Big Finish Review: Torchwood – Instant Karma

The fifth release in the latest run of Torchwood stories from Big Finish sees Naoko Mori’s Toshiko Sato investigate a community support group in Cardiff with connections to some mysterious (and deadly) incidents, where she meets the manipulative Simon (Jonny Dixon) and the everyday Janet (Sara McGaughey). What’s going on behind the scenes?

Instant Karma was written by David Llewellyn, James Goss and Jonathan Morris and was directed by Lisa Bowerman. The release is available from the Big Finish website and goes on general release on September 30th, 2018.

Here's the synopsis...

Imagine. All those people. The ones who make each day that little bit harder. That little bit more unbearable.

Imagine if you could silence them. Just by looking at them.

I mean, just imagine. If you could do that. To all the people who annoy you. Would you do it?

The Review...

In sharp contrast to last month’s rollercoaster of a story, Instant Karma takes a much slower, contemplative pace that wouldn’t be out of place in a 40s noir film. Although still featuring the obligatory otherworldly element, it takes a back seat to the human drama that mostly focuses on the three characters of Tosh, Simon and Janet. The supernatural crux of the plot is used as a vehicle for exploring the nitty-gritty of the lives of that trio of characters.

Tosh starts off a little disenfranchised with her place within the Torchwood Cardiff team, providing a link from the main televised series into this Big Finish drama. Spearheading her own solo investigation for a second time at Big Finish after last year’s Cascade, she attends support group meetings where there has been news of people coming away with headaches, nausea, or worse – one person has died.

She meets the group’s leader, Simon, who is more of the main character than Tosh, owing to how the drama pivots upon his volatile mood swings and angry outbursts just as much as it does on Tosh’s uncovering of some new part of the mystery. Simon reveals himself to be a very unlikable – almost misanthropic – person as the story progresses, and the drama is focused almost completely on his dynamic with Janet and with Tosh.

Each of the characters have multiple layers, and the story dedicates time to revealing these. Instead of jumping from exciting, high-energy plot point to the next as per usual in an episode of Doctor Who/sci-fi drama, Instant Karma cuts between various ostensibly uninteresting urban settings and focuses on the aftermath and repercussions of the large-scale, high-tension moments full of explosions and heads blowing off. Blair Mowat’s score is also minimally used, giving more room to the story’s exploration of cynicism and human cruelty in a quieter, more introspective way.

Ultimately, Naoko Mori features in a very deep, personal and intimate story that has a very downbeat and depressing tone. Instant Karma makes a solid impression and makes you some ponder meaningful questions, like the relationship between kindness and cruelty, and how we should consider the consequences of how we treat our fellow humans – because there could be more to their reaction than meets the eye.

The Extras...

The disk is unfortunately devoid of extras, apart from a trailer for the final release in the current Torchwood run, Deadbeat Escape starring Murray Melvin as Billis Manger.

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