Instant Karma

Posted in Audio by - August 01, 2018
Instant Karma

Released July 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

The seventh televised episode of Torchwood, ‘Greeks Bearing Gifts’ allowed Toshiko Sato the opportunity to discover firsthand just how complicated humans can be as she tried to reconcile thoughts and actions with an alien pendant that allowed her to hear the thoughts of others. With Toshiko still hurting from the thoughts of her team directed at her, ‘Instant Karma’ takes that notion a step farther and explores just what might happen if a person had the ability to definitively act upon the darker thoughts that pervade everyday interactions with just a single look.

Toshiko is, of course, wholly committed to her job as well, and her algorithm and investigation into a series of mysterious deaths by organ failure and one exploding head lead her to a support group led by bus driver Simon. Jonny Dixon gives a powerful performance as this man who struggles to cope with the mundanities of life, and the subtle nuances he introduces as Simon slowly gives into his inner anger and the temptation of his power more and more frequently with devastating consequences are superbly done. Wisely, the script does not go out of the way to paint Simon as an angelic figure, and it’s this everyman quality and the very familiar thoughts he has that helps maximise the impact of their fallout, realised wonderfully in a shocking moment for his one companion who would never leave his side or ask him questions.

‘Instant Karma’ is a tense, psychological thriller centred around morality and power that unfolds through the eyes of those around Simon, and the pacing is balanced well to enable a thorough exploration of the thoughts and actions of everyone involved. To this effect, Sara McGaughey is wonderful as Simon’s friend Janet whom Toshiko quickly befriends at the meetings, and the journey her character goes through as she strives to remain loyal to her friend while also accepting the horror of what he is able to do as he stokes the collective anger of the group to further attack is a suitably engaging and emotional one to behold even within the brief time limit of this single story that refuses to provide simple solutions or a happy ending.

Big Finish continues to allow Naoko Mori the chance to come into the spotlight and further develop her character who was too frequently more of a background presence on television, and she once more steps up ably to deliver a truly emotional performance that shows her vulnerability while also proving what a uniquely intelligent and empathetic presence she is within the Torchwood universe where more direct means of action are usually taken. It should come as no surprise that the darker questions and tones resonate so well under Lisa Bowerman’s confident direction given that the powerhouse trio of David Llewellyn, James Goss, and Jonathan Morris all contributed to the script, but it’s the very fact that there were so many voices involved in its creation that makes the singular focus crafted from so many layers within ‘Instant Karma’ even more impressive. It doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of some of its predecessors and could have benefitted from just a little more running time to even better develop Simon’s true nature and Janet’s reactions, but the themes and questions on display are Torchwood at its finest and present another strong instalment with an uneasy resolution that will assuredly leave an impact.

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