ENTERTAINMENT

'The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins' Review - Inter-Species Romantic Relationship Stranger Than Fiction

17/06/2014 22:10 | Updated 18 June 2014

Finally, on Tuesday night, we had the strange tale that has caused ripples around the world - the true story, in her own words and for the first time in 50 years, of the girl who befriended a dolphin, spoke to him, lived with him and stayed unfazed as he fell for her - hook, line and sinker.

The premise was a simple one for tireless research scientist John C. Lilly - take NASA's big bucks, set up an observation tank on a Caribbean island and see how much about communication could be learnt from observing another species, in this case, three splendid dolphins.

girl who talked to dolphins

Margaret Howe Lovatt speaks for the first time about her relationship with dolphin Peter

And, then, as in all the classic love stories, a pretty young girl entered the picture, namely Margaret Howe Lovatt - a visitor to the house, who became bewitched by the dolphins, and dedicated herself to helping with the research, concentrating on the only male of the group, Peter.

But what started out as an increasingly productive scientific experiment turned into some sort of weird thing, as Peter developed unmistakably romantic feelings for Margaret. The ewww-making, headline-making factor came with Margaret's clear, pragmatic descriptions of Peter's urges, and her decision to satisfy them, so they could concentrate on their lessons. "It was easier to incorporate that and let it happen," she explained calmly. "It was sexual on his part, not sexual on mine. Sensuous perhaps. It was like an itch… scratch it, and move on."

the girl who talked to dolphins

Scientist John Lilly was convinced communication with the dolphins would make for scientific breakthroughs

This headline-grabbing aspect clearly overshadows, but shouldn't distract from many of the other equally strange aspects of this whole episode, including Margaret's bizarre single-mindedness about the project. What was a young attractive girl like this doing on an island with only a bunch of porpoises for company?

Why was John Lilly given such a free reign and massive Nasa cheque in the first place, and how did the men charged with sending us to space fail to notice that their brain boffin had begun swimming in the LSD of the time? Why did no one stop him in his tracks, even when he started giving it to the poor dolphins?

As with all the best documentaries, 'The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins' left me with that feeling that the world is a very strange place, full of unusual characters. As a special treat for film buffs, even in the midst of this strange tale, there was nothing stranger than the sanguine contribution of Jeff Bridges - yes, THAT Jeff Bridges - who just happened to be a good friend of John Lilly and well-suited to comment on the motivation behind the mad scientist who refused to let this one go.

'The Girl Who Talked To Dolphins' is on BBCiPlayer, and repeated on BBCFour at 1.50am on Wednesday and 11pm on Thursday.

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