The Stars of the Battlestar
Richard Hatch and Dirk Benedict helped make Sunday nights a lot more interesting in the autumn of 1978, starring as the best-in-fleet space pilots Captain and Apollo Lieutenant Starbuck in the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica. Upon the release of a lavish new DVD set of the TV show's first and only season, not coincidentally on the eve of the premiere of The SCI FI Channel's reinvented Galactica mini-series, the two gentlemen traveled back in time with Home Theater Magazine.
Your pride is evident in the interviews and commentary: What was the experience like, being involved in the DVD? I can only imagine that 25 years puts it all into a different perspective...?
RH: Coming together 25 years later with Dirk and Herb was truly a memorable experience. We've seen each other at other Sci-fi conventions but getting together and sitting down and watching the re-mastered three-hour pilot with edited scenes included was downright thrilling. I can't explain how strange and utterly familiar it was to share this very special time in our life one more time. It was as if no time had passed. Twenty- five years was only a brief moment ago. It was obvious that the chemistry between us that made this series so special and memorable to the fans was still intact. To tell you the truth I had forgotten about all the scenes they had taken out. I thought the three-hour version without commercial breaks and remastered not only stood the test of time, but also was still extremely compelling, dramatic, and entertaining.
DB: It was like going to your 25-year Class Reunion and discovering all the girls are just as pretty as they were way back then. And they are all divorced and want to have dinner with you. And they are going to pay for the dinner. And take you home afterwards. In other words, better than I dreamed possible. Richard and Herbert and I had a wonderful time doing the DVD and it gave us all a taste of what it would have been like to play Apollo, Boomer and Starbuck as 50-year-old guys, had we been used in the "revival."
What's your fondest memory of the show, looking back now?
RH: My fondest memory of the show is hanging out on the back lot of Universal Studios late into the night with all the cast members. Staying warm, telling stories, jokes and making popcorn. We bonded during these all night shoots and seven- day workweeks. I think that was the secret to our success. We became a family both in front and behind the camera, mentored and fathered by the one and only Lorne Greene who inspired everyone, and brought us all together.
DB: Fondest Memory? Actually my fondest memory is the day I discovered I was cast in the show. It was a long, drawn-out audition period. Over three months. Glen Larson and Universal Studios both had decided early on I was their choice to play Starbuck however ABC did NOT want me and so it took a lot of time, screen tests, threats and damaged egos to force me down the throat of the network. I was in fact told I was not cast in the show and they had been filming for several days and my bags were packed to head home to Montana. The rainy Sunday afternoon before heading home, my agent called to tell me that ABC had finally caved in and I was going to work Monday playing Starbuck. It was very exciting. During the filming of the series, working with Fred Astaire, with whom I had a great rapport, was my fondest, favoritest, bestest memory.
Do you have a favorite episode?
DB: Such large questions!
RH: My favorite episode is "The Hand of God."
"The Hand of God" ROCKS!
RH: I think the scene up in the star-chamber where we see at the end of the program the image of the astronauts on the screen saying: "Eagle landing, one small step for man, one large step for all mankind," was one of the most moving and definitive of the series. This shot really brought home the magic, mystique, and underlying heroic journey of this long-lost colony of man, struggling to survive beyond the stars and find its way home to their long-lost brothers and sisters on a faraway planet called Earth!
DB: Favorite Episode? The episode with Mr. Astaire. We just had so much fun playing father and son conmen. Too bad that the new show doesn't continue the family tree with Starbuck having a son and/or daughter, the grandson/daughter of Fred Astaire (Chameleon). My second favorite was "Starbuck Returns," which of course was actually in Galactica 1980 the following year. But it was the same old Starbuck and felt like I'd never left. I was always very grateful that I got to do that episode as it completed Starbuck's story. He was left alone on that planet, sending his girlfriend and baby child off in the rocket. So we assume he died there. Or is still waiting for them to revive the show with his manhood intact! I actually have several others that bring back great memories.
The enduring popularity of this show is nothing short of amazing. Why do you think that is?
RH: The enduring popularity of this one-year series is a testament to the profound mystical and heroic storyline and endearing characters that truly captured people's hearts and imagination. Despite the epic challenge of mounting a theatrical-style series for television, Battlestar managed in one year to carve out a place in history as the most expensive and highest-rated sci-fi series ever on network television. Fans loved the rare combination of story, character, and action that propelled this series to the sixth highest rated new series of the year. Fans fell in love with the mythology, Egyptian connection, and underlying spiritual and moral tone to the story. The premise of a family of man struggling to survive beyond the stars truly enthralled fans old and young and spanned all generational and cultural demographics.
DB: Enduring popularity...why? I have given this some thought. I think there are at least several reasons:
1. It was a family show. Families watched it together. It was a family "event." As time has gone by... the show not only reminds them of their youth but of their parents, their family, and creates great nostalgia for a bygone time when things, especially TV, were simpler and more innocent.
2. The show had a large emotional factor. It was not so much about ideas or plot or special effects, explosions or sex, but about the emotional bonds or lack thereof between the many characters. And so fans of the show have a strong emotional attachment to it still. Emotions are very powerful.
3. It was a show about Hope. That things can be, will be better. A show about people being kind to and helping one another surmount seemingly insurmountable odds. This is very attractive and so when people remember the show they remember a time of hope, a time when they, no matter what their age or situation, believed that things would be, could be better. Finding "Earth" became an analogy for finding a good job, a loving partner, a better life in some fashion.
4. It was well-cast. We were quite a charming group. Likeable. We were all basically, in real life, nice people. . . and I think that came through the glowing screens in the homes of the millions who watched, who still watch. There are many brilliant actors who do not have that quality and I don't believe they work as well on TV as in feature films. TV is so intimate. And for whatever reasons, BSG was very well-cast in that regard. Nothing to do with acting ability but with an innate quality of the people in the show.
5. Lightning in a bottle. It just was/is popular. It just happened. Which is another reason why it was a mistake to change completely the personality of the show and the cast when attempting to "revive" it. Why fix what isn't broken?
True enough. Thanks very much guys!
DB: I hope I pass.
A big shout out to Messrs. Hatch and Benedict, as well as Danny Duran of DDPR and Craig Radow at Universal Studios Home Video.