Paul Cornell - Pulse

It’s hard not to like Paul Cornell. A writer of comics, novels and TV shows from Casualty to Doctor Who, he's a smart, enthusiastic and charming bloke to chat to. At least that’s what he seems like on the outside. inside the 42-year-old's head there’s clearly some really strange stuff swimming about... at least there is if his new horror drama Pulse is anything to go by.

Set in a hospital where some dark and bloody things are happening behind the scenes and under the patients’ skin, it's a fantastically gruesome watch. A one-off pilot starring Claire Foy (
Going Postal) and Stephen Campbell Moore (Ashes To Ashes), it airs on Thursday 3rd June on BBC3, but is available to watch now on the BBC3 website. If enough people watch it, it'll get a series. We'd really like to see that happen...


Where's the idea for a horror show set in a hospital come from then?
In many ways, it's strangely obvious. You wonder why nobody's done it before. The medical horror show. When I was on Casualty, we always talked about the plots we'd like to be able to do, but couldn't because... well, it was Casualty. This is the show that does that. This is the show that says 'Going into hospital? What's the worst that could happen?'

This is all really high tech. This is sci-fi horror rather than supernatural horror. There have been medical supernatural shows before and we're not that.

Did the Beeb have any problems with making it that gory?
Well, no, actually. This being post-watershed on BBC3, the word from the top has always been 'Up with the blood!' As well as looking for a mainstream audience, we've also been keen to find and please a horror audience. There's nothing watered down about this. It takes that purely human fear of 'What's going to happen to me?' Fear of the body, fear of hospitals, and just underlines it and pumps it up.

In many ways it's a relationship drama as well as a horror story. These things are the same thing as any genre fan knows. You're sucked into this world and basically hoping, or at least our aim is that you are, that nothing bad happens to these people. And of course it does!

Where did you shoot it?
We took over a corner of the University of Leeds and turned it into this wonderfully dilapidated hospital.

Did you leave loads of red paint on the walls?
I believe there was a decorating bill afterwards! Seriously, that surgery scene? Our aim was to get a beautiful, young, talented cast... and cover them in blood! They weren't quite prepared for how much blood. I've seen many outtakes of leapings up and down and screams!

But they were so into it. The dedication of everyone involved was fantastic. You need commitment when you're going to have a bucketload of blood thrown over you.


How many episodes are you hoping for if the Beeb pick it up?
It’s hard to tell at the moment. We'd certainly be hoping for at least six. We know where it's going. I think that's the most important thing to say about a mystery-conspiracy show. We've been talking about The X Files a lot and we know what the centre of this conspiracy is. So we have an ending in mind.

And what’s next for you? Keeping busy?
I'm writing Action Comics for DC Comics, I've just sold a novel and of course there are various TV things I can't talk about! Most of all, I'd like to make Pulse into a series. There's this feeling of horses being held back a bit. We'd really like to be unleashed and get this to a series. (Ceri Thomas)

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