Battlestar Galactica has a compelling premise. Twelve human space colonies in a distant part of the universe are at war with a race of artificially intelligent robots called the Cylons. A human called Baltar betrays humanity and the Cylons wipe out the Twelve Colonies and most of their space-faring ships, the Colonial Fleet, in a nuclear attack that leaves their planets uninhabitable. The only surviving vessel from the Fleet is the Battlestar Galactica, along with a ragtag collection of other space vessels. So the human survivors travel across the universe led by Commander Adama of the Galactica, looking for the legendary 13th colony, Earth, to make it their new home.
With such a fascinating setup, it’s no surprise that Battlestar Galactica (1978) has had several sequels, spinoffs, and remakes: the short-lived sequel series Galactica 1980, which was hampered by a lack of most of the original stars; the very successful 2003-2009 reimagined Battlestar Galactica; the short-lived prequel to that series, Caprica; and another spinoff to the reimagining, web series/TV movie Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. There’s also now a new feature film and TV series in the works.
But there was one proposed sequel that never quite took off, leaving only a 30-minute pilot episode that was never publicly shown, and a four-minute trailer that was shown in various conventions in the late 1990s and is now available to watch on YouTube. That series was Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, and it was the brainchild and passion project of original series star Richard Hatch.
Richard Hatch, a.k.a. Captain Apollo
Richard Hatch, who passed away in 2017, was one of the leads of the original Battlestar Galactica, playing Captain Apollo alongside Lorne Greene as the titular ship’s Commander and Apollo’s father, Adama, and Dirk Benedict as Lieutenant Starbuck. He had got his start in a stint on US soap opera All My Children during its very early years, and he also made appearances in favorites like Fantasy Island and Hawaii Five-O, but it was Battlestar Galactica that he was primarily known for.
The Second Coming was Hatch’s baby, and he re-mortgaged his home and maxed out all his credit cards to make the short. In 2002, he told SciFi Pulse that, “It really all started during my time at the Sci Fi conventions when I got to know many of the fans and started to listen to their ideas.” Hatch was passionate about continuing the story of Battlestar Galactica in various ways; he also co-wrote seven Battlestar Galactica tie-in novels between 1997 and 2005, right across the period when he was putting together the Second Coming trailer and into the first few years of the reimagined series.
What we know about the proposed plot of Second Coming is mainly gleaned from hints dropped by Hatch himself, and from the trailer for the pilot film. In his Battlestar Galactica novels, Hatch had explored the idea that Adama, Apollo, and Adama’s daughter Athena all had some level of ESP, so it is quite likely that this ability would have played into the story in some way. Hatch also told the Los Angeles Times in 2009 that his proposed continuation of the original series “was going to go in a deeper, darker direction and at the same time have a connection to the past.”
Although the trailer features actor Richard Lynch, who had a major role in Galactica 1980 before being replaced by Jeremy Brett, the story completely ignored the events of the official sequel series in favor of a new canon. Lynch was meant to play his third separate character in the Battlestar universe, Count Ilbis, after first playing Wolfe in the original series and Xaviar in 1980. This change to the canon was necessary for Hatch to star in Second Coming, as when he turned down Galactica 1980, his character Apollo was killed off in the thirty-year gap in the story between the original series and the sequel.
In the finale of the original Battlestar Galactica series, “The Hand of God,” the fleet are looking for signals they hope will come from Earth, but when a signal does reach them, showing the Moon landing in 1969, they miss it because no one is in the room to see it. Galactica 1980 revealed that the Galactica then spent another 30 years searching before finally finding Earth in the then-present day of 1980 (basic math is no one’s strong point apparently). It followed the next generation of Galactica’s crew trying to protect Earth from the much more technologically-advanced Cylons, and in particular protecting a group of Colonial children.
Hatch’s idea for a sequel was quite different, and not just because he needed his character to be alive. Second Coming is set 20 yahrens (years) after “the last great war,” presumably meaning it is set 20 years after the original series. Although in the trailer we see scenes taking place on a planet and images of a “reborn” human civilization, including newly-built pyramids, it is still clearly a space opera, featuring many shots of space battles and exploding spaceships, and opening on an image of stars and galaxies. Apollo gives a speech towards the end of the trailer in which he tells a military group that “the time has come to stop running and take back our sacred homeland,” suggesting that the series might have been intended to see them come back to Earth, but they are clearly already based on a planet of some kind as well as patrolling in space.
The narration states that civilization has been reborn, and that “an enemy had grown,” implying that the basic setup is that human civilization has started to recover, but they face a new Cylon threat. The trailer goes on to tell us that there was a Cylon civil war, and a new species of Cylon has risen from the ashes. A voiceover teases that the Cylons have evolved. The “Second Coming” of the title appears to refer to these new Cylons, and Hatch’s Apollo states that he must prepare humanity “for the second coming.” We also see some characters that look like the long-dead original reptilian Cylons (the aliens who created the Cylons in the original series; the reimagined series changed this to have humans be the Cylons’ creators), or like robotic Cylons designed to look reptilian.
Like Galactica 1980, Second Coming would have largely focused on a new generation of characters. We see Apollo’s son, in a neat continuation of Apollo’s relationship with his father Adama in the original. Starbuck’s daughter also features, giving the series a strong feeling of continuing the story with the literal next generation, while still being led by Hatch’s Apollo. Starbuck himself is missing and presumed dead, but the trailer teased Apollo and the other heroes attempting a rescue mission anyway.
The Second Coming trailer also features returning actors Jack Stauffer as Bojay, Terry Carter as now-President Tigh and John Colicos as Baltar, reprising their roles from the original series (none of whom had been in Galactica 1980). It was Colicos’ final role before he died following a series of heart attacks in 2000, so Baltar would have had to be recast if the series had been picked up. Colicos’ Baltar, now sporting some mysterious new facial scarring, plays a pretty prominent role in the trailer, though his character may have been intended to issue a warning about the new Cylons to our heroes and then play a smaller role later. Baltar claims, “Only I can lead you to safety,” suggesting that the story would also involve our heroes trying to work out whether they can trust this past traitor and enemy or not.
The late ’90s budget CGI inevitably looks a bit like a video game now, but it is impressive nonetheless, and leans heavily into the action and spectacle. There’s even a classic shot of Hatch as Apollo running away from an explosion in the best tradition of 1980s and 1990s action movies.
The experience of making the short prompted Hatch to later make a trailer for an entirely new proposed science fiction series called The Great War of Magellan, once again again written, produced, directed, starring, and entirely paid for by Hatch himself. He assembled a fairly impressive cast working alongside him, including Brad Dourif, who by 2005 was world famous for his role as Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings and had been Oscar-nominated for his big break in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
This story was to be set in a post-apocalyptic future in a neighboring star system to Earth, and would follow Hatch as Akillian, a man trying to trace the origin of some unusual genetic abilities he has. The trailer features the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and includes quite a bit of sword fighting in a desert landscape in addition to the expected space battles and explosions, so it’s safe to say the show was intended to feature plenty of action. It also features Star Trek’s JG Hertzler in a role that looks like it could have been a lot of (somewhat cheesy) fun. However, this series never went any further than the trailer either.
The Reimagined Series
Ultimately, neither The Second Coming nor The Great War of Magellan ever got made. Although Hatch pitched his sequel to Universal, the pilot film wasn’t enough to get the green light. At the time, Second Coming was just one of several ideas for how to bring back the franchise. The race also included a sequel series helmed by X-Men director Bryan Singer and movie pitch from original Battlestar Galactica creator Glen A. Larson. The studio eventually went with Moore’s idea for a reimagining of the original series.
Hatch was dubious about the reimagined series at first, to say the least. He told SciFi Pulse, “I honestly don’t understand what the Sci Fi Channel hopes to achieve by re-imagining a classic TV show like Galactica. It is not what the fans want.” He wrote, in his own words, “a lot” of articles criticizing the plan to “re-imagine” the series from scratch instead of continuing the original, claiming that “95% of fans wanted to see a continuation.” Hatch’s concern, understandably, was primarily for his own existing fans and fans of the show, rather than the new audience the production company wanted to attract. He was also worried because, in his opinion, “usually when they bring back sci-fi classics, they always screw them up.”
As the series developed, though, Hatch must have noticed that Moore’s series had some things in common with his own ideas for a sequel, despite being an entirely re-imagined version of the story. It is certainly “darker,” for one thing, which is in line with the fashions of early noughties television in general as well as Hatch’s own planned story. It also features ongoing storylines around the idea of the Cylons evolving and conflicts between different groups of Cylons.
In the end (unlike co-star Dirk Benedict, who did not like the re-casting of his character Starbuck as a woman), Hatch made his peace with the new series, eventually appearing in 22 episodes of the the reimagined series as terrorist turned politician Tom Zarek. When his casting was announced in 2004, he made a statement on his own website explaining that he still hoped to see a continuation of the original series one day.
“You can’t compare these two shows, since they’re both so totally different in tone, spirit, and style. My heart is obviously with the original and I will never change my mind about bringing back and continuing the original BG series. It’s a classic and deserves to be brought back intact and I will do everything in my power to help inspire a continuation. Second, no one has suffered or been as frustrated and angry as I have been over the decision not to continue the original series with the original actors. I have spent a great deal of money, time, and energy to bringing this about and have had to face the painful fact that at this time, at least, that is not going to happen.”
He later told the LA Times that he was “impressed with Ron’s vision even though it was very different from what I had proposed and had supported and wanted to happen.”
Despite his good relationship with the new series and fascinating recurring role as Zarek, Hatch never gave up on reviving the original series, and reassured fans at the time that, “I will continue to support positive efforts to bring back the original… That is my heart’s desire.” It never happened, though, and the 2003-9 version is now so much better known than the original, it is likely to be the version that most people think of when you say “Battlestar Galactica,”
Hatch was not bitter, though, however passionate he was about the project. His statement at the time of his casting in the new show is supremely diplomatic and measured, and includes some very wise words for us all:
“I have learned the hard way to channel my anger and frustration in more positive and constructive ways that will lead to a win/win scenario for everyone. When you attack and put people down, no one listens and you waste a lot of valuable energy accomplishing nothing. If you like the new series or hate it, great, the point is you’re entitled to your point of view, but the fact remains that how you feel about the new show should have nothing to do with the old.”
That advice is something fans of a number of different franchises would probably do well to take to heart!
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