Welcome to DoWntime’s not-too-regular column, Assessing Stress. That’s where we assess … stress. Or more accurately, talk and debate about the newest episodes to hit the television screen, the new releases from Big Finish, and all these good things.
And today, Tibère and Scribbles take a look at the newest Torchwood monthly story, starring Naoko Mori as Tosh. Smile, and tell us what annoys you (while watching out for the spoilers after the “read more” tag).
Also, while you’re here, you might be interested in checking out the Twelfth Doctor fan audio series supervised by regular site contributor Janine Rivers – the next episode, coming at the beginning of August, was written by Scribbles, if you need any more incentive!
TIBERE: It’s a pretty tricky one to assess, for an obvious reason – look above, see it has three writers, and draw the conclusions that arise from that. We can’t really be sure, because it has no extras (although that can be proof in and on itself), but this feels like a very troubled production that went through loads and loads of drafts and rewriting. Being too harsh on it would then feel a bit like shooting an ambulance – but, well, it’s a really flawed audio, that doesn’t really fix the general downwards direction of the Torchwood monthlies. There are some really neat bits and pieces, but the ensemble doesn’t really hit – it tackles some really tricky subjects, and is overall pretty clueless about them, running in massive tropes and clichés at every turn. There’s an interesting engagement with modern politics in this – but it’s just not really hitting the mark, or saying anything that interesting. It’s a mess, really – not a badly-intentioned one, but not an especially enjoyable or compelling one, considering it deals with some really ugly subjects – but in a deeply flat and uninvolved way. It’s kind of the worst of both worlds that way. Of course, there’s still the charm of Naoko Mori and of the Torchwood range at large, plus Blair Mowat doing some great work with the music, but at the end of the day, it’s just mostly running in circles, searching for a relevance and potency it only manages to reach for seconds, at most.
SCRIBBLES: There are scenes in this story which are inspired. There are also a lot of cliches, a massively tone-deaf moment, and a lot of muddle. None of this particularly fits together. Overall, it doesn’t really even feel like Torchwood much at all. Tosh serves as a generic investigator in the midst of an investigation that is at once too obvious and too convoluted. It could be a story from anything, and in the end, feels like a story about nothing. I find “Instant Karma” difficult to recommend to anyone but a completionist or a person studying drama writing. For the first, it’s another hour of Torchwood, though not a great one. For the second, it’s a good example of how hard it is to save a story when the script just isn’t working. In the end, you’re left with an hour of things happening, all of which signalling to something bigger, but none of which able to agree on what that something bigger even is.