GALACON Q&A

Galacon (Norfolk, Virginia): May 1986
ANOMALY 9: 1986 (published copy)
by Susan J. Paxton

 

Q: Richard, what have you been up to lately? I havenít seen you in anything.

RH: Neither have I! Thatís so sad! We, Anne and I, we worked together a while back on a New Love, American Style. Matter of fact, our episode is beingÖwhat?

AL: Itís been submitted for an Emmy.

RH: Itís been submitted for an Emmy? I didnít know that... Iíve been working on a movie that I wrote myself with three other writers and Iím producing it, and hopefullyÖI think I said this three cons agoÖI have to say this, putting together a movie is not an easy thing, it takes time, and Iíve had my money fall in and out about four times and hopefully this time I think Iíve got my money so I can go out and direct my first feature. So thatís what Iíve been doing with my time.

Q: Whatís it called?

RH: The title? Itís The Man Who Never Came Home. In any case, hopefully if I get to film it this year, it should be out sometime next year, soÖlook forward to that.

Q: (To Anne Lockhart) What are you working on now?

AL: What am I working now? Well, Iíve just done another New Love, American Style... Iíve done about four of them now.

RH: Why you and not me?

AL: I donít know!

Q: I donít think you could do her parts.

AL: Oh, very good...

RH: It could be my greatest chance yet!

Q: Are there any plans for a Battlestar Galactica movie?

RH: You know something? I donít know why they donít think of that. I meanÖitís about timeÖhow long was it between Star Trek, the series and the movie?

AL: About twenty years, Richard.

RH: Oh. Weíre gonna be old... Ah, we have about fourteen years to waitÖwhen did we come out first of all, 78, 79? Thatís nearly ten years. Oh good, we only have another what, four years?

(Grace Lee Whitney was also at the Q & A and one of her questions led into a discussion of how different characters are featured in different episodes)

RH: Itís interesting, from the Galactica movie, there was a girl who played, I canít remember her name, played the lady at the console who was always doing the viper launch...

AL: Sarah. (Sarah Rush, Rigel)

RH: Sarah, yeah. She worked one day, and I mean, itís like every show, she was on screen all the time. You never know when youíre in a movie, you could have the largest part in a movie and end up having the smallest part, or you could have no part and end up being on screen more than somebody who is a major lead. Itís really interesting, ícause once you get in that cutting room anything can happen, so you learn to be real nice to everybody.

AL: I remember my first episode, which was the two-parter with Commander Cain... there are pieces of film which they will shoot and reuse constantly every episode, and the first time they had to shoot me in the viper cockpit, shooting out of the Galactica, they gave me my helmet and said, hereís what you have to doÖI had to lean back, like the gravity was forcing me back in my seat. Well, they started filming and I pushed myself back with all of my strength, hit my helmet, it flew up and hit me in the face, and that scene is in several episodes. I felt sooo stupid. The next time I did it I figured out to keep my head down and sent my back into the back of my seat instead of my head. And one other time, I canít remember which episode, the title or anything, when we were flying in our vipers, it was never our hands firing, once they put in a black manís hand for me, so I go, "I have him in my sights!" and this huge hand hits the buttonÖit looks so weird. It was obviously the hand they used for Boomer, Herb Jefferson, but for some reason, I guess they were in a hurry that day and the editing got all mixed up. I canít remember what show itís in, I saw it a long time ago, so youíll have to watch carefully.

Q: Did you know theyíd just released some Battlestar Galactica episodes on video?

AL: You know, I just found that out... and you know from all our shows they cut twelve two hour movies? I found out that all twelve are for sale in Venezuela.

RH: Yeah, they cut Galactica up into about a thousand different ways.

AL: Every now and then theyíll have one on a Sunday afternoon and I sit and watch it because Iím dying to know whatís going to happen. Iíll be watching one show where I got shot and thinking, oh yeah, I blew it in this one, didnít I? And then five minutes later I come in and Iím fine and theyíve cut out the part where I got shot and theyíve edited all these pieces together so they make a completely different story which makes absolutely no sense.

Q: Captain Apollo, how come they didnít try to match him up with Sheba?

RH: Didnít they? Where were you, when the lights went out? We had kind of a romance...

AL: They decided to make us argue.

RH: Right.

AL: To underline the tension, you know. Finally, in the last episode we worked it out.

RH: Sure, sure. I didnít get any for thirteen months. I really believe today that if Iídíve just once it wouldíve changed my whole career. Seriously, that really was a major frustration of mine; this poor man, he never gets any. I mean, thereís no romance in his life. They bring Sheba in, but they never really develop that story. Starbuck gets laid every single show, and I have to watch it every single Sunday night, you know?

 

(later in the con Richard Hatch had a solo Q & A session)

Q: Are you interested in science fiction?

RH: I hate science fiction, donít know? No, actually I love science fiction, Iíve read science fiction since I was a little kid. I got straight Fs in school because all I was doing was, during class Iíd be sitting there reading science fiction and I always had a fantasy, just like everybody else, of going up into space, doing all those wonderful things, and when I saw Star Wars I felt like somebody had beat me to it. I actually auditioned for Star Wars. I met George Lucas in a little teeny room over onÖat Burbank Studios and it was the weirdest experience Iíve ever had. Usually when you go in for an audition thereís five or ten people in there and the lights are on, itís very bright, and you go over there, sit down, they talk to you and you do a reading. This time I opened the door and it was dark, and there was one of those little hanglights, you know, those lights that hang down from the ceiling you only see in mystery movies, you know, and detective movies, where the lights are on top of you and theyíre interrogating you. Well, this lightís there like this, way down low, and behind this light, in the shadows, is this guy, and I canít see who this guy is. Thereís just one guy sitting back there like this and the lightís overhead, you know, so you get this weird lighting effect... and Iím just sitting there wondering who the hell this is and this little voice starts speaking to me, and the first thing I hear is, "Youíre an eight... but an hour from now you could beÖa two." I, uh, with that I said, "Thank you very much," and I left, and as I was leaving I ask some guy who worked at the studio, who was that, and he said, that was George Lucas. He likes to rate people, he gives them a rating, and thatís the reason he doesnít say much. So, he normally gives you a number, he rates you, and depending on how things go, who comes in between you and later, your rating can either go up or down. So obviously I became a two after that traumatic experience. I ran into him a short while later -millions of dollars later- when I went in to audition for Raiders of the Lost Ark and I reminded him of this experience. I tried to come over with a little joke, I thought maybe Iíd make him laugh. Not surprisingly I didnít get that movie. Iím not so sure it was because of that or... obviously I stayed a two.

Q: Walter Koenig at a con once said when he was making Star Trek ó The Motion Picture, when he was on the bridge he felt it was so realistic it could almost take off right there and then. Was it the same with Battlestar Galactica on the bridge?

RH: Well, when we first saw the control room it was... it was an incredible set, it was an over $2,000,000 set and they had over $1,000,000 worth of computers in there and we had all the little computer games that everybody else got two years later. Brilliant! All the hardware and everything, we had all that stuff, and all the computers were for real, all operating, and all the other people that were working on the bridge, the extras and actors alike, we loved every moment we had, nobody was bored because everybody was playing all the computer games, and they had over 100 of them in there, so we had more fun than anybody Iíve ever known, we had the happiest set around, playing with all these incredible sophisticated games, so yeah, technically it was a wonderful set. They spent a lot of money on that show. I guess one of the problems they had was they spent so much money. I donít think money is what makes a show good, I think itís actors; good acting, good stories. You can have the most wonderful sets, but if you donít have the rest of it, you donít have anything.

Q: (inaudible)

RH: To tell you the truth, when we look at something with hindsight we appreciate it a lot more than we do when the show comes out. Star Trek was a bomb when it came out. The first year it bombed, it got very poor ratings. Battlestar... no show during its first year can find itself. It takes a good year just for the shakedown period, to work out all the kinks, to find out which characters can do what, and which characters belong together and which ones donít, and find the chemistry of the show. The special effects... the first part of them were being done through ILM, with John Dykstra, and then during a period of time they were switching over to their own (Universalís) special effects laboratory, meaning John Dykstra was very instrumental in setting up the whole special effects lab for Universal, and during the period of switching from one to the other they kept reusing the stuff they had shot. Too, itís very expensive to do effects, but, like I said, the first year, itís a shakedown period. The second year we would have had a chance to do it a little bit better. I thought by the end of the season we were starting to develop some very interesting shows, but unfortunately we neverÖbecause they didnít have science fiction writers for the first year, we had all the writers for all the Westerns that were on television... but they were talking about bringing in Asimov as the head story consultant for the show next year, which would have meant we would have had some very, very good science fiction stories. I think every show should be a balance of good story, good characters, good acting, and good special effects. I think that by the second year we would have had that. But unfortunately, they just didnít give us a second year. They always do that with science fiction, isnít that the truth?

Q: (someone mentions the Nielson ratings)

RH: You know, I really would love to just sit down with them for a second and find out the real reason. I see shows that are twenty points further down the line get picked up. I think the money probably is the problem, because nobody wants to spend more money than they have to. So, they pick up a show thatís twenty points lower just because itís cheaper. Science fiction is expensive, so... See, the problem is, ABC, the network, doesnít usually cut into the promotional merchandise. Science fiction is a wonderful merchandise medium, you can make millions of dollars out of the merchandising, but itís usually the studio or production company that really makes those dollars, the network doesnít. See, the network has a really expensive show and theyíre not reaping the benefits of the merchandising market, so it means if the producers or the production company or Universal had been more willing to share the profits from the ancillary markets and the merchandising markets and all the other markets with ABC, maybe they would have kept the show on, but everybodyís greedy, unfortunately, so thatís what happened.

Q: (would he be willing to consider appearing in a Battlestar Galactica movie, or has he had enough of Battlestar Galactica?)

RH: Well, no, if something was good, I would consider it. I think itíd be great to do a Battlestar Galactica movie. I think we should do that. Donít you?

Q: You said you thought Battlestar Galactica would have progressed much further if youíd been given a second year. What did you think about the decision to take it and make it the next generation?

RH: Well, they werenít going to do that, they were going to do a Galactica 1980 but they were going to do it with Dirk and myself, they asked us to do it, but we both couldnít do it, so they changed the concept a little bit, brought some new characters in... but even if we came back, I donít know what they wouldíve done, I really donít. They certainly were doing it for less money and it really showed.

 

(On Sunday, Richard and Anne had another Q & A)

RH: Galactica was a pretty meaningful time of my life, because it really was the biggest thing I had done in my career up until that time. And it was also one of the most difficult shows I had ever shot. I originally turned down a reading for Galactica. I said, I donít want to do Star Wars on television, I felt they had really done the best thing they could do with that show and how really could they improve it? And Iíve always been an actor whoÖI like doing something new and challenging, so... In any case, what I wanted to say was that I turned down the reading for which thousands of other actors were going to audition... six months later a limousine pulled up in front my little, uh, abode, and Glen Larson was taking me out to dinner. Now, the strange thing is, you can go audition for something and they see so many faces that you get lost in the shuffle, but sometimes you say no, itís a funny thing, then they come back and offer it to you. And he offered me the role six months later. My problem with the show was that you always want... if youíre a science fiction fan whoís been reading science fiction like I have, you want science fiction and towards the end of the season they began negotiating with Asimov to come in and head up a whole new team of writers. Iím just sorry we didnít get a second year, really have an original science fiction writer come in and begin to write for the show. If you liked the show the first season, then we really could have done some terrific things the second season. I guess they donít really realize how many science fiction fans are out there, you know? So maybe next time a science fiction show comes on, everybody has to mobilize and really make the networks aware of how much they want science fiction, and maybe we could get a decent science fiction show on the air and have it stay on the air this time.

AL: Itís interesting that you and I both had the experience of turning it down the first time. I did the same thing, I turned it down and six months later or eight months later I ended up having the role of Sheba written for me. The previous time Iíd said no, I didnít want to play the first role Glen offered to me, and the role of Sheba was much more well-rounded, a much fuller role, it worked out much better for me than it would have done. I was much happier to play the role of Sheba rather than the first role that was offered me. Galactica was really important for me too, and it still is. It was the biggest thing Iíd ever done at that point in my work and I... it was difficult to shoot, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about it as difficult is that in the ten months we were outside two days, out of ten months. We were inside, in the dark, on a sound stage in the dark, for the entire time. I got all pasty white with it; I like to be out in the sun. In my one hour at lunch I would go and walk around outside, because it would be dark when Iíd get to work and dark when Iíd leave. But the feeling of all of us really, we were like a family, a real close family. Usually thereís always one bad egg, you know, but there wasnít anybody in this group of people who didnít get along had have a good sense of humor, so when the times got tough and the hours were long we all managed to enjoy it. I missed that very much when we finished. I missed the fact that I was not going to be able to see this family. And every now and then when I see reruns it brings it all back.

Q: What did you think of Galactica 1980?

AL: Well, I donít know... when Boxey grew up into Adam-12, I really got worried... and that long white beard on Lorne...

RH: And Herb...

AL: Yeah, the snow that went in Herbís hair! And everybody else died fighting the war. I thought it was pretty bad, frankly. I watched one episode and was so offended that I never watched another one. (to Richard) What did you think about it?

RH: I think you summed it up pretty well!

Q: We hear a lot of stories about practical jokes on the Star Trek set. Were there any on Galactica?

AL: Are you kidding? Do you remember the game, where Richard and Dirk had to wear those little costumes...? Triad, right, yeah, and they put these guys into little, sexy little French bikinis, you know? And it was terrible... they marched out on set and we all went (spluttering noise). Very embarrassing for these two poor guys. There was a scene at the end of the show where they go in, theyíre standing in the doorway ready to go in and play the game, and Cassiopiea and I are standing behind Our Guys, you know, being supportive there, and, just as they walk in, the two of us took our thumbs and goosed them.

RH: A perfect fit, too.

AL: Dirk started laughing and just sort of fell out of frame, and HE continued to act as if nothing was wrong, he kept doing this until finally everybody was laughing so hard that he finally broke down... that little piece of film always gets me.

RH: One of the biggest, well, kind of practical jokes was, there was an episode written for Dirk, and I got the episode and I... I was a little upset. I felt they were, you know, knocking Captain Apollo. I felt they were really pushing him aside and I said, I think itís time that HE had a story, that you did something for this character rather than just letting him give orders and go march around the ship. So he, Glen said, youíre right, we really should, we need a story with Captain Apollo going down to HIS planet. So, about two hours later, the script Iíd had, featuring Dirk, arrived at my house, and it had been... the two characters of Captain Apollo and Starbuck were simply interchanged, theyíd put my name where Starbuck was and put Starbuck where Apollo was. And I immediately got into the car and was seeking out Dirk to apologize, because I simply had no idea, I thought, down the road, the next story, maybe a couple of stories later heíd write one for Captain Apollo. He didnít do that, he just took the very story that had probably been in Dirkís hands, heíd been going "what a wonderful script I have here!" and two hours later he gets a script where he was now Captain Apollo and Iím Starbuck and literally he has not changed any lines. In any case I was very embarrassed and I found him at a party and I explained the whole situation to him and how sorry I was and he said, well, I understand, I just think you should go to Glen Larson and ask him to reverse it, put it back the other way. So I tried to find Glen Larson, and I told him, I appreciate the gesture, but the next time will you be a little more subtle? Sometimes you want to expand your character, you want to bring in new dimensions to the character and they gave Captain Apollo the chance to do a few things that he didnít normally do on that show because, as you all know, Starbuck got to run around and have fun with the ladies and Captain Apollo... kind of had fun with himself... and from that time on they actually began to change, not change the characters, but to give Starbuck a little bit of the Captain Apollo quality and Captain Apollo a little bit of the Starbuck qualities, and they started to make the characters more well-rounded, and I appreciated that.

AL: You remember the script with Red-Eye? It was written by Donald Bellisario and it was actually Shane? Did any of you ever watch Tales of the Gold Monkey? I got to do an episode of Tales of the Gold Monkey and they gave me the script... it was Red-Eye, it was that same script, except that instead of being a robot it was a Japanese soldier, and heíd just moved everything back to 1936. I walked in and I said, this is awfully familiar, and HE said, I was writing it in a hurry, you know, what can I tell you?