Spoiler Free Pulse Review

St Timothy’s is one of the UK’s top teaching hospitals, home to some of the country’s most promising trainee doctors. But beneath its veneer of medical normality lies a secret network of dangerous experiments pushing back the boundaries of science with potentially horrifying consequences in this one-off 60-minute medical horror drama written by Paul Cornell.
Hannah Carter’s mother was a consultant at the hospital, but died suddenly a year ago. Grief left Hannah (Claire Foy) teetering on the edge, but following a year off, she’s back to resume her training. But Hannah remains fragile, so when she starts glimpsing peculiar events in the hospital and unsettling behaviour from her ex-boyfriend and star surgeon Nick (Stephen Campbell Moore), she’s unsure what to believe.

Ignoring the pleas of those around her, Hannah puts her sanity on the line to uncover the truth about the hospital.

To sum up Pulse in one word is pretty much impossible so let’s go with part medical drama, part thriller, part horror, part sci-fi and all wrapped in a scary bow labelled conspiracy. If that doesn’t get you intrigued then I’m dead in the water here.

The  combination of Paul Cornell’s excellent writing style and great direction  evoke fond memories of some the excellent UK genre shows such as Ultraviolet and Being Human but at the same time it felt fresh and original.  Pulse has a sense of dread and unease that pervades, pretty much, every scene  and makes from some pretty unnerving watching (in a good way).

The characterisation is handled well with some great dialogue and deft touches of black humour. Given he’s got one pilot to sell the show to the viewer Cornell does a great job in a short space of time of setting up and giving us an insight into the relationships between the characters.  One line in particular from one of Hannah’s friends, another trainee doctor played by Gregg Chillin (from Being Human fame), after an operation was comedy gold and really made me warm to the character. The main character, Hannah, like all the best Heroes/heroines  has  her own inner demons to conquer when’s she’s not busy uncovering that all is not well at St Timothy’s. Her growth from a daughter struggling with her mother’s death and the huge shoes she now has to fill  to reluctant heroine  feels realistic. It would have been easy to start the episode with a massive info dump to give us her background  but instead we are allowed to find out how and why she’s so traumatized as the episode draws on.

There are a lot of characters being juggled in Pulse and all get a fair amount of screen time save one of the female trainee doctors who was pretty forgettable as a character and doesn’t really get much to do. I’m hoping that if this leads to a series this character will get her moment to shine. I don’t want to say too much more about the other characters as it would run the risk of ruining some of the revelations in the show.

One of the great things about Pulse is that it shows that you don’t  need to have buckets of blood and gore (although there are quite a few scenes that are not for the squeamish) to create shocks and elicit the required hide behind the sofa response.  The one scene that made be jump involved no blood whatsoever (then again I am an official wuss).

The plot is tight,well thought out and relatively self-contained. There were a few twists  I saw coming but it didn’t really spoil my overall enjoyment. Although you do get answers by the end of the pilot the last ten minutes and especially the final shot open up a  world of questions and theories that we’re all going to be praying get resolved if the pilot is commissioned for a series. I was also left with  the need to give the episode a second watch  in light of some of the revelations.

The mythology that Cornell hints at in this first episode  is  something I want to see more of so I’ve got my fingers crossed for a series as Pulse definitely has a bright future ahead of it.

The pilot of Pulse will be screened in a BBC3 pilot season in early June

GS Reviewer: Nuge

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