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In the late 1990s, actor Richard Hatch began to see the potential for the old property. A science fiction fan himself, he had attended many science fiction conventions and got to meet many fans, listening to their ideas. Having authored a new series of novels based on the show, his real dream was to revive the series in a format that would do it justice. Since the advent of the Sci Fi Channel, reruns of the original series had spawned a new fan base, making such a project a more viable venture.
The format of network television has changed since 1978. Multi-episode story arcs are common, and more shows center around true-to-life characters rather than eye candy such as special effects. With more cable networks in search of original programming, the time seemed ripe to revive a show long discarded by Universal.
He told a group at a science fiction convention in Atlanta, "When it came to Battlestar, being a little naive, not knowing what it was going to be, I started on the process of trying to find a way to bring the show back. I went to Universal, searched through the archives, talked to all those people up there. Everyone said 'Battlestar? We own Battlestar? What's Battlestar?' It was amazing how few people knew anything about it.
"I went through hall after hall, office after office, meeting after meeting and finally found my way to the USA network office, who actually had control over any new Battlestar Galactica product, and I basically pitched an idea, and they basically they told me, 'Okay, we can see that it was show 25 years ago and it did quite well, but we can't envision what it would look like today.'"
Richard explains that the project grew from there, because so many people in the film industry remembered and loved Battlestar from their younger days.
He threw myself into making Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming trailer. People come from all over the world who wanted to be involved with the production. His passion for the project was such that he levied his home and maxed out all of his credit cards to make the trailer. "There are times in life where you do the most illogical things for something you believe in," he says, "and I still have a great deal of belief in Battlestar Galactica."
When the trailer began production, a call went out over the network of fans of the original series. Craftsmen willing to donate their time were enlisted, soundstages were made available through various connections and friends of friends. "We didn't have a costume budget, so we ended up saying yes to all these people that wanted to drive in, fly in, that wanted to be in our presentation, because they had made costumes, which by the way were much better than the ones we had on the show." In the television industry, costumes are often fabricated in a "one size fits all" fashion, to accommodate a wide variety of extras.
Hatch built his vision with the help of dedicated fans and a few members of the original cast. Returning are Terry Carter as Col. Tigh, Jack Stauffer as Bojay, and George Murdock as Dr. Salick. Even Adama was resurrected using footage available only on the laserdisc release back in the late '70s.
John Colicos reprised his role as Baltar, but sadly it represents the final performance of the actor, who passed away a few months later. "We didn't even have a script written, and it was at the 20th anniversary celebration at the Universal Hilton Hotel," explains Hatch. "Late at night, after we'd finished the convention, we set a green screen, and I wrote a quick scene and we got one take that worked because there was a wedding going on next door with a hot trumpet player."
Disregarding Galactica: 1980, the story takes place 24 years after the destruction of the Colonies. Commander Apollo is now the military leader of the fleet, with a new generation born in space. But the Cylons are relentless, and they also have evolved a new generation of machine, still determined to wipe out the human race. Eventually, Apollo is forced to battle the politicians and bureaucrats who lead his people, as well as the new Cylons.
Produced on a shoestring budget, with a host of volunteers, the trailer is a sleek, professional-looking presentation with incredible CGI. Richard Hatch then schlepped the trailer around to producers, networks, and production companies. He also took his case to the public, showing the trailer at science fiction conventions around the country. Audiences stood and cheered madly each time it was shown.
Everyone, from original actors to new fans, and all the crew in between came together to produce a trailer that promises so much, if only given the opportunity. "We were so pleased," Hatch says proudly, "because the one thing we did do is we took time to ask questions and travel around the country to decide what people actually wanted."
"When somebody says 'Only I know the way,' no matter how talented you are, that's the way to alienate people, not build rapport. I've always said, with a classic when you bring it back, don't take the good things away, add to them, add elements, update things, bring new things into it, but don't lose the heart and spirit of what made the original so special."
Although public showing at sci-fi conventions is allowed, licensing restrictions prevent this short from being televised or made available over the Internet. If The Second Coming has one accomplishment it is to prove that nothing is impossible for the dream makers. For people who believe in something to the degree that they are willing to give of themselves so much, the returns are well worth the effort.
"In many ways, I would like Battlestar Galactica to come back so that Richard could realize some of the dreams he had for the show," says co-star Benedict in an interview in Starlog magazine. "I don't have any regrets or unfulfilled dreams about the series but Richard, more mature than I at the time, saw what Battlestar Galactica could and should have been. If the show was revived and they used the original cast, although chances are they wouldn't, one of the big reasons I would do it would be to get together with the entire cast again." Dirk Benedict shrugs, hinting that Starbuck is ready to roll, "I can still fit into my Battlestar Galactica costume!"
"Battlestar has tons of mistakes and errors," says Richard Hatch. "But somehow it managed to reach out and communicate to people and I think that people have never forgotten that feeling they got, that epic journey into the unknown, which is very much like Gene Roddenberry's epic Star Trek, except that we had no homeland to return to. Essentially we were out in space, and we were having to survive against incredible odds, with everything that could go wrong going wrong, and I think it's the journey of the hero. Battlestar was the journey of the hero in everyone of us, when we have to call forth that part of us that we maybe never discover until we are up against life and death situations. I think Battlestar really captured that along with a great deal of humor and a wonderful sense of family, and Battlestar was about family, three generations pulling together to survive against incredible odds and I think that heroic quality is what really touched the fans."
Despite the tireless work of Richard Hatch, the collective voice of fandom had fallen on deaf ears, and Universal was content to sit on the rights to Galactica. There were a few false starts, most notably when X-Men director Bryan Singer and his producing partner Tom DeSanto expressed an interest. "I'm really close with Tom DeSanto, who produced X-Men," says Noah Hathway, who played Boxey on the show. "He's the biggest Battlestar fan I've ever met in my life. The first time I went into his office - wall, ceiling, all Battlestar stuff."
Singer and DeSanto supposedly wanted to do a theatrical version of the original show, going so far as to spend $3 million dollars on pre-production, but when the second X-Men film conflicted with their plans for Galactica, Singer left the project. According to Hathaway, DeSanto set up a meeting with executives at Fox, which included Glen Larson, to pitch a new Battlestar feature, which would tell the story of Commander Cain and the Pegasus.
In the end, it was announced in the industry trade newspapers that Star Trek veteran Ron Moore would produce a new Galactica for The Sci-Fi Channel. For the fans and for Richard Hatch, it was a bittersweet victory. Yes, the "ragtag fugitive fleet" would fly again, but original cast members were not initially included. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was not be a latter day continuation of the original saga, but a "re-imagining" of the original show. Roles were recast, characters were rewritten (Starbuck and Boomer are now female!), and much of the original sets, costumes and prop designs were discarded.
"The thought was that if you brought Battlestar back, and you took all those things out and you came up with a new theme, new music, new this new that, it's a new show," says Hatch. "My thought is that if you want to change it, if you want to do what you want to do, you own it, do it. Then go write your own series, don't enter into someone else's universe, someone else's vision, and violate 25 years of creating a timeline, creating a history."
Despite such a slap in the face to fans of the original show, Richard Hatch was able to organize the 25th anniversary Battlestar Galactica convention, the single largest gathering of Battlestar actors, writers, producers, directors, memorabilia at the Universal Sheraton at Studio City, Ca. October 24, 2003. More information is available at battlestargalactica.com or galacticonevent.com.
The Galacticon event coincides with the release of the DVDs, which were remastered from original source material in 5.1 Dolby digital sound. Adding to all 24 hours of programming are scenes not seen in 25 years. When the film was released on video in the 1980s, it was the version released to theaters in 1978, rather than the original pilot.
There was also a Sony Playstation 2 game released in the fall of 2003, produced by Vivendi Universal. Featuring the voices of both Benedict and Hatch in their original characters, Hatch also provides the voice of Captain Paulus, the captain of Blue Squadron, under whose command are the young pilots Adama and Cain in a 40-year prequel setting. "I actually think the guy (James Swallow) who did the writing of the game really gets Battlestar," says Hatch. "The dialogue and the heart of the game is really original Battlestar."
Also released were a set of trading cards and a book that outlined the 25 year history of Battlestar Galactica, featuring interviews and a foreword by Richard Hatch and Glen Larson.
Diehard fans of the 1978 series were originally quick to condemn the new version. Even actor Edward James Olmos, who took over the role of Commander Adama, warned longtime fans. "Please don't watch this program," Olmos told the press. "Buy yourself the new DVDs that they're putting out of the old episodes, and whenever we come on, just put that one in. ...Trust me. Don't watch it. If you're a real, real staunch Battlestar Galactica person, please don't watch it."
Perhaps Olmos' statements are indicative of the differences between the original show and the remake.
Original or new, the overall concept offers hope to the indomitable spirit of mankind's perseverance and will to survive in the face of catastrophe.
"Battlestar is to me is about putting human beings, everyday human beings into extraordinary circumstances that will bring out the best and the worst in us," says Hatch. "That creates great drama, great humor, and that's what great theatrical drama is all about, and to me Battlestar really epitomized that."
Since this was written, the new Battlestar Galactica is a bonafide hit and Richard Hatch's opinion on the reimagined series has undeniably changed since he has appeared in many episodes and he will return for even more.
- Sal Gomez
Galactica: the Original Series
Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series - part two
Battlestar Galactica: the Original Series - part three
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