Richard Hatch, known to many as Apollo from the original “Battlestar Galactica” (1978-1979) television series, has died. Times writer Jevon Phillips talked to him — as Hatch laid on a beach in Hawaii — before the end of the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” series in 2009. Read the obituary.
We’re counting down to “Battlestar Galactica’s” final episodes. But you know that. May as well start off with the only real bridge to the original series that Ron Moore cultivated: Richard Hatch.
The original Apollo, Richard Hatch crusaded for a very different “Battlestar Galactica” than the one most critics now praise. Never actually against Ron Moore’s re-imagined version, he was a strong proponent of just continuing the old series. He was not alone, and though many may not recall the angry e-mails, protests and threats by fans to Ron Moore and any others who plotted to ‘re-imagine’ such a great, albeit short-lived, cult favorite, Hatch does.
“I was producing the 25th ‘Battlestar’ anniversary for mostly the original fans at the time, and they were very angry that I was inviting Ron Moore,” said Hatch. “It was a very, very difficult convention because of all the controversial feelings, and people had gotten bags of popcorn to throw at Ron Moore because Ron had made a statement — he’d taken so much criticism and had gotten a little frustrated with everything — and said, ‘If you don’t like it, ‘throw popcorn’ or ‘eat popcorn’ or something like that ... I can’t remember the exact wording, but I was sort of terrified that they we’re going to throw this popcorn at Ron.”
Had to get that story out of the way. Many of those who wanted to throw the popcorn (Mr. Hatch calmed the crowd by preaching a ‘tolerance of ideas’) are probably erecting popcorn ball statues of Moore as the series ends. We asked Mr. Hatch five questions, and he had a lot to say ...
When you were approached to be involved in the current incarnation of “BSG,” what was your first reaction?
I, to tell you the truth, was impressed with Ron’s vision even though it was very different from what I had proposed and had supported and wanted to happen — which was a continuation that was going to go in a deeper, darker direction and at the same time have a connection to the past ... . At the time I’d written a lot of articles about why would Universal be bringing back “Battlestar” and doing a re-imagining when 95% of the fans wanted to see a continuation, and I’d written a number of articles about it myself, so I felt very passionate because usually when they bring back sci-fi classics, they always screw them up ... .
He told me in an e-mail that he didn’t know what was going to happen because at that time the show wasn’t picked up, it was just a four-hour miniseries and that was it, but he said if the show got picked up he would be interested in sitting down and talking about a role, and would I be open that ... . When you meet someone with a vision, you have to give them a shot and an opportunity to see what they can do. I felt it was worth taking a shot with someone this gifted and someone who I felt really loved science fiction and appreciated the genre ... .
Ron brought me in after the miniseries and said, ‘I have this role that’s a revolutionary, a la Nelson Mandela, would you be interested?’ ... Since I had spent years kind of fanning the flames of “Battlestar” and being a mini-revolutionary in my own sense, it kind of fit the role. I thought it was quite ingenious. I don’t know if Ron thought up the role after meeting me or if the role was already there.
Describe the mood on the set for this “Battlestar” as opposed to the original.
The original ... well, we were the biggest budget of all time. Believe it or not, when we walked on the set we had film crews from all over the world filming. It looked like the circus. I’d never seen anything like it. It was huge. We were on the cover of Time, Newsweek, every major magazine. It was the biggest production ever in television ... .
It was a really harrowing shoot, though. We shot many times overnight, and though it was tough, we bonded as a cast. We had a family that was kind of led by Lorne Greene, and we kind of bonded under fire ... .
For the new show, there wasn’t all that hoopla on the set. It was very down-to-earth. The cast was really together and supportive. It seemed that all of the energy was really focused on getting the best performance and doing the best they could do, and that meant that there was a lot of what I call collaboration ... it was the optimum actors’ environment for doing your best work ... .
Thirty years ago, it was a lot more pressure. Very few takes, there was film, one camera and less rehearsal time. You felt a lot of pressure to get it right, whereas with the digital cameras, it just allows you to do the kind of work that “Battlestar” has become so famous for.
Well, you’re in the position of being involved in the series ending of the same show. How were the feelings different?
I think this, well, first of all, this show has gone on for four years. The original went on for basically 18 months. And we also didn’t know the show was ending. We went home for three months, then got a call. And it’s not as if it wasn’t being picked up because of ratings ... . The show was too expensive to justify the cost. ABC had a few other shows that were in the top 10. Though we were in the top 20, the cost of that show being so high ... once we dropped out of the top 10 they just couldn’t justify the expense.
For the new show, we knew a year ahead that it was going to end. It was actually much harder because knowing that it’s going to end, it really brings up ... well, like I said, actors bond under fire. ... On something like this, you hang out with these people, you go to dinner with these people, you become close friends and, not only do your characters bond, but you also get to know them extraordinarily well off the set. Knowing that it’s going to end, you spend that last year valuing each and every moment even more so. So that last year becomes quite emotional, quite cathartic and, I have to say, almost painful because you don’t want it to end ... .
It’s been a 30-year journey, as opposed to a maybe one- or two-year journey, for me, so it’s painful and very emotional and very sad to say goodbye. It’s obviously going to be one of my most precious memories being part of two wonderful renditions of the show.
How would Tom Zarek fare in the political atmosphere of today (on Earth)?
I tend to think that Tom Zarek would definitely be a Democr at. Probably a little more left than right of center. Definitely an idealist but a pragmatic idealist after suffering 25 years in prison. He has no illusions about the politics of power. He’s seen the dark side of his own nature and the dark side of everybody else’s nature. He has learned to deal with people ... he has learned, I think, the psychology of the way people think ... .
With today’s government, we have much more of a democracy [than on “Battlestar Galactica”]. I think he would’ve played the game quite well in today’s politics. I think he would’ve been somewhere near the top. He’s very aggressive and never gives up. He would’ve found his way to some position of power, if not president or vice president. That’s my opinion.
A question from commenter Tom Dimmo: Do you see yourself rewatching the series in years to come, or are you well and done with it?
I happen to be one of those rare actors that actually loves very intelligent and well-acted science fiction. I love some of the “Star Trek” shows, “Alien,” I even like “Firefly." So, for me, I will be watching long into the future ...
Years later when I have a little objectivity and a little distance, I will sit down and watch both shows. It’s been one of the most incredible acting experiences of my life.
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