Battlestar Galactica fandom “has only grown” says star

Richard Hatch tells SciFiNow how the original Battlestar Galactica became part of TV history

Richard Hatch
Richard Hatch (centre) as Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica

With the release of the original, groundbreaking Battlestar Galactica on Blu-ray, SciFiNow had the opportunity to talk to Apollo himself, Richard Hatch, about his experiences on the show, its incredible legacy, and what it’s like having starred in both the original and the new classic.

How did Battlestar Galactica come into your life?

Well right after The Streets of San Francisco I did Whatever Happened to the Class of 65? which was an anthology series. I played a role of a coach, with a young Rosanna Arquette who was 18 at the time. That two-hour production was actually one of the main reasons that I got the Battlestar audition. I was looking for something meaningful to do, so I turned it down at first. Glen A. Larson wanted me for whatever reasons so after a very intense negotiation with my agent I got the role. I was shocked. I got the role the same day I had to arrive on set.

The production was so big, with film crews from across the world on set. I had no idea it was this big, I had no idea it was this important and I truly was terrified. And my name was at the top. We spent the next 18 months shooting on the backlot of Universal, filming almost seven days a week, 16 hours a day. I didn’t have much of a home life, but we basically put together those 24 hours that made TV history.

What did you like about the concept behind the series?

I was on a project all about family. We all just really liked each other and we were on set so long each day. To get this massive production completed for the weekly airings on ABC was a huge task. I thought it was groundbreaking and touched an audience in such a powerful way that even that single year has never been forgotten. There are millions of fans all over the world. I travel the world continuously and all the marketing and games and toys are still being made to this day.

Why do you think it connected with so many people?

We reached an audience that went well beyond the hardcore sci-fi people. Much like Star Wars, it touched regular people from all walks of life and all ages. Battlestar was a show that the whole family could watch. Yes, it was set in space but it was about characters and relationships, and people surviving the impossible and people connected with that. I travel the country and I see generations of fans who have passed these DVDs and Blu-rays down to their families.

Conventions have become really iconic and everyone comes to promote their projects – studios, networks, game companies. I see three generations who still love Battlestar at these cons. We have the biggest room for my Battlestar panels at Comic Con and we pack it. Same at DragonCon. I’ve been blown away by the longevity and the lasting impact it has had.

The design of the Cylons was truly iconic
The design of the Cylons was truly iconic

Do you ever see fans in costume as your character?

Cosplay is this whole new revolution into. The nice thing about it, is that it’s for fans of all ages. They dress up and make their costumes and, I hate to say it but in some cases they make them better than the studios did. I’ve seen a whole array of costumes made by fans, and someone walking around with my jacket. Studios auction off props, so I get to see some of my own clothes being worn. Especially from the reimagined show but sometimes costumes from the original, too. You have no idea what fans bring to me at conventions. Every comic book, every toy – oh my god it’s unbelievable.

Your character, Captain Apollo, was a classic ‘good guy’ and he was also a single father. Was that challenging to portray?

Well to tell you the truth no, because I have a son myself. I was in that kind of psychological place of loving that family structure. It was great exploring it on the show and I loved having Lorne Green as my father. We connected and I became part of his family.

As shows develop and evolve they get more into the complexities and underbelly of the story. The Post-apocalyptic story is a powerful one but networks at that time were not able to go as deep into that subject matter as they’re able to do today. Nevertheless we were able to touch on some very powerful of things and move people profoundly.

You were a vocal advocate for the show during the 1990s. Could you tell us about The Second Coming trailer you made? 

Back in 1999 I had written a series of Battlestar stories and I started pitching them and then I think Universal heard about me. At the time the Sci Fi Channel was just beginning and they were using Battlestar Galactica as their lynchpin to launch it. Game companies were interested in licensing Battlestar to produce comic books and games – it was unheard of for a 20-year-old series.

And so Universal was aware of me and they started putting me with these companies – these licensees making new Battlestar products. I started writing Battlestar comic books and I put together a deal to make a CD-ROM game. Nobody made trailers without the movie, but we did. We took it to cons and started getting calls from all over the world. Ultimately it led to Glen A. Larson working on a new series based on the Pegasus and I had been called to develop a new series as well. There was a whole bunch of things going on in that time.

It was all part of a step-by-step relaunch of the franchise. We kind of started it going round the conventions with The Second Coming, building interest and getting the studio to realise how many fans were out there. I didn’t realise there were so many Battlestar fans out there either – it blew me away. I thought ‘it’s been years, there’s probably not that many’.

The Sci Fi Channel helped to really relaunch it too and when I went to conventions we were getting standing ovations from Star Trek fans. It just kind of snowballed. We had thought to get a remake of the original series, but they decided not to go in that direction so there was a lot of controversy and a lot of fan upset in the beginning.

Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek in the new Battlestar Galactica
Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek in the new Battlestar Galactica

Why do you think Battlestar Galactica still resonates with people, both the classic show and the Ronald D. Moore reimagining?

It’s interesting because I travel everywhere to talk to the fans, and I’m in both shows. There are some that love one show and hate the other, and fans that love both. Loyal fans of the original series have slowly opened up and realised how wonderful [the reimagining] is and that it doesn’t make sense to compare two shows made 25 years apart. These are two wonderful series in their own timeframes.

Fans of the new series have gone back to watch the original and realised what it was about, and how it inspired a generation. Those loyal fans are the heart, the soul, the spirit of Battlestar Galactica. They connect with it in a special way and pass it down from generation to generation. I have whole families who want to talk to me and show the collectibles they have.

Conventions have become so massive. They’re every weekend all over the country, all over the world and they are represented by every show. Directors, writers, producers and actors like me get a chance to touch the pulse of the fandom that loves this show. And it hasn’t diminished, it has only grown.

Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Original Series is available out today on Blu-ray from Universal Pictures (UK). Buy it for £49 at Amazon.co.uk. Read more about Battlestar Galactica in the new issue of SciFiNow.