Yesterday the Sci Fi world lost a real Icon. Richard Hatch, 71 lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Altough he made his debut in the daytime soap opera All my Children and went on to have recurring roles in The Streets of San Francisco, and the Mary Hartman show, Richard will be most remembered for his role as Captain Apollo in the 1978 Battlestar Galactica.
Generally speaking I don't usually react to celebrity death. Even those among the intellectual properties I revere the most! Heck, even the death of Carrie Fisher was more of a footnote for me. But loosing Richard is something else.
For those of you that know me, you know Star Wars is my all time favourite nerd property. But lets not forget. In 1977 I was just three years old and a long way from my first cinema going experience.
The original Battlestar Galactica ran between September 1978 and April 1979, a time when middle class families like mine were getting colour tv's and cable! I actually saw Battlestar in it's original run, long before I would see Star Wars and It was love at first sight!
As a kid in 1978 it didn't matter that Battlestar was peppered with subtext about spirituality, life, death, and the afterlife. All that mattered was that there were super cool costumes, amazing killer robots, and a collection of star ships that had no onscreen rival!
It wasn't until the 90's when Battlestar became relevant in my life again. Although I had also watched the much slighted Galactica 1980 in its original run, it was a pale comparison to its predecessor. At that time Battlestar was enjoying a run on the American Sci Fi channel and I was swept up in it all over again!
Not only did I revel in the camp that was infused in almost every episode but I was really starting to pick up on those underlying themes. Battlestar had taken on a whole new depth for me, and still, at the center of it all was Richard Hatch.
Undeniably charismatic and absolutely committed to his role as Apollo. Where Lorne Greene brought gravitas to the role of Adama firmly grounding the show in it's own mythology, Richard Hatch's Captain Apollo was very much the heart of the show.
Apollo, Commander Adama's oldest son, brother to Zac and Athena, husband to Serina , father to Boxey and best friend to fighter jock Starbuck. Apollo embodied the best traits of what it means to be human. Indeed, how many stories in its lone season were Apollo centric? In the pilot episode Apollo's younger brother Zac is killed by Cylons on a mission he led. A hard lesson on the Burden of Leadership. But a shining example of how the character would rise up throughout the series.
Make no mistake; Richard Hatch was a leader in the fan community. He more than anyone kept the Battlestar torch lit when there was little or no interest from Universal. Between 1997 and 2003 Richard co wrote five novels in the original Battlestar Galactica continuity.
And in 1999 with the help of the fan community and many of his Battlestar cast mates Richard put together a treatment for a new series. The trailer / sizzle reel was called Battlestar Galactica the second coming and laid out the framework for a direct continuation of the '79 series.
The reel was shown at conventions and received a ton of fan support. I think it was partly due to that fan interest that Universal played their cards close to their chest and started investing time and money into developing what would become the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica just 4 years later.
Those years were hard to be a Battlestar fan because on one end of the spectrum you had Richard campaigning for something in the continuity of the original series (a project that is still in development by the way), and on the other end you had Universal essentially stonewalling him. To make things more difficult when the 2003 mini series came out the fan community was solidly divided!
But as we all know, the re-imagined Battlestar went on to become one of the most revered Sci-Fi television series of all time. But not without the addition of the very dubious character, Tom Zarek.
Whatever animosity had existed between Richard and Universal was seemingly put to bed and Richard was IN! And in a big way too. The Tom Zarek character was everything that Apollo wasn't! A scheming, conniving political terrorist whose motives weren't always as altruistic as he'd like you to believe. Seeing Richard back on television and on Battlestar Galactica was really amazing. Just as he was Apollo, he was just as much Tom Zarek and you could really see how invested he was in the character.
I always imagined that Richard Hatch would be one of the celebrities I would eventually meet at a convention one day and it genuinely saddens me to know that won't happen now. Fortunately like so many other genre actors he too is immortalized in plastic. And as an avid Battlestar fan and toy collector I consider myself fortunate to have picked up a couple versions of him to add to my collection.
In the yahrens I've been on this planet, few have been as invested in their fandom as Richard Hatch was. He didn't talk felgercarb when it came to Battlestar and he really held the torch for all of us. I hope that if the motion picture project gets out of development hell, there is a place for Richard in it. Even if it's something as small as a photograph or other respectful nod. It's the least Universal could do to thank him.
...may the Lords of Kobol guide you home Captain Apollo.