by James Fletcher

The first thing you notice when picking up the phone to speak with Richard Hatch is the determined confidence that resonates in the familiar voice; the second is a quiet charm that belies a career just shy of four decades in the competitive and brutal industry of prime time television. Hatch’s experiences have been both bitter and sweet, with the actor dedicating a lot of personal effort, energy and money in the hopes of revitalising and reanimating the classic Battlestar Galactica series, which garnered the California native a Golden Globe nomination when it first aired in 1978.

“Several years after Battlestar Galactica was cancelled, I realised that there were fans still passionate about the stories and the characters,” Hatch explains. “I went to the studio to pitch a continuation of the series, but without much success. So with the help of some fans, industry professionals, and some of the original cast, I was able to create a four-minute theatrical trailer, The Second Coming, to help the executives envision how the series would look and feel.”

Richard Hatch with Jane Seymour and Dirk Benedict in Battlestar Galactica

It’s that dedication which sets Hatch apart from many actors. First stepping in front of the camera for the long running soap All My Children in 1971, Hatch has proven himself a versatile actor willing to take on challenging roles and breathe complexity into his characters, an attribute which brought Hatch international recognition with his portrayal of Inspector Dan Robbins in the gritty cop drama, The Streets Of San Francisco, where he replaced a young Michael Douglas, who had just vacated the long running series toplined by veteran actor, Karl Malden.

When it was announced that Universal and America’s Sci-Fi Channel were launching a new and re-envisioned series of Battlestar Galactica, Hatch was thrust to the forefront as the unofficial mascot of the online protest spawned by fans of the original series. With the show’s debut in 2005, however, it became quickly apparent that producer, Ron Moore, had managed to do something rare in the realms of the remake: he’d maintained the core of the original series while embracing a bold, innovative new vision for the franchise.

Richard Hatch with Lorne Greene and Dirk Benedict in Battlestar Galactica

“A lot of people, including myself, were surprised,” says Hatch without any hint of insincerity. “The fact that the new Battlestar Galactica was receiving both critical acclaim and a large audience was a real surprise, and a very pleasant one.”

Surprisingly, Hatch’s praise of Moore’s re-imagining of a universe that he helped craft, and which played such a pivotal role in the actor’s professional and personal life, continues with unabated euphoria. ‘The new, re-imagined version of Battlestar Galactica has turned out to be an extraordinary show,” Hatch says. “The quality of the acting, the writing, the special effects – it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, produced sci-fi television shows of all time.”

In fact, Hatch’s personal connection with the longevity of the franchise – including a series of novels, regular convention appearances, and a struggle to reignite the franchise as a continuation – took an unexpected turn when producers of the new series offered to bring the vocal actor back into the Battlestar Galactica universe. “I expressed some concerns to begin with,” Hatch explains. “In my initial meeting with Ron Moore, I made it clear that I would consider joining the series if my character was good for both the show and myself as an actor. When Ron offered me the role of Tom Zarek, I wasn’t disappointed. Complex, multileveled, conflicted characters are an actor’s delight, and the Zarek role delivered.”

Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek in Battlestar Galactica

The only actor to jump from the original series to the re-imagined saga, Hatch sunk his teeth into the Tom Zarek role, bringing a sense of dignity and authority to his portrayal of the terrorist. “One of the fascinating questions that the series proposes is, ‘What would good people do to survive when pushed into a corner?’ Zarek planted bombs and killed people, but he believed in his cause. When he was pushed into a corner, he did what was necessary. Now he finds himself going from prisoner to politician; he’s a leader having to fight for similar principles but under a different set of rules. Characters are often written one-dimensionally, but in the new Battlestar Galactica, every actor is given a lot to work with.”

With the original Battlestar Galactica cancelled after its first season due to budget and production limitations, its predecessor has managed something of a coup in the world of series television in securing a commitment from the network to let the show run its own four-year course. Having witnessed the long gestating dream of seeing Battlestar Galactica re-born, albeit not as he would have originally preferred, and taking part in its new found popularity, Hatch regularly threw his energy into celebrating the Battlestar Galactica universe with guest appearances at various conventions, including Australia’s popular Supanova. “Fans are fans, no matter where you go,” he says. “There is an appreciation for good science fiction, and how it can reflect on contemporary issues and offer an intelligent voice in exploring important messages. It’s always a positive experience being around people who get what good science fiction is about.”

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