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R.I.P. Battlestar Galactica star Richard Hatch

(Photo: Bill Watters/Getty Images)
(Photo: Bill Watters/Getty Images)

Bleeding Cool reports that Richard Hatch, the star of the original Battlestar Galactica, and an important part of its celebrated mid-2000s reboot, has died. Hatch—a former soap opera star who became a nationally recognized face thanks to his work on the sci-fi show, and who struggled for years to find success on his own terms—was 71.

A California native, Hatch made his way into acting in the 1970s, working as a guest star on everything from Barnaby Jones to The Waltons. He got his first big break in 1976, taking over the lead role on cop drama The Streets Of San Francisco when star Michael Douglas departed the series to pursue his film career. But the change was unpopular, and the show was quickly canceled. That seeming disappointment opened Hatch up for the opportunity that would come to define his career, when Glen A. Larson tapped him to play Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica series.

Leveraging the 33-year-old Hatch’s pin-up model looks, the series saw him play a heroic fighter pilot, protecting humanity’s “rag-tag fugitive fleet” from the hateful Cylons. Though it lasted only a single season (plus a pair of movies recut from old episodes), Galactica managed to tap into the same fervent fandoms that helped lodge the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises in the public consciousness. It would also come to define, at least in part, the entire future direction of Hatch’s career.

The next 20 years were lean ones for Hatch; besides some low-budget movies, he continued to work in TV, racking up guest star credits on shows like Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, and The Love Boat. In the 1990s, he delved deeper into the world of Galactica, writing or co-writing a number of novels centered in the universe. A long time science fiction fan, Hatch began developing his own plans for a sequel series to the show, ones that were made more or less hopeless when Ronald D. Moore successfully pitched his own reboot of the series to Syfy in the mid-2000s.

Initially hostile to Moore and his program—saying he was “exhausted and sick” thanks to its attempts to toss away the original continuity of the show—Hatch thawed toward the series after meeting Moore in person at a Galacticon Q&A. That led to a guest-star role for Hatch on the new series, playing Tom Zarek, a former hero turned political terrorist. What could have been a one-note cameo became much more, though, as Zarek evolved into a recurring illustration of the moral extremes humanity was forced to grapple with in the face of its own extinction. In Hatch’s older hands, he became an infinitely more compelling character than the old Apollo, a charismatic opportunist capable of mixing sleaze and heroism in equal measures.

After Galactica ended, Hatch’s career continued much as it had before; he attempted to launch his own reality show with his son, Paul, titled Who The Frak, and continued to star in low-end genre fare and teach acting to others. One of his final performances, though, was as part of a love letter to a different science fiction franchise, co-starring in the legally troubled Star Trek fan film Prelude To Axanar. Unfortunately, his death came before he could appear, as scheduled, in the full film version of the project; given his long relationship with science fiction, and his frequent appearances at conventions and other fan events, it could have been a fitting coda to his career.

Hatch’s death was reported earlier today; he was memorialized on Twitter by several of his co-stars and colleagues from the Galactica family.

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