As we're all still absorbing the sad news of actor Richard Hatch's passing on Tuesday at the age of 71, it's also a time to celebrate the wonderful television moments he created that will resonate within our hearts forever.
Hatch was best known for playing Commander Adama's swashbuckling Viper pilot son, Captain Apollo, alongside Dirk Benedict's Lieutenant Starbuck on Glen A. Larson's original Battlestar Galactica series, which ran for one season from 1978-79 on ABC. He later appeared in the Ronald D. Moore re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica on Syfy starting in 2005 in the role of Tom Zarek, a former terrorist and political activist vying for power amid the humanity's brutal war with Baltar and the Cylons.
Throughout the dozens of episodes he appeared in from both series, Hatch was the consummate professional and an enthusiastic sci-fi aficionado, even writing six entertaining Battlestar Galactica novels that expanded the '70s show's mythology into new frontiers.
"In my case, Battlestar Galactica was a milestone," Hatch once commented. "It afforded me the opportunity to live out my childhood dreams and fantasies. Hurtling through space with reckless abandon, playing the dashing hero, battling Cylons, monsters and super-villains -- what more could a man want? During the almost one year of filming, the cast and crew became very good friends. When you consider the fact that we worked six days a week and up to almost 16 hours a day, I find it amazing that there were no major fights or disagreements between anyone.
"All in all, I feel proud and honored to have been a part of such a fun and highly entertaining show. Glen Larson is to be commended for his visionary story of a rag-tag fleet in search of a mythical planet called Earth. I still feel that our story is no more a rip-off of Star Wars than a western film is derivative of every other western film. Our show was inspired by Star Wars, but it definitely had its own unique characters' flavor and point of view.
"I personally love the story. Star Wars blew me away, the universal theme of good vs. evil is always compelling, but the story of humankind's search of its ancient heritage struck an even more powerful chord within me. I believe deep down inside us all we're asking the universal questions of who we are, where did we come from and how did we evolve?"
Here are ten compelling highlights of Richard Hatch's time with Glen A. Larson's original Battlestar Galactica and the Ronald D. Moore-led Syfy reboot. Blast back to the past and tell us which episodes you remember him for most.
Battlestar Galactica - Pilot 9/17/78
This was Richard Hatch's debut as Commander Adama's ambitious son, Apollo. From the first moment he appears on screen, he's instantly likable and identifiable. There's a particularly poignant moment here when Apollo and his father survey the ruins of Caprica after a Cylon sneak attack and the two realize that Adama's wife is dead at the burned-out homestead as a crowd of survivors arrives and the rally cry to fight back is sounded. This moment establishes much of the show's sense of morality and emotional fibers and Hatch plays it perfectly with a sad, understated performance.
Lost Planet of the Gods Part 1 & 2 - 9/24/78, 10/1/78
This is the two-part episode where Apollo proposes to and marries Serina, played by Jane Seymour, and it's filled with some heavy tearjerker moments. The finale ends with Serina getting shot by a pair of Cylon centurions on the dead planet of Kobol and Apollo kneeling over Serina's body, consoling her son, Boxey, and telling her that "a spirit like yours can't end."
The Gun on Ice Planet Zero Part 1 & 2 - 10/22/78, 10/29/78
Everyone remembers this as the two-parter with a giant badass battering ram on the ice planet outpost where the Cylons have installed a gigantic pulse-energy laser cannon. Apollo commands a ragtag crew of ex-cons on a daring mission down to the planet's surface after one of their cadets is killed in action and leads the charge to brave the snow-capped peaks to destroy the Ravashol Pulsar after meeting the mad scientist who invented it. Late '70s TV space opera sci-fi gets no better than this!
Fire in Space 12/17/78
This episode plays like a wild Irwin Allen disaster flick with Apollo, Starbuck and Adama dealing with kamikaze squads of Cylon Raiders divebombing the Galactica and causing a series of intense firestorm to erupt. There are some heatbreaking scenes in this one, with Apollo standing vigil over his severely injured father's bedside and vowing to find a way to stop further spreading of the flames. Apollo and Starbuck team up for a perilous space walk to extinguish the out-of-control blaze with explosives and save the Galactica.
War of the Gods Part 1 & 2 - 1/14/79, 1/21/79
A somber, religious-inspired episode that's now somewhat unsettling (and poignant) upon Hatch's recent death. Following the vanishing of Silver Spar Squadron, Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba investigate a strange red planet where they discover a derelict spaceship and a sole survivor, the mysterious Count Iblis, who promises them the pathway to Earth. Iblis (Patrick Macnee) turns out to be manipulated by the Cylons' Imperious Leader and Apollo is killed after the revelation ... only to be resurrected by the benevolent Beings of Light found aboard the crashed starship.
Experiment in Terra - 3/18/79
This was the engaging episode that saw a return of the freaky bright orbs known as the Beings of Light. After being abducted by the Ship of Lights and taken to the planet Terra, Apollo encounters John, one of the Beings of Light, who claims they are "brothers ... of a sort." Apollo believes John is a reincarnation of his deceased brother, Zac, who also had a close encounter with a Being of Light. With war brewing, an Eastern Alliance's missile attack against the Nationalists is halted by the Galactica and Terra is saved. John tells Apollo that Terra is not Earth but that some day they will find it. Hatch really shows off his incredible range in this episode.
The Hand Of God - 4/29/79
Apollo takes Starbuck, Cassiopeia, and Sheba on a fun evening excursion to one of the least-explored sections of the Galactica where the last of the ancient battlestar's astro-navigational domes is housed. The dome's scanner receives a signal from what they believe is an original Colonial spaceship but turns out to be a massive Cylon command center. Plenty of rip-roaring space opera action with Hatch blasting Centurians, hijacking an enemy Raider, Viper dogfighting and the Galactica going up against a Cylon Basestar. This was the final episode of the series as ABC announced its cancellation shortly after it aired. Hard to believe it only lasted a year!
Bastille Day - Season 1, Episode 3 - 1/21/2005
As political renegade and convicted terrorist Tom Zarek, Hatch got to sink his teeth into a juicier, more complex role, playing the conniving, manipulative prisoner who eventually ascends to the position of Vice President under President Gaius Baltar. In this character's debut episode, Zarek heads up a hostage situation aboard the prison ship, Astral Star, and makes election demands that require Adama to infiltrate the ship to prevent further violence and instability amid the civilian population. A compromise ends the standoff with Zarek leveraging his position by releasing hostages and being promised a fair election in the near future.
A Disquiet Follows My Soul - Season 4, Episode 14 - 1/23/09
After the fleet discovers Earth to be a barren, irradiated wasteland, President Roslin leaves Vice President Zarek as the government's temporary leader. Zarek and Admiral Adama clash over a plan to install advanced Cylon jump drives on all civilian spaceships to boost their chances of finding a habitable planet. Zarek views this partnership with their enemies as a terrible mistake and categorizes it as an illegal military hijacking of civilian authority. He sends a Tylium ship, the Hitei Kan, away from the fleet to secret coordinates, causing Adama to go ballistic and arrest the Vice President. Confronting the prisoner at the Galactica's jail, Adama bluffs with a supposed stack of incriminating documents to indict Zarek for multiple counts of corruption. The papers turn out to be the ship's laundry slips but Zarek falls for the ruse and delivers the coordinates to find the Hitei Kan. A classic showdown between the two heavyweights of the show!
Blood on the Scales - Season 4, Episode 16 - 2/6/09
This final appearance of Tom Zarek occurs after the heated insurrection aboard the Galactica by Felix Gaeta and the savage and shocking murder of the Quorum of 12. Adama is pushed to the brink after his own execution is halted, snuffing out the ill-fated mutiny and condemning Gaeta and Zarek for their crimes, placing them in a launch tube to perish. Hatch provides some of his best work in this episode, ultimately registering a grim determination and resignation of his fate, flashing a sad smile before the end finally comes with a lethal salvo from the firing squad.