accomplish at the Nuthatch, even persuading the Brigadier and the Doctor to go with her.  It is possible to pinpoint the moment Jo falls in love with Cliff.  When she loses her new friend Bert, Cliff understands how she feels although she hardly new him.

JO: I know that really. It’s just he was, he was such a perky little man. He called me Blodwyn. Cliff, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I’m crying. A funny little Welshman that I hardly knew.
JONES: You shouldn’t feel ashamed of your grief. It’s right to grieve. Your Bert, he was unique. In the whole history of the world, there’s never been anybody just like Bert. And they’ll never be another, even if the world lasts for a hundred million centuries.
JO: Thanks.

Cliff can empathise on a deep level, just like Jo.  That’s why he’s the man for her.  The heart of Doctor Who finds a man who is the heart of his own show.  The fledgling flies the coop, and Doctor Who will never be quite the same again.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on Author of Editor of
This entry was posted in Companion Tropes, Doctor Who, Entertainment, Science Fiction, Television and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jo the Heart of Who

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Katy made Jo into a woman who wore her heart on her sleeve. Her impulsive actions to save the Doctor or the day proved triumphant in the finales for The Daemons and The Time Monster, even serendipitously regarding the cure for The Green Death. As a foil for the male-ego of the Doctor, she was welcome in the hearts of fans including mine. So seeing her return, both in SJA and Big Finish’s UNIT series, was as timeless as both McGann’s and T. Baker’s return for the 50th.

    Thank you, RP.

    Liked by 2 people

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