Lost Opportunities: The 2nd Coming

Actor Richard Hatch developed a “proof of concept” trailer, which has given the only window Battlestar Galactica fans have seen of what a continuation of the 1978 series might look like. Called Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, this 4 1/2 minute film has been a huge hit at science fiction conventions for years. Financed personally to show Universal Studios what could be done, Hatch revived his role as Apollo, and brought in other actors from the original series like John Colicos (Baltar, in his final appearance before a camera), Terry Carter (Tigh), Jack Stauffer (Bojay), George Murdock (Dr Salik), and Richard Lynch (who originally played the character Wolf in the episode “Gun on Ice Planet Zero”, he portrays Count Iblis in the trailer).

Richard and co-producer/ scriptwriter Sophie LaPorte produced the trailer after realizing the overwhelming support Battlestar Galactica still maintained among the fans. Through their company, Su-Shann Productions, and working in conjunction with a wide team of volunteers, Richard used CG wizardry to produce special effects at a level previously available only to expensive studio effects houses. Through this labor of love, Richard managed to push the story forward, if only for a moment, to show improved Cylon warships, a new breed of Cylons, and an older but still beloved cast.

Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming also introduced a new fightercraft called the Scarlet Viper.  The original design began as a model by Steve Parady and was converted to a CG version for use in the trailer. 

When he initiated the idea, the expected budget to complete such a trailer was over $100,000. Professionals at WonderWorks and Dreamscape contributed to the effort. By tapping into the fanbase and drawing upon their skills as well, Richard managed to reduce that cost to $20,000. He mortgaged his own house for the money. His investment almost always ends in standing ovations that began with its debut in Aug 1999. Consequently, according to Richard, investors promised tentative support that would provide a budget of $40-60 million USD to finance a Battlestar Galactica continuation project.

Universal watched the trailer and listened to the pitch and then went their own way. At the time, Glen Larson and Todd Moyer considered plans to do their own Battlestar movie featuring the character of Commander Cain and the exploits of the Battlestar Pegasus. This was later pushed aside by plans to make a continuation through Tom DeSanto and Brian Singer. Ultimately, that effort was replaced by the Ron Moore/David Eick remake.

Richard Hatch has also written a book series that shows more of his vision for the Battlestar Galactica universe, but like everything in the media business, the concepts would be open to change if translated to a motion picture.  In Richard’s vision, Apollo would be the commander of the Battlestar Galactica, consulting with a holographic Adama who would provide advice and wisdom as needed. Digital technology would recreate Lorne Greene’s presence by duplicating his voice from samples taken from episodes of Battlestar Galactica and Bonanza.

The events of Galactica 1980 would be totally disregarded in Richard’s view (something practically every fan agrees upon) and the Colonial Fleet would still be searching for Earth. A continuation series in Richard’s vein would depart from the campy backgrounds of the original series to show additional depth and drama. It would focus more on character interaction than the original and would rely less on space battles showing Vipers blasting Cylon Raiders.

The Colonials and the Cylons themselves would also be different in Richard’s continuation. After suffering a Cylon civil war, a new and deadlier breed of villains would pursue the Colonials. The series would introduce a larger variety of enemies and more realistic challenges for the characters to overcome.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Unfortunately, like everything in Battlestar Galactica, there was a serious problem.

Richard Hatch never got the legal rights to produce a Battlestar Galactica series. In fact, even the public showings of the trailer are problematic and lay in a gray area of copyright laws. Richard made the trailer under the original premise of showing Universal the value of the Battlestar Galactica property. Through the atmosphere of a legal cold war, Richard is allowed to show the trailer at conventions but must remain within the narrow confines acceptable to Universal Studios lawyers.

Despite overwhelming support from fans, Richard’s vision now seems to be confined to this proof of concept trailer.

–  written by Russell Sanders
–  all images hosted with permission from Richard Hatch.