TV Zone Special (UK) #35: October 1999 (pp. 30-33)
by David Bassom

 

Following in the footsteps of her mother, Anne Lockhart found herself lost in space as Battlestar Galactica's female fighter pilot, Lieutenant Sheba.

You could say that Anne Lockhart was destined to go missing among the stars. As a young girl growing up in the Sixties, Anne watched her mother, June Lockhart, embark on a magical mystery tour across the cosmos in Irwin Allen's Lost In Space. So it seemed only apt that Anne was thrust into uncharted territory and left searching for the Earth a decade later, in the epic SF saga Battlestar Galactica.

"I remember thinking at the time that I don't think there is another pair of mother and daughter actresses who have both become known specifically for starring in a Science Fiction series," Anne Lockhart tells TV Zone. "And the fact that the shows' storylines did have a connecting link- a similar premise- is really such a coincidence.

"I'm quite sure that I wasn't cast in the role of Sheba because of my mother," she insists. "I mean, nobody ever went, 'Here's another Lockhart. Let's hire her so we can have them both lost in Space.' That was never the reason I was cast in Battlestar Galactica. But it was kind of and odd and rather delightful coincidence."

 

FIRST REFUSAL

Anne Lockhart's involvement with Battlestar Galactica was entirely down to series creator/executive producer Glen A. Larson. Impressed with her work as a guest star in another of his shows, The Hardy Boys, Larson offered Lockhart the role of Athena in Battlestar early in 1978, when the series was in pre-production. Much to everyone's surprise, however, the then-unknown actress decided not to join the multi-million dollar adventure.

"At the time, it was a very preliminary script," she recalls, "And the show was about a lot of men and one gal who occasionally came in and said, 'Don't run off without your laser-guns, boys!'

"I called Glen and I said, 'I'm very flattered that you considered me and wanted me to do this, but I would want to do a good job and I don't think that I'd be very happy doing something like this. It would need a bit more character for me.' He replied, 'Well of course, we can always re-write it and build it up for you', and I said, 'Well that's great, but I have to base my decision on what you have given me now.'

"I think Glen actually respected me for that. Mind you, I was living at home with my mother at the time, and I don't think I had a nickel to my name, so it was a kinda nervy thing to do. I remember thinking to myself at the time, 'Am I nuts?' But somehow it seemed like the right thing to do at that time."

 

SECOND CHANCES 

More than six months passed before the producer contacted Lockhart again about the possibility of appearing in Battlestar Galactica. Following Jane Seymour's decision to leave the show after its first few episodes, Larson decided to create a new female character to take Serina's place and gave Lockhart first refusal on the role. "Glen rang and said, 'I've got an opportunity to write a new character. Are you interested?' And I said, 'Yes'. So he wrote Sheba for me, and she was a wonderful character.

"It worked out so much better for me personally, and I also think for the fabric of the show, because Sheba turned out to be such a strong influence and such a pioneering kind of character in her own way. . . Those days were pretty much the days of 'jiggle' TV; there were a lot of very pretty girls in very short shorts who looked lovely and wiggled a lot. Sheba was different. Starbuck, Apollo, Boomer and Sheba were all equal as warriors and there was no gender discrimination. That wasn't heavily practiced in those days. So she turned out to be a much more rewarding character for me."

As well as providing Battlestar Galactica with a strong and positive female role model, Sheba also served as a love interest for Serina's widowed husband, Captain Apollo (Richard Hatch).

"That was definitely something that was going to be explored," elaborates Lockhart. "In the beginning, the characters had a friction; it was a love-hate kind of thing... Sheba felt a little threatened by Apollo, because she was concerned that he wasn't going to respect her ability because she was female. She was new to the Galactica and had to prove herself. But Sheba eventually got over that.

"The romance didn't really begin to be explored until our last episode, The Hand of God. Before then, we kinda went off into another tangent with the Eastern Alliance and the Borellian Nomen and those kinds of guys.

 

REPORTING FOR DUTY

Lieutenant Sheba made her debut midway through Galactica's first season, in the lavish two-parter The Living Legend (released in British cinemas as Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack). Although joining the cast of any show is usually a daunting experience, Lockhart was made to feel at home from her very first day of shooting The Living Legend.

"Everybody was wonderful," she recalls. "They just opened their arms and said, 'C'mon in. Be part of our family.' I was never made to feel out of place or the new kid on the block or anything like that.

"We were very lucky. There wasn't one bad apple in the bunch, really. Usually you get at least one person you can grouse about. But everybody was just terrific. Lorne {Greene, Commander Adama} really was very fatherly towards all of us; he kind of assumed that role. We were like a family; we giggled, we played, we played jokes on each other, we socialized, we went bowling together... It was really fun. And it was such a joy to be able to have that kind of camaraderie under those conditions.

"When you work 18 hours a day, day after day after day, tempers can get very thin," she admits. "We did have some extremely long days and long nights on that show, especially when we had so many large special effects to do- it takes time to set that sort of stuff up. But I can't think of a day when somebody had a temper tantrum or anything like that."

In addition to The Living Legend, Lockhart points to several other episodes as highlights of her time aboard the Galactica. "The show with Patrick Macnee [War of the Gods] was really a wonderful experience. And actually seeing my name on the same call sheet as Fred Astaire [in The Man With Nine Lives] was a pretty good deal! That was something I never thought would happen in my whole life and it was wonderful.

"My personal favorite episode, as far as the concepts are concerned, was The Hand of God," she reveals. "That one, I thought, had the most interesting and far-reaching concept."

 

MISSING IN ACTION 

Unfortunately, The Hand of God brought Battlestar Galactica's search for earth to an untimely close, as the ABC Network scrapped the series at the end of its first year. According to Lockhart, the show's cancellation came as a complete shock to its cast and crew.

"In those days, the show was like number 25 [in the ratings]," she explains. "We would be a huge hit right now, in comparison... By the end of the season, we had begun to hit our stride. We still were doing very, very well and we thought we would go another year. We were all surprised [by the show's demise]. It was very sad."

 

GALACTICA RETURNS?

In the 20 years since Galactica ceased production, Lockhart has been kept busy by a variety of stage and screen productions. Her extensive credits range from Tell Me That You Love Me, Young Warriors, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to such genre offerings as Quantum Leap, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Bionic Ever After?, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and Blattella. The actress has also pursued a "secret career" as a voice artiste, lending her tones to movies like Total Recall, The Little Mermaid and Starship Troopers.

Away from the cameras, Lockhart has watched the public's interest in Battlestar Galactica enjoy something of a resurgence. Repeats of the show are generating impressive ratings on both sides of the Atlantic, and the series is currently enjoying a full episodic release in the UK, courtesy of Universal Video.

"I think the show's stood the test of time," notes Lockhart. "I think the concepts and the premise are very fresh... It's amazing to see how far ahead of its time the show was. When it was first run, the effects were so stunning and exciting that they kind of dominated your attention. Today, people have got the time now to appreciate the nuance of it."

Inevitably, the continued interest in the show has inspired both the show's creator Glen Larson, and its star, Richard Hatch, to develop a new Battlestar Galactica movie and series respectively. Although the prospects of these two projects remain unclear right now, Anne Lockhart says that she would be happy to leap into Sheba's Viper once again if the Galactica resumed its quest for Earth. The actress clearly cherishes her association with the saga and is particularly proud of its positive affect on viewers.

"I have met people in cities all over the country and the world who were influenced by Sheba," she declares. "I had a woman come up to me and tell me that she decided to learn to fly a plane because of Sheba. And the woman had become a commercial airline pilot!"

"It's wonderful to have done something that has influenced people's lives 20 years down the road."