Nigel Kneale's Beasts: Buddyboy

Once again we find ourselves in the presence of quality television. I have recently dropped the name of Kneale when talking about Quatermass, which I haven't got round to blogging about yet, but I didn't then own this series. For some reason I never fancied it, which may be for the very individual reason that there are a lot of famous names in this series, not only in the production, but in the cast, and as you know that normally doesn't go well with me. This eminence is reflected in the fact the Network boxed set comes with a leaflet about Kneale and the series; the only thing more eminent is to get released by the BFI.
The theme of this series is given as bestial horror, which I had some difficulty understanding, but seems to mean the individual episodes are about horror, involving animals, entities we don't understand or which don't exist. I would also note that the episodes involve the extremes of human emotions.
Buddyboy is no exception, and despite starring Martin Shaw as the owner of an adult cinema, the most extreme emotion is that of fear, exhibited by the man trying to sell a disused dolphinarium to him. Most of the stories use conventional horror themes, and obviously the difference with this one is the use of a deceased dolphin to provide the horror. Depending on your point of view this may prove to be a terminal fault in this episode, since we don't think of dolphins as being horrifying. This is reflected in the generally poor reviews this episode gets on the Internet. My own opinion is that it is deliberate that a usually benign animal is turned round as an object of horror, and it's a brave go. It is very clear that Buddyboy was and is a bastard, and this impressive is well developed, but it may just go too much against our cultural perception of dolphins.
I wonder whether this is intended as a morality tale, depicting the depravity of humans impacting on an innocent dolphin. I find Martin Shaw's character interesting. It may be my own level of depravity but I laughed out loud at the titles of the films being shown at his cinema: Penelope Pulls it Off, Soft Wet Warm, and Rampant Virgins! It is very clear that while he is a business man films are not the only commodity. A girl in the cinema flashes her tits at him, saying that she wants to get into films. His reaction is one of weariness, and he says he wants class. After he sleeps with the girl who breaks into the dolphinarium, he offers her sex work, which I really wasn't expecting. She then dies in the bath. Personally, I think she had trouble written all over her - even assuming she is of age she seems a bit simple, but then perhaps that's why he tried her out and tried to get her into sex work. She may form a representation of whatever bad things have been done by humans to Buddyboy.
Production values are of the time, almost completely based on sets. The pace is also of the time, and the appearance and speed would not be appreciated by those used to today's TV. The themes of this episode, of nature, kindness, cruelty, sex and progress, are of course also much of the time. Probably it would have come across more clearly as a cautionary or morality tale, viewed at the end of the 1970s. The innocence of the dolphin is what we are in danger of losing, type thing.
I just have two criticisms. One is that Shaw talks with the generic Northern accent I have commented on before: I have no idea where he is from but at this time he was also talking without it in The Professionals, and nobody else is quite so northern so he'd have been better without it. The other is that the noises made by the deceased Buddyboy don't sound like a dolphin!
My final thought is that while I don't care about porn and even prostitution, and I am even shop soiled enough not to be shocked at smoking, even in the days when I smoked myself, I never smoked in bed, because in addition to being shocking, it's both daft and dangerous.