Review by Michael Goleniewski
Near Cardiff Bay, there exists a lone cafe that has been there for quite a long while and headed by a man named David who has been deeply affected by the odd goings-on in the area. One morning, a young man named Ianto Jones wanders in looking for a good Americano whose life is about to change forever. Over time, relationships begin to be formed and with people going missing regularly along with rumours of a secret organisation being spread, things are about to get even weirder for David and the Baps café……‘Coffee’ is a quiet little Torchwood adventure that looks at the onscreen history of the spinoff from an entirely unique angle. The script covers most of the major events of Seasons 1 and 2 from Ianto’s hiring all the way through the coming of Abbadon, Harold Saxon, John Hart, and more in the background of a simple premise of watching a small business trying to survive. A bit of background knowledge of other stories is kind of expected going into it and it’s not an easy one for casual fans to jump into like some of the others released in the Torchwood Main Range. But the simplicity of the premise and the narrative that gets tenser as time passes by more than makes up for it and the sound design that encompasses the area in and around the cafe is wonderfully crafted though there are plenty of loud explosions and details when events start to go into much larger territory.
Where James Goss’s writing really succeeds however is how it takes a hard look at how a normal small business is affected by the far bigger chaos of what’s going on around them and the ups and downs of the associated friendships therein. Shaun Chambers’ David is really the central focus of things as the script watches him slowly deteriorate and be driven into heartbreak and devastation while Sarah Griffin as Kathy the serving maid adds a nice little bit of heart to the story at various needed points. Meanwhile, Gareth David-Lloyd’s Ianto serves as a strong link to something far bigger than what David and Kathy are expecting while they in turn spend time with Ianto himself learning about and discovering why he does what he does in the job despite all the hardships and failures involved. Chambers and David-Lloyd at times sound a little bit too similar performance-wise for this reviewer’s liking at times but their relationship is believable and remarkably interesting to follow with a lot of energy and love to it. Within the friendship of these three people are several well-handled little moments that show a different side to what has happened throughout the series and some lovely bits of dialogue surrounding the power of a good cup of coffee especially as things come to a heart-breaking conclusion once the events of ‘Children of Earth‘ kick in.
‘Coffee’ then is a very welcome and extremely unique trip down memory lane revisiting the tumultuous history of Torchwood Cardiff from an ordinary person’s perspective who just so happens connected to a long-time fan favourite of the series itself. Touching, heartbreaking, funny, and engaging in rapid succession and backed by a great trio of performances including the always exceptional Gareth David-Lloyd, it is an interesting little tribute to what has come before for the spinoff that’s a bit inaccessible to newcomers but still brings something new to the table to shake things up for long-time fans who’ve been with the show since the very beginning.
— 8 / 10
Download/buy here: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/torchwood-coffee-2148