The warrior returns to space: Richard Hatch (1945-2017)

Another beloved sci-fi icon, one of so many others I grew up watching, is gone.

Actor Richard Hatch, best known as colonial warrior Captain Apollo from “Battlestar Galactica” (1978-79) died Feb. 7 at 71 following a battle with cancer.

As a kid, I made sure every Sunday night from the show's debut in September 1978 to its untimely cancellation in April 1979 was reserved to watching “Battlestar Galactica.” 

Everything about the show seemed to have aspects of director/writer George Lucas' vision of "a galaxy far, far away" written all over it.

The villains called the Cylons, an army of slow-moving mechanical robots, could well be compared to the Empire's stormtroopers in the “Star Wars” trilogy (1977-1983). 

Shades of Harrison Ford's Han Solo could be seen in Dirk Benedict's Starbuck; the cynical colonial warrior for the Galactica who was good with a blaster, always had his mind more on gambling, enjoying a good cigar, wooing the ladies and figuring out a way out of the Colonial military service. 

Add Lorne Greene to the cast as the ship's commander who along with his son, Captain Apollo (Hatch) is in charge of protecting and leading the last remnants of the human race (220 ships in all) to safety after having all their home planets destroyed by the Cylon Empire and one might think this is an outer-space rendition of “Bonanza” (1959-1973). All this didn't matter to a third-grader like me who the year before “Galactica” debuted was still flying on that "Star Wars" high from the summer of 1977. 

Plot and character development meant nothing to me at the time. What I wanted to see was the weekly outer-space dogfights between the Colonial Vipers and the Cylon Raiders and the countless explosions that went with them courtesy of special effects coordinator John Dykstra who also worked on Lucas' “Star Wars” team. 

“In my case, “Battlestar Galactica” was a milestone,” Hatch once said according to the Hollywood Reporter. “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?”

To Hatch, however, who scored a Golden
Globe nomination for his role in 1979, and guest starred in numerous episodes playing radical political figure, Tom Zarek, in the 2004-2009 Syfy Channel’s reboot of the series that starred Edward James Olmos, playing Capt. Apollo, it seemed, meant something more.

“I happen to be one of those rare actors that actually loves very intelligent and well-acted science fiction,” Hatch once said according to “I am looking for a character that connects to me on some level. It has to have depth to it and it has to be about something. The story of the character and their relationship with the people and places around them appeal to me and are what I look for.”

The news of Hatch’s death on social media was no different as fans expressed the same shock and sadness they’ve done so many times before after hearing of the losses of other music icons, actors and actresses.

And now he is gone.

I am reminded of the words Greene’s Commander Adama spoke during a memorial service for a fallen warrior in one episode that seems appropriate now for Hatch especially given the original series only lasted one season except changing a few words.

“And for only a short while we gathered to honor Capt. Apollo (Hatch) in duty, so we must honor him in death. Let us remember him not only as a warrior but as a man who lived in pursuit of excellence. Now we return this warrior to the cradle of space.”

- Joe Stumpo