‘Battlestar Galactica’: Iconic Science Fiction Actor Richard Hatch Dies At 71

Battlestar Galactica actor Richard Hatch passed away on Tuesday at the age of 71 after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Once a teen heartthrob, his smiling face appearing alongside other stars like Shaun Cassidy, Hatch is best known for his two distinctly different roles in both versions of Battlestar Galactica. He portrayed Captain Apollo in the original and Tom Zarek in the dystopian reimagination of the science fiction favorite. Who was this iconic actor, whose death has left a legion of science fiction fans mourning?

Before he became an icon in the sci-fi world, Hatch started out like many actors of his generation: in soap operas. After playing Philip Brent in All My Children, he guest-starred in shows like Hawaii Five-O and The Waltons before he replaced Michael Douglas in the top television series The Streets of San Francisco during the series’ final year.

In the 70s, when most teen boys had a poster of Charlie’s Angel fav Farrah Fawcett, complete with red swimsuit and dazzling smile, on their walls, Richard Hatch graced the covers of teen heartthrob magazines like Tiger Beat and walls with posters of the good-looking actor’s chiseled cheekbones graced the walls of many a teenage girl.

In 1978, Hatch became the face of Battlestar Galactica. He played Captain Apollo, a Viper space fighter. Despite Hatch being nominated for a Golden Globe, the show only lasted one year. Yet, because of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, space shows were becoming popular again. Soon, Star Trek would release their first movie and eventually inspire more franchises and invigorate the sci-fi television genre. This has a lot to do with the dedication that Richard Hatch had to his role.

Although Hatch was not in the failed 80s remake of the show, fans were quite happy with his addition in the 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica. No longer a teen heartthrob, Hatch played a dramatic role and is now remembered for his acting skills and not his boyish good looks.

In the reimagined BSG, Hatch made no apologies for playing controversial character Tom Zarek. Zarek had been an imprisoned terrorist, who was jailed for years before he was released, and then he became a politician. Was he a good guy, or was he a bad guy?

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hatch defended Zarek’s lawbreaking actions against what other characters in Battlestar Galactica said about his character. Hatch pointed out that Zarek’s only vision was that of a true democracy and what he was seeing was anything but that.

“…if you really study his actions you would see that he never did anything that wasn’t for the reason of supporting his idealistic vision of a true democracy where the government is accountable and this government was definitely not accountable.”

Hatch also reminds fans of the show that Zarek is the symbol of what the show is really about: asking what is a true democracy and making governments accountable for their actions.

“…it’s so easy to just write off Zarek as another power hungry terrorist but tell me where in this four year story arc did he ever do anything that supported that belief. His words, his feedback his words of wisdom, his actions were always in support of his agenda to make the government accountable, and the reason for that was because he had suffered as much as anyone under a government that operated without acccountability and I hate to say it this seems to be the direction the present govenment on Galactica is heading. You’re telling me that only Roslin or the Adama family including Apollo has the right to lead and no one can challenge them. That seemed to be the case here. Democracy is a fragile institution and can easily be lost if we don’t make our govenments accountable and for me this amazing series BG has truly explored this theme in a powerfully honest way.”

After the series ended, Hatch explained to the paper why he loved playing the complex and often misunderstood Zarek.

“I feel privileged to have been a part of this wonderful series and I truly loved playing Tom Zarek. One of the most flawed, complex and misundertood characters I’ve ever played.”

Considered by many sci-fi fans as the best science fiction television series ever made, Battlestar Galactica has always been in the top 50 best television shows ever made, such as Rolling Stone’s placement at No. 45. Created right after the horrific events of 9/11, the dark dystopian series of those escaping the attack of the Cylons mirrored the darkness that so many Americans felt after the unimaginable catastrophe, as well as some of the political turmoil that occurred afterward. Richard Hatch brilliantly portrayed one of the most complex characters in television history. His portrayal of Tom Zarek will always strike up a debate.

Richard Hatch was truly one of the best.

Have you seen Battlestar Galactica? Do you have a Richard Hatch memory to share?

[Featured Image by Scott Gries/Getty Images]