Goodnight and godspeed, Apollo

There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the Universe. With tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians or the Toltecs or the Mayans. That they may have been the architects of the Great Pyramids or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis.

Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man, who even now fight to survive — somewhere beyond the heavens!

As an impressionable pre-teen, I eagerly awaited hearing those words each week. They were spoken in a solemn tone by Commander Adama himself, Lorne Greene. I was about to spend an hour with my favorite people – the crew of the last Battlestar, the Galactica.

To me, the heart and soul of the show was Richard Hatch, my beloved Apollo. Commander Adama’s son, he always fought for what was right and on behalf of the downtrodden. He was Good. And, yes, kinda hot.

At night, when I went to bed, I imagined all sorts of Battlestar Galactica stories where I was a fighter pilot, flying alongside Apollo, rolling my eyes at Starbuck’s jokes, commiserating with Boomer and Jolly when Apollo and Starbuck were getting all the glory.

The first time I watched the show with my dad, I gasped at the end of the episode, when Adama intoned, “And the last Battlestar, Galactica” – “Is this the last episode!?” I asked, desperately upset.

My father explained the unspoken comma and I was put at ease. But when the season ended and no news of renewal came, I waited. And waited. The bad news came first: No renewal. The show was just too expensive.

But the season had ended with Apollo and Starbuck almost finding evidence of Earth! They were so near! How could they not find out their mission had not been in vain? It simply wasn’t fair.

By the time the news came that there could be a renewal after all, most of the cast was committed to other things. So it got revamped as Galactica 1980 – a couple decades later, the Galactica had finally made it to Earth, which was not nearly as technologically advanced as the peoples of the 12 Colonies.

Adama and Col. Tigh were still there, and we even had an “Enemy Mine” flashback episode with Starbuck in it, but my Apollo was nowhere to be found. His adoptive son, Boxey, took his place, along with another blond fighter pilot, and the duo navigated life on Earth.

They had to hide their technology and they didn’t understand idiomatic expressions. Hilarity ensued! In the premiere, we even got Mr. Brady himself as a rocket scientist.

Let’s face it: Galactica 1980 was weak. Though I would argue that the Wolfman Jack/Halloween episode (the last of the 6 that aired) was highly underrated and was better than some of the original series’ episodes (#FightMe if you disagree). But they were still my family and I watched and recorded every episode on a clunky VCR.

I even rewatched the time travel episode where they went back in time and punched Nazis several times. You can never go wrong with punching Nazis, right?

Galactica 1980 didn’t finish its full season, and rightfully so. It had lost its magic, in large part due to the fact that the reason BSG hadn’t been renewed in the first place was because the special effects cost so much. So they lost most of the special effects.

Years went by, and I never forgot my beloved Battlestar. In the early years of the SciFi Channel (long before it became SyFy), the original series would often be marathoned and I would catch it whenever I was able.

I remembered finding out that Richard Hatch was still trying to get the original series rebooted. This was early in the days of online forums, and I found a whole tribe who wanted this to happen. I had no idea there were so many of my people out there. And they were led by my beloved Apollo. Swoon.

Eventually, all the efforts to get the show back on the air came to fruition. SyFy commissioned a miniseries that, if successful, would serve as a pilot for a series. It would be the same, but different. Some people would have the same names, but would be different characters.

The show was updated for more modern, dystopian sensibilities.

The miniseries was a smashing success, despite many people being upset that Starbuck was now a woman. Most people got over that.

Then, original fans got a huge present: Episode 3 of the first full season, “Bastille Day.” It centered around a one-time human rights activist, convicted terrorist, Tom Zarek, who led a prison uprising, capturing several significant Galactica crew members.

At one point, Lee “Apollo” Adama sits down and confers with Zarek face-to-face. The two Apollos, together.

Though Tom Zarek was a far cry from the admittedly goody-goody (but still badass) Apollo son of Adama, his participation on the show was a love letter to fans and the culmination of his decades of efforts to get the show remade (he wrote Battlestar novels over the years, as well).

The idea of the story – that cousins of those of us on Earth are somewhere out there, that we are not alone in the universe – is universal. The robotic Cylons of old were remade as cybernetic human creations and had a reason for hating humans. Baltar turned from a psychopath who betrayed his race for power to an accidental traitor and weasel who would do anything to live (though even that continued to change over the course of the reboot series).

But the overall arc – a beleaguered tribe of humans hurtling through space, searching for their brothers and sisters on a mythical “Earth” (which we, the viewer, knows actually exists, thus capturing our imagination in a way that other science fiction sometimes can’t, even if it’s based here on Earth) – was the same.

And now, my beloved Apollo, Richard Hatch, has died. He was 71 and did what he loved his whole life, and dedicated much of that time to a show that drew me in like no other has (and the reboot was one of the finest series ever to grace the small screen).

Thank you, Apollo. The heavens shine a little less bright without you.

Tom Zarek photo via SyFy/NBC Universal; original Battlestar Galactica image via SciFi Wiki.