Nigel Kneale’s Beasts: Buddyboy

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When I first accidentally saw a capsule review that said this episode was about a ghost dolphin, I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. Now that I’ve actually seen it, there is a slight shudder every time I hear that name.

No one really gets what this episode is actually about. Every review I’ve seen has completely missed why this is nightmare fuel.

Martin Shaw is Dave, a hard-bitten owner of a seedy cinema downtown who dreams of having a ‘classy’ place with plush chairs and leather everywhere. Oh the 70’s! He’s investigating a great deal on real estate. The only problem is the former seller Hubbard (played by a perspiring Wolfe Morris) seems a little too eager to unload it.\

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The venue was formerly an arena for dolphins, particularly Buddyboy, an exotic and precocious dolphin that plagued Hubbard. And Hubbard did something, something he won’t say. But you get the feeling that the dolphin isn’t leaving him alone.

Hiding beneath the tank area is Lucy (Pamela Moiseiwitsch), an imbalanced homeless vagrant who apparently used to care for the dolphins. Her presence is consistently unnerving to Hubbard, but she is intriguing to Dave.

At first he thinks that Hubbard has gotten mixed up with the Mafia, and that Lucy knows something about it. To the disgust of his coarse business partner Jimmy, he feeds the starving vagrant while trying to get more information out of her, but they realized that Lucy is utterly uncomfortable with people, totally obsessed with Buddyboy and unable to move on with her life.

As Hubbard desperately presses for a deal so he can be free, you realize that Buddyboy is ‘haunting’ both people, the owner who treated him cruelly and the trainer that appreciated him. Buddyboy thankfully does not appear, aside from an occasional noise that they attribute to his collar.

At a certain point, for some reason Dave falls for Lucy and takes her home, and her character shows an alarming and surprising relief at this turn of events. At his place they start to make love, and she is completely disinterested…until she thinks of Buddyboy.

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And that’s why this episode is so messed up. Its about an insane woman who is in love with a dolphin, a love that has gone much too far.

Things unravel from here of course, because these things never end well. Buddyboy remains a gutpunch of an episode, and it is a testament to the series that Buddyboy might not be the most skin crawling of the lot.

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