Big Finish Review: Torchwood – Instant Karma

What really annoys you? What really grinds your gears?

For me, people who don’t listen or ignore you and people who chew loudly. Working in retail, I also don’t appreciate people who like to tell me how to do my job, people who are rude or think they’re entitled. People who try to blame me for their mistakes. The list could go on and on! (I’m not a misery, I promise!)

What would you do if you could control that if you could shut people up, if you could make them stop, if you could punish them for the wrongs they’ve done against you? That is the subject that Instant Karma chooses to discuss. How should we vent that anger? Should we do something healthy or should we try to control them? Imagine if you could force them to be silent! Would you do that? Imagine that just by looking at them, they would shut up for one second. Could you really do it?

The cover for Torchwood: Instant Karma
The cover for Torchwood: Instant Karma

Toshiko Sato is on a mission, something to get her away from Torchwood for a while. Following readings from an algorithm she set up looking for strange events, she is led to a self-help group.

There are strange forces and powers surrounding her there, people are using their anger and frustrations against others. But people are getting hurt and the leader doesn’t care.

Tosh finds herself falling further and further in with them until one day there is a tragedy. What seemed like something harmless now has to be dealt with. But Tosh doesn’t want Torchwood involved. She doesn’t want people running in guns blazing. This is something that needs quiet tact and Tosh is just the person…

Instant Karma is one of the latest Big Finish Torchwood releases and it is a dark, provocative and thought-provoking piece of fiction. Taking on the usual format for these releases, it features one member of the original cast, this time Naoko Mori as Tosh has to explore the darker corners of power and how looks at how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

For a Torchwood story, the set up is surprisingly simple. Presumably following on from the series one episode Greeks Bearing Gifts, Tosh has fallen out slightly with her teammates and is looking for things to do on her own. She is the perfect candidate for this mission then, unlike Jack who would gun them all down, she has the perseverance and dignity to deal with this case.

Naoko Mori is on fine form as Tosh, effortlessly bringing the character back to life. She always was one of my favourite characters on the show but she never really got time to shine, unlike the rest of her teammates, so a solo outing for her is something that I looked forward too.

Sharing the limelight are her other two co-stars for this piece, Jonny Dixon and Sara McGaughey put in some terrific performances and the trio work excellent together. None of them, for one moment, make you feel like this is something that isn’t real. Surrounding the trio is a very poignant story about the nature of power. As the story rattles along, Tosh finds out more and more about her co-star’s backstories and finds herself in increasing danger. But in typical fashion, she doesn’t allow any of this to stop her from completing the mission and like many Torchwood episodes, the ending isn’t just black-and-white.

What is particularly interesting is that this story comes from THREE authors. David Llewellyn, James Goss and Johnathan Morris. This is where one wishes that this story had come with some bonus extra interviews. It would have been very interesting to see how these three tackled such a story with an hour-runtime.

As well as exploring power, the story also touches on elements of anger, righteousness and revenge before becoming a powerful exploration at the nature of loneliness. How in hell three authors managed this without treading on one another’s toes or over-elaborating. And it never feels rushed. We find out the truth of the situation, at the right time for Tosh to find out.

The exploration of power in literature is nothing new and, these days is something that has been overdone. But here, those elements feel brand-new and exciting again. Llewellyn, Goss and Morris have taken power back to its roots.

At the end of the day, ‘power’ is in the hands of the everyday person. If you can do something, does that always mean you should? In these modern times, with the world the way it is, that is something that needs to be explored again.

Instant Karma also features some strong direction from Lisa Bowerman, someone who, as well as being one of the best actors at Big Finish has quickly become one of their finest directors. Bowerman always manages to get fantastic performances out of her cast and Instant Karma is no different as there isn’t a lacklustre performance from anyone. Congratulations should be given to all.

You might have guessed that I certainly enjoyed Instant Karma. Everything about it was excellent. The themes and tones from the writers, the strong direction and the fantastic performances. Toshiko was always one of my favourite characters from the original series and so long as Big Finish keeps giving Naoko Mori strong scripts like this, she always will always burn the brightest in the Torchwood Hub.


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?

Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners

Written By: David Llewellyn, James Goss and Jonathan Morris
Directed By: Lisa Bowerman


Naoko Mori (Toshiko Sato), Jonny Dixon (Simon), Sara McGaughey (Janet), Duncan Wisbey (Jolly Otter), Simon Ludders (Policeman), Ross Ford (Chav), Liz Sutherland-Lim (Daphne). Other parts played by members of the cast.

Producer: James Goss
Script Editor: David Llewellyn
Executive Producers: Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs


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