Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gaia's Voyages

Gaia's Voyages is an ongoing space opera written by Elaine Barrett set in the Earth's future after a near environmental collapse. Gaia is a spaceship that operates effectively as some kind of zoological science vessel. It's not quite certain exactly what it's role is in the show, but according to the Encyclopedia Gaiactica (nice pun!) it seems to be a war vessel with a highly developed capability to transport alien life form and a mandate from the Galactic Confederation to protect and save species and cultures from environmental disasters- kind of a United Nations/Red Cross starship. Gaia's Voyages used to be hosted by Misfits Audio but has now found a home at Broken Sea. As well as penning the tales, Ms. Barrett also produces, directs, and stars in them as Captain Elizabeth Monroe.
Website
The design is simple and one found all through the Broken Sea website. Links to other Broken Sea shows are lined down the right, with the shows- operating with the most recent on the top- taking the main page. There are two other links, one for the Encyclopedia and the other for an About page.
The website gives you everything you need to know about the show including nicely detailed show notes that give a synopsis as well as credits. Rating 5/5

Audio Drama Type- Modern Theater
Right down to the long distance actors and sound effects with music, Gaia is typical of the modern sci-fi series you can hear today.


Acting Type: Long Distance Amateur 
With the exception of Ms. Barrett herself, the rest of the Gaia crew and guest stars are all long distance players. While some are experienced audio favorites like Mark Kalita, David Ault and Bruce Busby, there are a lot of other actors that have shown some real talent. Melissa "Mippy" Johnson is a real find as the voice of Gaia, and James Rossi as Zeet have some great vocal qualities. Ms. Barrett herself plays a good captain, although at times she tries to sound a little too clever for her character and that can distance herself from the audience that wants to like her. Heroes generally need to present a kind of vulnerability to draw others in. The acting has some interesting vocal tricks and mimicry of different animals, but sometimes can come across as too over the top to be believable. There is a sense that as a directorial role, Ms. Barrett prefers the bigger the better, and the wilder the more fun. This isn't always a good choice. Sometimes silence can say far more than a big personality in a good audio play. Rating 3.5/5


Production Type: Detailed
 Gaia's Voyage started off rockier in Misfit's Audio. Ms. Bennett was obviously a newbie getting to know her way around production. As with many new production people she has swung a little too far to the other side and overproduces the work. With Audio Drama every sound must have a purpose or you become a victim of noise clutter. Hearing the newly mastered versions of her old shows in Broken Sea presents that clutter at times. There is music in the background that does not set the mood, nor provide tension. It seems to be there like many elements of Gaia's Voyage, because its sounds cool on its own and therefore must be fit in.
Vocal effects like that of the Zeet character sound overly used and flicker in and out from highly processed to nothing at all. Since Zeet is meant to be a mechanical being this seems highly unlikely.
Sometimes standard sounds can be your friend, like stereotypical characters and settings. They can quickly attune your audience to a character and a time and place. Ms. Barrett needs to be sparing with how unique her sound is, and focus on keeping the suspension of disbelief in place. Rating 2/5

Writing
The writing is clunky at times, suffering from classic "over writing". Over writing is when an author tries to pack too much dialogue into a scene. One of the lines I remember most is from one of the first episodes and wasn't edited when it was remastered for Broken Sea. It mentioned an image in her head hurting her head. A big "no-no" in writing piece is to make certain you do not use the same word repeatedly in the same paragraph let alone the same line. Repetition should be used sparingly and with powerful effect.
Also, Ms. Barrett loves to play with sexual innuendos and suggestive language. It seems a little out of place for people working in some kind of service to be so unprofessional with each other at all times, especially the Captain. The use of these elements seem to be a little self serving on the side of Ms. Barrett and tends to diminish what is actually a rich background universe and series of interesting plots.
The characters of Gaia are similarly interesting, but need to be less overt. Almost every character in the show is broadly drawn and can be almost cartoonish at times with their heavy-handed antics. There's a reason why the curtains on a stage are never completely full drawn back during a show. Give us something to wonder about, and keep the mystery- the central focus of any story- going. Rating 2/5

Additional Notes
I get the feeling that Gaia has one thing going for it that most other shows do not- that being the abundant energy of the show runner. Elaine Barrett loves this series and shows no sign of tiring of creating new shows. While the production has slowed at times, from the sounds of things her fans can expect many more shows to come.

Over All Rating
Gaia obviously owes itself a lot to Star Trek as do many science fiction audio drama shows today. It's a child of the belief that mankind can step out of its shadow and do something good for the cosmos. But it doesn't forget that individually we're all pretty mired in our passions and hatreds. Gaia has a lot of potential, and I see the production and writing improving with each show. Ms. Barrett infuses her own sentiments on the series, and you see strong characterization and budding love interests that you might not see on other shows. Rating 3.5/5 

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