The latest single disc Torchwood release from Big Finish is the darkly provocative tale Instant Karma. It’s a Toshiko Sato tale, and Naoko Mori is in fine form as she explores the nature of power and tests the adage about absolute power corrupting absolutely.
The setup is simple, Toshiko is investigating some strange deaths and attacks on ordinary people. What makes this different is she is alone – she has had a falling out with the Torchwood team, and a threat someone like Jack could have all too easily handled is instead tackled with dignity and quiet perseverance.
Tosh is investigating a self-help group led by Simon (Jonny Dixon) and there befriends Janet (Sara McGaughey). What follows is a philosophical/ethical dance around the subject of power. It explores anger, righteousness, revenge and the ethics of dealing with forces beyond the norm. As Tosh digs deeper into the backstories of Simon and Janet, she herself is increasingly in danger, but this doesn’t stop her doing the best job she can resolving the immediate problem, but like life itself (and many of the best Torchwood stories), without a simple black and white ending. At every turn the plot avoids over-simplifying, yet moves forward in a natural, well-paced manner. As we progress Simon turns from nice guy to villain stepwise, another example of the story’s great pacing and Jonny Dixon brings the character’s anger to the boil just when it’s needed. Meanwhile Janet moves from somewhat downtrodden to something much more, with Sara McGaughey convincing at every stage.
It never rushes and never over-elaborates. We find out just why Tosh is investigating Simon when we need to – Tosh is the hero of the tale, but Simon and Janet get just as much air time as her.
Instant Karma is also a rare outing in this range for director Lisa Bowerman who really helps the cast deliver a tense yet believable story to the best of their abilities.
The story is written by David Llewelyn, James Goss and Jonathan Morris – whatever the reason for three writers the result is a flowing, gripping tale and it’s almost impossible for the listener not to think of what they might do if only they had the power themselves. Thankfully none of us do!