The following piece is a tribute to Richard Hatch, the Battlestar Galactica icon who died Tuesday at 71.
There aren’t many things that I regret in life, especially my writing. Although it might seem tame, I can be a true bulldog when it comes to my commentaries, typically filled with entertaining snark and fearless calls to the carpet.
I did that to Richard Hatch once. And if you haven’t picked up where I’m going yet, I absolutely regret it. In fact, it’s one of the biggest writing regrets I ever had.
It was 2002, and my site – SyFy Portal – was all excited about the upcoming Battlestar Galactica miniseries event, even though it was a reboot, and would not feature anyone from the original. But Battlestar was back, and if we could get enough viewers to the miniseries, maybe even for years to come.
Richard, however, wanted nothing of it. He had worked hard on a continuation trailer for Battlestar Galactica a few years before, and it continued to get standing ovations at conventions in a pre-YouTube era. And while he had not seen a single frame of Ronald D. Moore’s version of Battlestar Galactica, Hatch – who starred as Apollo in the 1978 original – wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
I was a young writer in his 20s, still amazed readers even paid attention to what I said, and I got a little cocky. I wrote a column lambasting Richard, to the point of comparing him to another Richard Hatch – the original winner of the CBS reality show Survivor – except making quips that the competition show contestant was a more recognizable name.
That was a tough period. Fandom was truly divided between the old Battlestar and the new, to the point that even if you loved both, if you liked Moore’s version, you weren’t really a Battlestar fan.
Richard never reached out after that column, and for a long time, I didn’t even know if he had read it. Not long after, Richard had a chance to sit down and talk to Moore at a 25th anniversary convention the actor had organized. And it was there Richard did start to listen, and realized that maybe this reboot wasn’t so terrible after all.
When the miniseries aired, Richard was hooked. And by the time the first season started in 2004, he signed on as an amazing recurring character Tom Zarek who was nothing like Apollo from the 1978 series, and really gave Richard a chance to spread his wings as an actor.
Not long after that, I had an opportunity to talk to Richard. And I was scared to death. I mean, we’re talking about me, a guy who has shook hands with three different presidents of the United States. And there was Richard Hatch, looking at me, I swear brooding about the words I wrote those years before.
The very first thing I did was apologize about that column. He seemed confused, so I briefly reminded him. And Richard did something completely unexpected …
He laughed. Out loud. And hard.
“That was you?” More laughing. “Wow, you really told me back then. And you did get me thinking.”
I started to realize that Richard didn’t harbor any hatred for me over that column. In fact, even now, I wonder if Richard Hatch was even capable of hate. He treated me so nicely, as if we were best friends. Instead we had just met, but if I wasn’t a full fan of Richard Hatch before that moment, I certainly was after.
And Richard never forgot. A couple years later, I was sitting among the crowd gathered for his annual Battlestar Galactica panel at San Diego Comic-Con, trying to just blend in, back near the sound guy. For whatever reasons, just before the panel started, Richard had to go and say something to the sound guy, and walked by where I was sitting.
He was focused on his conversation, but as he turned away, he looked into the crowd, and noticed me sitting there. He smiled, and said, “Hey, Mike,” made a wave and walked back toward the stage.
It’s not like we run to each other at places, or at all. Not only did he remember me despite all the different people he talked to, but he remembered me by name. Hell, I’m lucky if I can remember the names of my own siblings, let alone reporters I’ve had the displeasure of running into – especially ones who had once written something nasty about me.
Any time we have a death, it’s hard. Especially if it was someone that we enjoyed and respected for their work. It’s harder, however, when we’ve actually met the person, and interacted with them. So there are many, many, many people out there right now, just like me, who are missing Richard Hatch the same way I am. Because Richard didn’t reserve these detailed interactions with just snarky reporters – he was friendly with anyone who took even a minute to come up and talk to him.
And he would remember you time and time again. Richard Hatch absolutely cared about fans, he adored their passion – even to the point of forgiving them when they crossed the line.
The new Battlestar Galactica was so much better because Richard Hatch was a part of it. Not just the amazing presence he brought to the screen, but his beautiful persona.
I don’t think we’ll ever get another Richard Hatch in our lifetimes. However, I’m just happy enough that we had our Richard Hatch.
So say we all.
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