The 20 Yahren Reunion
My Account of the 20 Yahren Reunion
By John Dorsey
This is my account of the 20 Yahren Reunion which I attended in Los Angeles, California from September 4-6, 1998. It was originally posted on the Sheba's Galaxy website. It has been slightly revised.
I spent an entire week in California and stayed at the Universal Hilton Hotel where the convention was held.
On the first day (September 4 - my birthday!), the convention never got going until the early evening. The first two people to show up were John Colicos (Baltar) and Terry Carter (Tigh). They were each presented with a plaque. I was able to get my picture taken with the two of them, as well as their autographs, and I asked Terry what happened to all the Galactica sets after the show was canceled. He said that, as far as he knew, they were all destroyed.
I mentioned to John Colicos about how his legs were crushed in Lost Planet of the Gods, Part II and yet in the next episode he appeared in (The Gun on Ice Planet Zero), all he had was a slight limp. I asked, "Did the Cylons do major reconstructive surgery on you?" He answered, "That's the magic of television. Baltar is indestructible."
Ron Kelly (Reese) eventually walked in, and some people were chanting "Reese! Reese!" He said he was amazed that anyone recognized him. I was a little dissapointed that more cast members didn't show up that night.
Saturday is when the convention really got going. I waited in front of the dealer room for an hour before they let people in, the entire time planning to snatch an autographed Starbuck photo I saw hanging from a wall. I rushed to that particular dealer as fast I could and managed to get his attention before another person who I could tell also wanted the photo. I just barely beat him to it! It's hands down the best Starbuck photo I've ever seen.
One thing that really blew me away was the vast amount of Galactica merchandise I saw. I hadn't realized just how much merchandising had been done for the show. It makes it all the more amazing that Universal didn't keep Galactica going as a series of movies after ABC canceled it. Universal certainly lost millions in merchandising because of this.
I also was happy to find a lot of old Galactica zines for sale, and I bought a lot of them. I would have bought all of them but unfortunately I didn't have room in my luggage to haul that much stuff around! I did buy several of the unproduced scripts such as Two For Twilly (which I got signed my Jim Carlson and Terrence McDonnell, the two guys who wrote it!).
Another thing that was great was an original IL series Cylon robot set up on display. The robe it was wearing was from the Living Legend episode (one of the IL series robots on Gammoray). I don't know if the IL Cylon in the lobby was Lucifer or Spectre or neither, but it was great to see one up close. I asked the owner if it was for sale, and he said only if you could pay $15,000!
Now I'll talk about the guests. It was a lot different here than at the Xena convention I attended in Cherry Hill, NJ only a week earlier. There were about 1500 people at the Xena convention and only 500 at this one. The difference is that you were able to walk up to the guests and actually talk to them! At the Xena con there was absolutely no personalizing with the guests. I still had a fun time, but this was so much better.
It was fun talking to Jim Carlson and Terrence McDonnell. I asked them what a centon was, and McDonnell said that a centon was originally supposed to be an hour, but Glen Larson would continually screw it up in his scripts. One day, they were having a meeting and Glen would sit higher than everyone else. It was his form of "psychological bullsh--" if I remember McDonnell's words correctly. After the meeting ended, McDonnell said to Larson, "I noticed some problems in your script." Larson was like "Well, what?" Larson didn't seem too happy with McDonnell's input, so he never brought it up again.
I talked to some of the special effects people on Friday night and asked if they knew what happened to any of the sets. They said the sets were eventually destroyed (although some of them were repainted and reused on Buck Rogers). Hollywood sets are never built to last. They said that the Galactica bridge set was so cheaply made that someone could (if there was a fire, for example) run right through one of the walls if they wanted to. One of them told me that there was a production company that spent a fortune to put a movie set into storage for nostalgia's sake. When they checked on it six months later, it had completely fallen apart. They also mentioned that the mechanically opening viper hatch was always breaking down (as evidenced in Murder on the Rising Star when Starbuck is going to launch; it closes very sloppily). They also told a story about when they were setting up for Galactica 1980. During a meeting, Glen Larson said, "At least we don't have to build another shuttle." Everyone looked at each other uncomfortably, knowing that the original shuttle was no longer around.
There were several panel discussions over the course of Saturday and Sunday. In the panel with the special effects people, they mentioned that the Galactica model actually caught fire due to a mishap. Back then, it was possible to get into the special effects department if you were just getting out of school. Today, you need experience to break in. They also talked about doing the special effects for Galactica 1980. They were working long hours and would only stop for an hour on Sunday night to watch Galactica 1980. They remembered one time they were watching the end of The Night the Cylons Landed, Part I and they saw the preview for the next week's episode. The scene was shown where the Cylon named Centuri has electricity shooting out of his hand, but there was no real electricity shown because they hadn't done the effect yet! They sat there thinking, "Gee, how are we going to do that?" They also thought it was funny how they would create models out of parts from toy models, and then the toy model manufacturers would simply make toy models of the models they created from the manufacturers' model parts.
Terry Carter (Tigh), Jack Stauffer (Bojay) and Ron Kelly (Reese) sat in on a panel together. Carter mentioned that he currently resides in Holland where he runs a production company that makes mostly educational films for which he has received several awards. He said he appeared on the detective show McCloud for about 7 years, yet he gets far more fan mail for Galactica which only lasted 1 year. If the show had gone a second season, there would have likely been more tension between Tigh and Adama due to their differences in philosophy. Carter said he enjoys acting more than producing films. Carter was originally cast in the role of Boomer, but while roller skating with his daughter on a boardwalk, one of his feet got caught in a hole and his leg snapped like a twig. As a result, Herbert Jefferson, Jr. got the role of Tigh. Fortunately, production of the pilot was held up, and he was able to recover enough to get the role of Colonel Tigh. He wore a brace on his leg which would have been impossible for sitting in a viper. Looking back, he liked the way things turned out and is actually kind of glad the accident happened. Carter also said, "As far as Galactica 1980 goes... Hey, trash is trash." Everyone in the room applauded this.
Ron Kelly said that working on Galactica was the best experience he ever had in TV. He said that Reece was one of the good guys but still a jerk. If the show had gone a second season, he would have still been a jerk and still made trouble for Starbuck and Apollo. Kelly also said he spent a good deal of the time sleeping when he wasn't being used.
I asked the three of them if they believed the show would be canceled at the time. Jack and Ron said that they weren't all that surprised the show was canceled because of all the production chaos. Carter said that he was very surprised the show was canceled. He said that Galactica had problems, but what first year show didn't? I then asked if they thought Galactica 1980 would work when it was first announced. Carter said that he knew it was going to fail because it was clear they weren't going to put the same effort into it. None of them were asked to come back for Galactica 1980. I also asked if they would have done Galactica 1980 if it had been offered to them. Carter said no, Jack gave an embarrassed yes, and Ron said that he actually did read for a part on Galactica 1980 but didn't get it.
It was interesting to see Sarah Rush (Rigel). She looked very different and I would not have recognized her on the street. She said that she made so very little money on the show that she actually worked a second job at the time. She said one of the reasons she got the role was because she could cry whenever someone got blown up. Richard Hatch came on shortly after her and mentioned that he had a crush on her during the show's production. Hatch talked about the event that inspired him to start the revial movement. He was invited to go to a Star Trek con around 1993 and he accepted reluctantly because he didn't believe that anyone would recognize or remember him. At the con, the speaker announced, "Ladies and gentleman! Richard Hatch from Battlestar Galactica!" And he grimaced, expecting everyone to say "Who?" To his shock, he got a standing ovation and a line quickly formed at his table. People kept telling him how much they loved Battlestar Galactica, and it really impressed him a show that lasted one season could affect people in such a way. He kept hearing rumors that Glen Larson and others were going to bring back Galactica, but nobody was doing anything. So he decided to take up the torch himself. Hatch said it is pretty scary to go to meetings with executives to make a pitch to them. They have said to him, "We understand how great Battlestar was. But why do you think people will want to see it today?" At one point, Jack Stauffer walked in, got down on his knees, and yelled, "Richard! Please have me on your show!" That was pretty funny.
John Colicos (Baltar) was very interesting to hear. He said he believed at the time the show would likely be canceled because he heard that the special effects crew had used a camera licensed exclusively to George Lucas and that Fox may have threatened to bring that into the lawsuit if the show wasn't canceled. He said that none of the characters were ever really fleshed out. Personally, he felt that Boxey and Muffit should have been flushed down a waste chute after the first episode. I mentioned to him his role on General Hospital in 1981 as the villain Mikkos Cassadine who fought against Luke and Laura. John said it was interesting that a soap opera like General Hospital would do a science fiction story. John's character used a special device to create a blizzard over Port Charles and was killed when Luke locked him inside a freezing chamber. John said that when his character was locked in the freezing chamber, they shot an alternate scene where he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an anti-freeze tablet! This was hilarious. It was a way to possibly bring the character back, but they never took that direction.
Sadly, Anne Lockhart (Sheba) and Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia) did not show until Sunday afternoon. I got first in line to ask them questions. First, I asked Anne about her voice-over work. She said that she often does computer voices and screams. She is very good at doing loud screams whereas many actresses are not. She said she was one of several people to did all the chimpanzee sounds in the movie Project X. She actually made some chimp sounds which was funny. Next, I asked if they were surprised if the show was canceled, and they both said that they were. Spang said she still had the black outfit she wore in The Living Legend but she couldn't fit into it anymore. They both said that shooting the episode was "so much fun!" Anne was asked if she had read Richard Hatch's book Armageddon. She said she hadn't, but she was glad to hear that Sheba got a promotion! (In Hatch's book, Sheba is a Major instead of a lieutenant) Anne also said that she once showed her kids an episode of BG, and they just shrugged and walked off. Laurette said her kids had some friends over, and she was probably feeling insecure, so she put on a tape of BG. Her kids were totally embarrassed. I left the panel discussion early to get in line for autographs. I wound up waiting almost an hour to get their autographs, and unfortunately only got 1 each. Still, I was ecstatic to get them and I still cherish them to this day!
There were a number of guests who didn't show such as Dirk Benedict (Starbuck), Herb Jefferson Jr. (Boomer), Ed Begley Jr. (Greenbean), John Dullagham (Dr. Wilker), and Kent McCord (Troy from Galactica 1980). I heard that McCord was actually in the hotel lobby, but for some reason he decided to leave. It's too bad because I really wanted to meet him. Fortunately, I would get to meet Dirk and Herb a year later at the GoMainline Galactica Convention.
One of the best things about the convention was meeting other Galactica fans. It's been frustrating over the years to have a love for a show and have almost no one to talk about it with. I met a lot of great people and had fun discussing the show with them. I haven't kept in touch with anybody, but it was a great experience.