This series is awesome. And its more horror than SF, but it’s speculative.
I needed to recover from TekWar, so I decided to watch Beasts. I’d seen one episode a while ago, and was meaning to sit down and watch all six so here was my chance.
Beasts is a short run anthology horror show by Nigel Kneale, the creator of Qatermass.
(If you don’t know Qatermass it was one of the first serious SF TV serials and inspired Doctor Who among other things.) Nigel Kneale has a long and distinguished career in SF and horror.
Beasts originally ran in 1976 on ITV, as six episodes (50min). They are connected by a loose them of strange creatures and horrific circumstances, but the real power lies in the often unsympathetic but completely compelling characters. There are many recognizable actors in the series including Martin Shaw (Inspector George Gently!!!) and Micheal Kitchen (Inspector Foyle!!). I’m a huge fan of British TV mysteries-I’ve watched more of Midsomer Murders than is healthy.
One of my favorite episodes, Special Offer, stars an awkward, plump shop assistant who may or may not be responsible for calling up a poltergeist in the form of the shop’s mascot. Cans fall from shelves, packages of food are torn open and eaten, and items are knocked over with increasing frequency and violence. The worst part, however, is the store manager. He’s a handsome ambitious young man who comes across as smiling and friendly to the customers. He changes completely around the plump shop assistant-berating her, making fun of her weight and her looks. He shows his true self bit by bit as we watch his underhanded schemes and casual cruelty. Yet, as hard as it is to watch, the actress, Pauline Quirke, plays her part of the put upon shop assistant so brilliantly that you can see every bit of her pain, her humiliation, yet her possible power. She’s fantastic.
What Big Eyes has the same effect-taking a run down pet shop, an animal cruelty inspector, a discredited scientist and his daughter. The daughter believes her father to be a genius and a great man, even as he tells the inspector that he thinks her slow and largely useless. Like the shop girl in the earlier skit, we see a compelling, powerful portrayal of a woman who is put upon and victimized, yet it does not turn out as you’d suspect.
Beasts is…creepy, disturbing, hard to watch, yet almost impossible not to. The sets are small and simple, very much like a stage play, and the acting is effective.