The original ”Battlestar” was often dismissed as a ”Star Wars” rip-off, but it was always stranger and more ambitious than that. There was an element of 70’s-era ”Chariots of the Gods” crackpot-ism to it. (”There are those who believe that life here began out there,” spoke the tweedy voice of Patrick Macnee at the opening of each episode, and proof of this common ancestry was provided weekly in the King Tut-style space helmets Apollo sported.) But that was blended in an intriguing way with late-cold-war anxiety over Soviet appeasements and an openly biblical story line, widely considered a tribute by its creator, Glen A. Larson, to the parables of his own Mormon faith. Twelve colonies of space-faring humans, survivors of slaughter driven away from their home planets, had set off through space in search of the mythical 13th tribe that, legend tells, settled a promised land called ”Earth.”
…Compared with the thriving ”Star Trek” and ”Star Wars” franchises, ”Battlestar” fandom was marginal — the province of a few diehards making Web sites and sewing Colonial-warrior costumes. But these diehards rallied around Hatch, donating the costumes and props they had fabricated or volunteering to do the computer graphics for the space battles. And as they did, Hatch became for most of them the face of the fight for the new ”Galactica.”
In 1999, at the San Diego Comic-Con, he showed his completed trailer, titled ”Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming.” He reports that it received a standing ovation. I can report that it looks remarkably professional and engaging and certainly faithful to Larson’s original story. But you will probably never see it, because Hatch spent somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 of his own money to create a film within a franchise in which he owned absolutely no rights and which, for this reason, as well as actors’ union regulations, he can never show or distribute for money.
But that was fine. Because for Hatch, it was always about convincing the world that it made sense to bring back ”Battlestar.” And in fact, soon Universal would indeed be relaunching the Galactica — although Richard Hatch would not be on board.
…Moore said he would do it, but he wanted to make some changes. After numerous meetings and a full script treatment, he wrote a two-page memo that laid out the basic tenets of what the new ”Battlestar Galactica” would eventually become. ”We take as a given the idea that the traditional space opera, with its stock characters, techno-double-talk, bumpy-headed aliens, thespian histrionics and empty heroics has run its course, and a new approach is required,” it began. ”Call it ‘naturalistic science fiction.”’ There would be no time travel or parallel universes or cute robot dogs. There would not be ”photon torpedoes” but instead nuclear missiles, because nukes are real and thus are frightening.
”To this day,” Eick says, ”I don’t think either of us could have anticipated how valuable the memo would be.” It would repair everything that had been worn down to convention in a genre Moore had once loved. But ”Battlestar” would be more than just an opportunity to do ”Voyager” correctly.
”When I watched the original pilot,” Moore says, ”I knew that if you did ‘Battlestar Galactica’ again, the audience is going to feel a resonance with what happened on 9/11. That’s going to touch a chord whether we want it to or not. And it felt like there was an obligation to that. To tell it truthfully as best we can through this prism.” In the miniseries Moore wrote to introduce the new ”Battlestar,” the echoes of the war on terror were unapologetic and frequently harrowing: what happens when an advanced, comfortable, secular democracy endures a devastating attack by an old enemy that it literally created (which enemy, in Moore’s version, also happens to be religious fanaticism)?