Interviews: Richard Hatch #1

Richard Hatch

This interview with Richard Hatch, conducted on 22 Nov 2003 by Russell (Two-Brained Cylon) Sanders, covered a number of issues concerning Battlestar Galactica. During this conversation, Richard was very candid about many things, including the past and future of this controversial franchise.  We would like to thank Richard for his candor and willingness to let us share his thoughts with the rest of the fans.

Richard Hatch:  The biggest problem was that we had a lower than expected turnout. I was disappointed by that. We worked our asses off to put on a really good show and to give people more than their money’s worth, because there’ll never be another 25th anniversary again and we wanted to make this very special for all the fans and actors. This was most likely the last time anyone will see this entire group of BG actors together ever again. Along with the CD-ROM guys and DVD people showing their previews, we had Ron Moore showing never-before-seen footage from the new miniseries. This was an amazing opportunity for the fans to interact, first-hand, with all the BG original actors, writers, and producers and express their opinions and give feedback face-to-face.

Plus, the IMAX showing was amazing! Everybody loved it. You think it was great to see Galactica in the theaters just see it on the IMAX. The dinner and dueling piano bar on city walk was a good time too! It was really great. I had a great time mixing with the fans and talking to some of the BG actors I hadn’t seen in years. Everyone there seemed to have a really good time. We went out of our way to give everyone great value for their dollar. It was shame that more people didn’t take advantage of it as this was also a great opportunity to show Universal how many fans really care about the original series. I really thought we’d have a bigger turnout than we did.

As it is, we unfortunately lost a lot of money. A large part of the problem was the fact that 13 fires broke out around the LA area on Thursday night and became one of the worst nightmares in California history, plus there was the transportation strike all through Los Angeles. However for those that did attend this was such a heart-to-heart gathering of Battlestar fans from around the world and this really made it special. I and my staff thank all of your from the bottom of our hearts.

Richard Hatch: We need to recoup about $50,000. The Galacticon 2003 merchandise and documentary video of the entire convention we are selling is helping to offset that.

Richard Hatch: Not at all. In fact I’ve spent more time, energy and money in the past year helping to promote Galacticon 2003 and the reunion than in years past. I also did about a thousand interviews about Galactica and the new show in addition to writing my sixth BG novel “Destiny”. I truly love the Battlestar story. I always have. There’s something magical about that story — something powerful.

The problem is that, in a lot of ways, many of the major players don’t want me around. I understand that perfectly. It’s not a personal thing. It’s just the way things work in this industry. I represent a competing interest for a lot of people and they are trying to get the fans to listen to them and fall in love with their vision. I understand it all, though. There are obviously many viable ways to bring back Battlestar and mine is only one of them. I honor everyone’s vision. I just had to come to realize that my ideas, which are essentially following what the vast majority of the fans I’ve met around the country communicated to me they wanted most, aren’t the direction that Universal or the Sci-fi channel wanted to follow, at least not at the moment. In the future, who knows, but I’ve had to make some personal and painful decisions along the way to begin moving in a direction where I could control my own destiny.

I’ve started my own company, MerlinQuest Entertainment Inc, and we’re doing some very exciting things.  You have to remember that you’ll never get noticed unless you do your own thing. As much as I love it, Galactica doesn’t belong to me so I’ve had to shift a lot of my focus towards my company’s new Sci-fi series “The Great War of Magellan”, something that I own and can influence from my own heart and soul. Having to pull away from Galactica however wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It’s especially hard because I also had to abandon for the time being my dream of bringing this show back in a way that honors both the fans and the original epic story.

It may seem like I’m stepping back at the moment, and yes I’m less vocal these days, but I will always be there for the fans and for this story I will never stop loving or believing in. I just feel that the best way for me to ever have an opportunity to be involved in Battlestar again is to be successful doing my own thing. That’s when the studios take notice. As far as I’m concerned this wonderful Battlestar Galactica story belongs to the original creator, Glen Larson, and the fans that have loved and believed in this show for over 25 years.

Richard Hatch: I love Galactica like I love a great woman. She’s got my passion and my heart. I really fell in love with her, but she doesn’t belong to me. This woman belongs to someone else. So, no matter how much I love her, or believe in her, I’ve had to let her go because she belongs to another who does not share my passion or vision. Two and a half years ago I had to realize that I was in love with someone else’s woman and let her go. It was a really painful decision and it still hurts, but it was what I had to do. The pain and frustration of watching everyone have their way with her has wounded me deeply. Just like so many other great stories that have been brought back and ruined by someone who would rather impose their own ideas on someone else’s vision instead of building upon them and evolving them, this has been very hard to watch.

Richard Hatch: Yes. I learned a lot doing that project and would not take back one dollar from what we accomplished. It was one of the most memorable and uplifting times in my life. A lot of very talented people helped out in making the Second Coming Trailer. It still wasn’t easy, though. We faced all the same problems we had with Magellan, and there were too many times that I thought we would never get it finished. A lot of people wanted to help out, and they meant really well, but after a couple of weeks they would lose interest and drift away. I took out a loan on my house to pay for both trailers and asked a lot of favors from a lot of people. Everyone was spectacular in what they did, but it was still incredibly hard bringing it all together. I had to work on it night and day, every minute of the day. When it was finished, I had the amazing experience of having helped create something that really captured the spirit of the original and brought tears to people’s eyes. But no matter how successful we were in laying out a possible path to bring Battlestar back intact, the people at the studio we most wanted to influence weren’t interested in what we were saying or had accomplished. They still wanted to go off and do their own thing.

Richard Hatch: Don’t fall in love with someone else’s woman because you’ll pay a huge emotional price! However in the end it was all worth it for all of us. I’m truly proud of everyone of us who saw this through and the joy of watching people from all over the world respond positively to it make this experience one of the best of my life.

Richard Hatch: I doubt it. Everyone involved on a higher level with this has their own vision for the piece. The new miniseries creates some big problems for a lot of things Tom might do. There are a lot of conflicting story issues that need to be worked out as well. If the miniseries succeeds, then there will be interest in doing some more things with Galactica. If it’s a failure, it will probably be a couple of years before anyone makes another attempt. Everyone will look at a failure with the miniseries and decide that there isn’t any interest in Battlestar Galactica. That just how folks will think. They’ll blame everyone but themselves for the failure. The problem is that if it does do really well, then they will want to do more of what’s successful, which, in this case, will be the direction of the new miniseries.

Either way, it will be a couple of years before Glen (Larson) and Tom (DeSanto) could get anything going, as far as I can see. But I do believe in miracles!

Richard Hatch: He is. So is Glen. But Tom has got other things to get to first. He’s got X-Men 3 coming up and will most likely do his new project, Transformers, first. Tom loves Battlestar and truly believes in it, but in my opinion, it’s honestly not the best thing for him to be noticed with. Neither is X3 for that matter. Tom will get a lot more recognition from Transformers than anything he’s done in the past, because that’s going to be an original work and something that Tom can bring all his talents to. You usually don’t get recognition in the entertainment business for following someone else. You get it for doing something original, something that comes from you. If you want to get noticed, you have to show that you can do something different than everyone else. Tom knows that. Ron Moore knows that. That’s the problem with Battlestar.

Instead of honoring this classic and building onto it or evolving it, everyone wants to do their own thing and make it totally theirs. There are too many egos and too many cooks in the kitchen wanting to do things their way without considering the fans opinions. I understand this thinking in some ways but, in this case, the last thing anyone has done is listen to the fans or Glen Larson, which is what they should be doing if they want to maximize their chances for success. I’m frustrated by the actions of some executives who don’t give proper credit to the fans.  The fans are the ones that ultimately will make or break any new show.

Richard Hatch: To me it seems pretty obvious. The fans want to see Battlestar brought back intact, with the story continued with as many original characters and actors as possible. You can add new characters and elements but they also want to see the tone and spirit of the original taken into dramatic, new situations. They want the old characters along with a new generation born in space facing new challenges while continuing to focus on the original epic premise of the story. Beyond that, the fans are pretty well open to many new ideas. Unfortunately they didn’t do that with this remake. I’m really not sure what the future of Battlestar holds. I really don’t know.

Richard Hatch: I’d like to see all of the fan sites talk and work together. That doesn’t mean that any one site should be more dominant than another but when the fans and sites talk together, everyone benefits. There are a lot of good people who do a lot of great work for Battlestar Galactica these days. They all need to stand together and speak with one clear voice to Universal. Otherwise the studio won’t take anyone’s opinions seriously. Everyone has a slightly different idea of what should happen with Battlestar Galactica and what made it special, and that’s cool. I love this show and care most about continuing the original saga with the original actors and themes while still updating, evolving, and adding a new generation of our children born in space. I think you can update this show and evolve it without losing the original heart and spirit of the series, but there are a lot of talented people out there and everyone should be free to explore their own vision for Battlestar. The sites are the same way. Everyone is promoting their own vision of Battlestar Galactica, what they like and don’t like, and that’s great.

Richard Hatch: At this time I think the future of the traditional Galactica lies with the video game or a CG animated film like Final Fantasy, capitalizing on the improvements in computer animation since that movie was made. The new video game was made to go either way depending on the success or failure of the new mini-series. If it goes well, the game will branch off in that direction. If it doesn’t, then the future games will be based on the old series. An animated version of Battlestar is probably the best path for preserving the original Battlestar story at this time. From what I saw of the animated story version of the CD-ROM game, Battlestar is alive and well and still holds the magic of the original story.

Richard Hatch: I don’t think we’ll see a Battlestar movie for at least 2 years if the new series fails. Tom also has other things on his plate, like I said. Plus, it doesn’t seem that Tom and Glen are quite on the same page at this time. Glen has the movie rights and a lot of Tom’s stuff is still stuck at Universal. I know Glen wants to do a ‘Battlestar Pegasus’ movie that preserves the core of Galactica but takes it in a different direction. Tom wants to revive and continue the old series with some of the same characters and integrate it with new characters. He wants to create a bridge from the old to the new. I think this is what most fans want to see. If you listen to the fans, they all pretty well say that they want the feel and look of the original Galactica, with its Biblical overtones, and with as many of the original characters as possible, all placed in new situations and facing new challenges. I think the problem with what Ron Moore has done is that he has completely changed the tone, spirit and heart of the original Battlestar Galactica. He’s taken it so far from the basic theme that most fans can’t relate.

Richard Hatch: I respect Ron. When I met him at Galacticon I was impressed with him and he seemed like a very good guy. I don’t agree with a lot of what he’s done with Battlestar, but I commend him for some of what he attempted to accomplish. The biggest problem here is the studio decided to re-imagine the show instead of continuing it. That is not Ron’s fault. Even if you did continue the original series, it’s still a big challenge. It’s very difficult to take a classic and evolve it further because very few people will agree with what you’re doing no matter how well you do it unless you show great respect and detail for the original material and characters. That’s the main mistake I think was made in the new miniseries. They didn’t respect the original source material and characters enough for it to appeal to the vast majority of fans.

That’s the danger when you’re working with a classic and I consider Battlestar Galactica to be a classic story. Face it; it’s like the Bible in some ways. It’s an epic, not something you can take and shove into a contemporary setting without losing a lot of the spirit, heart and resonance of the piece. The characters in the original were all characters that you loved and cared about. From the beginning, you were drawn in wanting to know more about these people and their history and rooted for their survival. You have to preserve the characters, relationships and spirit of the original series if you want to reach out to the now three generations of fans who love this show. Ron and the Sci-fi channel didn’t do this. There were a lot of ways to make the basic miniseries work in a way that the fans would have embraced, but they disregarded the fans opinions over and over. They didn’t even attempt to reach out to the fans in any way whatsoever.

The Starbuck character is just one example. Here they had an opportunity to have reached out to the fans in a way they would have made it easier for them to accept a new version of Starbuck. I think this was really a missed opportunity.  From what I hear, Bonnie really likes Dirk. She would have liked to have had him in the miniseries. I would have had Dirk come back and play an older Starbuck with Katee Sackhoff playing his daughter. Have her play the same tough, “no holds barred” character she plays now against the backdrop of the original Starbuck we still love and revere trying to figure out how to handle her. That’s a great opportunity to let her show off as a rebel and have Dirk take his original character into deeper water trying to figure out how to deal with her. If they’d have done something like that I’m sure Dirk would have signed on board. Dirk would have given the show plausibility and a major tribute to the original and maybe the fans wouldn’t be as quick to judge this new rendition of Starbuck. The fans would then have given the new female character a better chance to grow and develop.

Richard Hatch: That’s hard to say. There’s a lot of anger over what they’ve done. The fans have been saying for years what they want to see. Instead, they chose a different path. I’ve seen the miniseries. I think they’re sending it out to a lot of places to get reactions to it. I saw a few interesting concepts, but on the whole it seems like a totally different story. Ron has a lot of good ideas, but it’s not the heroic journey of the heart that the original was.

In this version, the epic struggle to survive, which brings everyone together as an extended family, is lost to the overriding B-story of conflicted characters who seem to be trying to get laid every five minutes. The idealism and moral tone of the original is completely missing at this point. Also everything just happens in a more mundane way. The story is brought down to Earth so to speak. The Egyptian thing is gone and they’re really not searching for Earth any longer. And by the way they dress and speak it seems as if they’re on Earth instead of some far away star system. The fantasy and mystique of the original is gone.

When you change that much of the story, it’s not Battlestar. It’s totally something else and that’s fine, but they should have called it something else. Even a spin-off in the Battlestar universe would have been better. For something new like this to be successful, the characters and story have to be developed in a way that allow us to bond before we get into too many conflicted areas. Too much happens too fast before a foundation has been laid to justify it. This series just throws a lot of sex and conflicted characters battling with each other without any real sense of justification or depth.

I know they’ve planned this to be a series and we’re just talking about the pilot here, but for us to get to know and care about these new characters we’re going to have to come back and watch a number of other episodes. The problem is, do we care enough about them at this point to do that. I didn’t think these were characters I wanted to come back and get involved with. It doesn’t seem like anyone likes each other in this version. There is no sense of family, hope or inspiration here.

All of the characters have beginnings that are just so problematic without any real understanding of why they are that way. The only characters I liked were Olmos and the crew chief. I thought there were a lot of talented young actors but their characters weren’t very interesting or compelling to me at this point.

Richard Hatch: I like Olmos. I like him as a person and as an actor. He does a good job in this. I knew he would. He’s just not the commander. He would be great as a second-in-command. He just doesn’t have the Biblical stature that you need for that role. To be Galactica, the commander of the fleet has to be of epic presence, like Charlton Heston.

Richard Hatch: I like Tom and think he’s immensely talented. I also think he really understands and loves the story of Battlestar, but in my mind having Boxey as the commander of the Galactica and Dirk on the bridge doesn’t follow in the footsteps of a natural evolution of the original series format. Battlestar needs a strong central core character like the original Adama was with Lorne Greene for the rest of the show to evolve around. At this point, my first choice for the commander would be Colonel Tigh.  If not Tigh, then perhaps someone else with that same kind of presence Terry Carter has grown into. The commander of the Galactica has to be a true Patriarch because he is “the father of the fleet”. Boxey isn’t the right kind of character for that. Boxey should be a lieutenant or captain at this point. You still want him very involved, but not commanding the fleet.

Apollo or Athena would then both serve as the second in command. This is a logical role for Athena and Apollo because they were both being groomed for the bridge from the beginning, and this would show that they were working their way up the ladder. Dirk should not be on the bridge because the second in command really needs to be more responsible and take leadership a little more serious. The Starbuck we all love needs to still be in a cockpit where he can inspire the younger pilots and still flirt with the woman and be the lovable bad boy he always was. We need to see him as something like a Wing Commander, more experienced and more responsible but still the lovable rogue he always was. That way, Dirk can play Starbuck the way we all love his character. We should see Starbuck, Sheba, and Boomer as the wing commanders with the younger pilots learning from them. This sort of setup would still allow Starbuck to be Starbuck.

Richard Hatch: When I learned about this, my first reaction was that I didn’t really see a continuing role in this production for me. This was very different than I had thought Apollo would come back. I thought, “Me, a Cylon”. Then I thought that, as an actor, it could be a really interesting and challenging role, but where would it go from there; where would this character go after this pilot? At most, I saw that I’d be playing an extended guest star role, at least at first. After being a key actor in the original series, this didn’t make me feel very wanted. I know that they had some plans for the character to progress and have an increasing impact on the series, but what if the series didn’t get sold. I wouldn’t even be in the pilot except for a “Red Eye” cameo. It just seemed pretty unfair and left me feeling that they just wanted to use me in some dramatic way that served only a temporary use, but they didn’t really want me included in the series as a continuing regular.

Richard Hatch: No. At least I’ve never seen anything to make me believe it’s personal. It’s just that everyone has a different idea as to where Battlestar should go. Tom is a very bright guy who understands myth, psychology and the human heart very well. He knows how to take a character to the dark side and have him struggle his way back. I’m sure he will ultimately find a wonderful way to use all the characters in the show including Apollo if I’m invited to be a part of the series. However, the problem for everyone is that fans can be very unforgiving if you change things too much and too quick. You can’t change the underpinnings of a show without serious risk. I’ve learned that from writing the novels. Fans can get very upset if you change things, even those that may work better for the story in the long-term. But the truth is it’s hard to know where characters may be going and in most cases fans are let down because what they love most gets lost. There’s very little trust left due to many abuses over the years. I understand that being a passionate fan myself of many stories.

Richard Hatch: What comes to mind was having Starbuck go after Athena again instead of staying with Cassi and of course Apollo and Cassi getting together. A lot of fans have come to strongly believe that Starbuck belongs with Cassiopeia and that’s it and Apollo should only be with Sheba. The eventual goal was for Starbuck to return to Cassiopeia after almost losing her and realizing that she really was the one he always loved and wanted to be with. I just wanted Starbuck to have to face his commitment issues and go deeper into his real feeling for Cassi. A lot of fans didn’t see past the immediate changing of how they thought the story should go. My thought is characters sometimes have to go away in order to return with more depth and understanding. It’s through the challenges and changes of life that we finally come to realize what are important. Characters have to grow and evolve and that only happens by putting them into conflict.

Richard Hatch: Sure it will. Of course it will. Ron changed so much that he’s made things very challenging. You look at this and say, “It might be interesting on some level and a potential for developing into a more interesting series is there, but it’s not recognizable as Battlestar and that’s what most fans are expecting to see”. I saw it and I didn’t feel like I was watching Battlestar Galactica at all. I felt like I was watching more of a documentary about life aboard an aircraft carrier on Earth.  That’s interesting but not what Battlestar was always about. If you want to change the tone and characters of a story that much than why not create a new story, not violate the classic story so many have fallen in love with? It does have some dramatic elements and moments that work and I found some of the pacing interesting but it’s just so different in spirit from what I truly loved about Battlestar.

I was also surprised at the audience they seem to be going after. I thought they were going after a much younger crowd, but the miniseries seems to be going after the traditional 18 to 49 age group. Otherwise, it would be faster paced. It’s just seems to be very slow and it never quite ignites. It seems cold, distant, and passionless for some reason. I honor the attempt and I understand that it takes time to make adjustments and build the right mix but will they ever get that time?

Star Trek – The Next Generation didn’t really take off until the middle of its third year. It takes time to know if a show is going to work. This might become a really successful series if it stays on long enough.  It still won’t be the Battlestar we all love. Who knows? It seems like it’s off to a very rocky start. Even if it has a really slow beginning, I can’t see them just walking away. They’ve spent money on the sets and models and computer effects. They need to do more shows to make their money back. I’m not sure how long the fans will be patient.

I think I’m more forgiving about this new miniseries than most fans because I’ve become a producer as well and know the challenges they are facing. When most people tune in and find out that it’s not Battlestar as they knew it, I don’t know what their reaction is going to be. I know that you can’t fairly judge this or any new piece until you’ve seen several episodes but that may be asking a lot in this case.

Richard Hatch: If they watch it, they have to watch it as an entirely new show. That’s obvious right from the beginning. You can see it in the first space shots. The space shots are very stylistic but not necessarily very dramatic. Then you see the Cylons and you know that things have changed. I don’t have any sense of these new Cylons. You don’t know who they really are or feel their terrifying presence. They’re so human that you just don’t understand their hatred of humans. You don’t get any sense of why this terrifying race is seeking to destroy mankind.

Also, the way they tell it, the story comes off without emotion. It’s not compelling or moving enough to get you to want to watch more. The original was a fantasy, a fable, an epic journey, and an adventure. This doesn’t have any of that. There’s no Egyptian motif, no unique style or sense of being in a different time and space. The original had humans that were like us in many ways, but not quite like us. They were somehow different and we wanted to know more about their uniquely different human evolution. This new series is so ‘Californian’ and seems almost passionless and much underplayed most of the time.

I understand that Ron wanted to go for a more realistic and low key approach to this series but for some reason it never seems to build any energy or emotion and I never found myself getting excited or caring. I know what Ron said he was going for and I can see a little of that here and there, but for the most part it doesn’t quite work. Maybe with time and a few major adjustments this series could slowly build an audience, but in most cases series go off the air if they don’t garner great ratings right from the beginning. The sad part of this is they could have done both.

If they’d have given the fans what they most wanted and deserved and, at the same time, added new and more provocative story and conflicting character elements, that would have updated and evolved the series, and served both the artistic and commercial agenda that the studios are looking for, it would have been a certain success. I still wish them the best but boy is this hard to deal with for me. It’s so frustrating to see what could have been and to see it all go up in smoke because no one listened to those that count the most… the fans!

We’d like to thank Richard for his knowledge and ideas on Battlestar Galactica and allowing us to share his views. – Russell Sanders

– Printed with approval from Richard Hatch.