Apollo’s Creed: Richard Hatch and the Past and Future of Battlestar Galactica

Long before SciFi rebooted Battlestar Galactica, Richard Hatch announced his intentions to personally revive the show that had made him famous. At the time, I was lucky enough to score an interview with Richard, which was published on CollectingChannel.com. I’ve held on to the interview because I wanted to include it in a book of classic TV interviews that I’ve done over the years but given the events of the day, I thought it was best shared here and now.

GalacticaAlthough Richard Hatch has played many roles, he is best known as Apollo, the Colonial Warrior on Battlestar Galactica. Since then he has tried some alternative roles—those of writer, game designer, producer, and salesman but he’s never really left the bridge of the Galactica. Recently, Hatch announced his plans to produce a brand new Battlestar theatrical film. To test his audience, he has been touring the US and Europe with a short preview film—and the reaction has been significant.

“We’ve been getting standing ovations and that tells me we’re on the right track,” says Hatch. “How often do you see a film of any kind that brings a tear to the eye and people to their feet?”

The secret of the film’s conceptual success seems to be a combination of old and new. “Fans are hoping that this time we’ll bring back a show in the form they loved. So many producers take an older property and remake it, but usually remakes lose the original fire, the heart and soul, and you lose your audience. We don’t want to do a remake; we want to evolve the original story. Take the great aspects and build on [them].”

Photo of Richard on Streets of SF taken by my sister

Photo of Richard on Streets of SF taken by my sister

Hatch’s vision takes the original characters from the series, played by the original actors, then moves the action 20 years into the future.

“In the movie there is a whole new generation who were born to the previous characters. They were born in space so they’ve never known a homeland.”

These kids are now teenagers and so you have two generations fighting for the cause, still searching for their roots somewhere in the universe. It is this pioneer theme that, according to Hatch, hooks the fans and keeps them watching.

Battlestar was the story of Moses and the Israelites, being cast from their homeland and having to find a new place. It’s just like the pioneers who traveled from the East Coast to West Coast. It has that sense of adventure, fighting the elements, and all the terrors of going into the unknown and surviving to create a new homeland,” says Hatch. “We always seem to be drawn to stories of that type. Star Wars had that same archetypal story that even people who never liked sci-fi were drawn to. What Star Wars did for the movies, Battlestar did for TV. The show touched people so profoundly, it’s still playing in 80 million homes all over the world, and there are companies making new toys and games. It certainly reached way beyond the sci-fi demographic.”

Hatch is quick to point out that there is one major philosophical variance separating Star Wars and Galactica: “The man/woman thing. Twenty years ago, George Lucas stated that he didn’t think women should be pilots, but here we are all fighting to survive. We have to utilize the talents of everybody, so Galactica always had young and old, men and women, all flying missions, and in all forms of military service. We gave women the feel of sitting behind that powerful machine, of going 1,000 miles per second, weaving and darting and doing all these incredible things. We had a nice balance, even 20 years ago…”

Galactica may have been an equal opportunity employer, but you’ll never convince me that girls were watching it for the thrill of flight. Richard Hatch and his co-star Dirk Benedict had their faces plastered on T-shirts, posters, notebooks, and millions of teen magazines. Even I slept beneath a huge poster of those long-haired flyboys.

“I was in the era of John Travolta and Shaun Cassidy and, to tell you the truth, sometimes they just choose you as the heart throb type. Even though I grew up shy and introverted, I never did think of myself as heartthrob material. I don’t think most of us ever take it seriously, it’s very unreal and you see how one minute they love you then, quickly, they forget you.”

Even though Hatch’s picture was a teenie bopper selling point, the toy manufacturers never got the clue. What should have been the most collectible toy, a 12-inch talking Colonial Warrior, was a flop because it didn’t resemble either of the two lead actors. They were immortalized as small action figures, instead, but most of the other packaging featured the ships and not the people.

“Back then, merchandising was just beginning to really catch fire,” says Hatch. “They really didn’t know how to do it. They didn’t understand about name brands and attaching the actor’s name and image. They were just beginning to play with that. As you know, people identify very strongly not just with shows but with characters. Look at Xena and Hercules, if you don’t have their faces attached to a toy, it doesn’t have half the significance and it doesn’t sell for as much.”

With the new movie in mind, Hatch has given a lot of thought to the whole idea of toys, games and accessories.

“Merchandising brings in more profit then any movie ever will. I think it’s wonderful because, I, as a fan, wanted to read the comic books, I wanted to play with the toys, I wanted to be part of that world. Merchandising is a way of letting you participate. A great story needs to move out in all avenues but the key is quality, not having some piece of crap thrown out there; nobody wants to feel robbed.”

Hatch envisions not just a line of action figures, but games that inspire and even educate. “I’m into entertaining but I want substance, to inspire, educate and make them think.”

Galactica lasted barely a year on television but it wasn’t a lack of ratings that brought production to a halt. “We were thrown together at the last second,” says Richard. “There really wasn’t time to develop the story arcs and special effects. It was almost impossible to have the shows prepared for the next week. To do a show of that magnitude at that time was almost prohibitive. The technology wasn’t developed enough to make it possible.”

Galactica’s tremendous battle scenes, flying ships and detailed sets were all generated the hard way by today’s standards. “Today, we can do the same thing for a lot less money, [it’s] quicker and more cost effective.” Which is why Hatch believes he can make a go of a weekly series this time around.

“In the new movie we have some of the old ships, but then we add new technology and new ship designs so we bring the show into the new millennium. We have new designs for the pilots. We’ve used some color variations, crimson red and dark blue green, other colors for different squadrons and ships. We created more levels and ranks, what we should have had on Galactica but didn’t have time to do it.”

The mix is working. Preview fans are delighted to see old faces alongside new ones, and they are pleased with the emphasis on details.

Traveling to conventions and appearances over the years has been an interesting experience for Hatch. “Everywhere I go, people give me stuff. You get a doll here, a book there, my house is overflowing because I hate to give anything away.” But what does he buy for himself? “I’m a gamer. I love participating in that world. If I see a toy or a game that’s in a world I love, I buy it, [and] not as a collectible. If I love a world, I want to play in it.”

And so he creates what he loves, a whole new world for Apollo, Starbuck, Boxey and the crew of the Galactica, and he has a big bunch of fans who are ready to play, too.

Captain Apollo is now back among the stars.

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