When ABC resurrected cancelled sci-fi show “Battlestar Galactica” in 1980, it did so without actor Richard Hatch, who had played the character of Captain Apollo. But while an episode of “Galactica 1980” suggested that Apollo had died in the five years that had passed between the to series, the show never conclusively dealt with the popular character’s fate.
Now, Dynamite Entertainment closes out 2014 with the launch of “Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo,” a limited series illustrated by Deitrich Smith, that fills in the blanks of exactly what happened to the beloved Galactica fighter pilot. And in talking with writer Dan Abnett about the comic, this isn’t just a “what if…?” tale — Apollo’s demise, however it unfolds, is 100 percent “Battlestar Galactica” canon.
CBR News: Before we get into your new series, let’s backtrack a little: Did you watch the original “Battlestar Galactica” when it aired in the ’70s, or did you come to it later?
Dan Abnett: I definitely watched it as a kid. The first two or three episodes were actually stuck together as a movie and released in the cinema in the UK [where Abnett grew up and still lives]. That was my first exposure.
My understanding is that the idea for “The Death of Apollo” came from Dynamite. What made you want to do it, and what made you think you were the writer to tackle it?
It appealed to me because it’s such a major epic of continuity, a real game-changer. It was just too exciting and notable to pass on. And it gave me a chance to expand on the work I’ve done on the twelve issues of the “Battlestar Galactica” comic I’d written.
How fleshed out was the original idea, and how does it compare to the final story?
It was only the basic premise, the suggestion of a topic. The story was all me. I had to find a way to make it work.
So where did you idea for the story come from? Did you base it something that happened in a particular episode?
I based it on where we knew “Battlestar Galactica” had left off at the end of the TV run, and the facts about what must have happened since then as established in “Galactica 1980.” But I strengthened that idea by weaving in the post-TV continuity and characters that I had established in my year long run on “Battlestar Galactica” that had led to this miniseries.
How did writing “The Death of Apollo” compare to working on the other “Battlestar Galactica” comic?
In my original twelve issue run of “Battlestar Galactica,” I built up a sense of continuity, including some new support characters. Though set ten years later, “The Death Of Apollo” gave me a chance to build on that.
In what ways?
To give my original run some added depth, I created several new support characters — including an engineer, a doctor, and several viper pilots — who would interact with the established TV characters. This added depth to the world, to the crew, and offered possibilities of storylines that couldn’t otherwise be done, the ability to do dramatic, life-changing things to characters without breaking the franchise. I thought it would be good to carry that on-ship crew continuity over into “The Death Of Apollo,” so several of those new support characters I created play significant roles in “Apollo,” one of them forming the springboard for the tale.
When you were first hired to write “Battlestar Galactica,” did you go back and watch the original series?
Absolutely, and it was a wonderful thing to revisit. It’s a show of its time, in many respects, but it stands up very well. There are retro delights, and a great deal of nostalgic pleasure, but it’s also a very strong, solid show that is still extremely entertaining.
And when you got hired to do “The Death Of Apollo,” did you watch “Galactica 1980”?
I did. I don’t think, sadly, that it holds up as well. It’s a little clunky, and the worst parts are quite dire. But the best parts are very interesting and provocative, and I consider, good or bad, both shows to represent the “Battlestar Galactica” canon, so things established in “Galactica 1980” have to be acknowledged rather than simply ignored. I hope I walked a sensible, inclusive, and respectful line through the continuity without disrupting or denying anything that fans would consider to be crucial.
Obviously, one of the nice things about writing a “Battlestar Galactica” comic is that you’re not constrained by the limitations of ’70s TV budgets or special effects. Did you take advantage of that, or did you try to keep everything that happens in “The Death of Apollo” in line with what could’ve been done on the show?
Oh, yes. Huge spaceship combat, super-mega base stars, cats and dogs living together —
A comic has what might be called an unlimited special effects budget. Our space battles and actions scenes are only limited by the artist’s imagination, not the available budget of a weekly TV show. So battles could be bigger and grander, and there can be as many locations and characters in shot as we want. I think any decent comic book version of a beloved TV show does this. I certainly have done it writing comics for “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who,” for example. You try to broaden the canvas and include things that simply wouldn’t be included in a TV because elf the usual limits — but you try to do that while retaining the feel, spirit and atmosphere of the TV show.
Richard Hatch, who played Apollo on the show, is still alive. Did you ever get in touch with him about the book?
I’d love to talk with Richard about Apollo. The opportunity has not arisen. I hope I’m doing his character justice. I think it’s a respectful story for a great sci-fi hero.
What about anyone else from the TV show, like any of the writers or creator Glen A. Larson?
No. As with most comic work on franchises, I just send my ideas and scripts in for approval. Though, it would be great to talk to the minds behind the shows.
Is there a difference in your approach or the difficulty when it comes to writing about existing comic book characters versus ones from TV?
No, not really. It’s just a matter of getting into “the universe” and getting into the characters. “Battlestar Galactica” is rich in world-built detail and great characters.
Finally, if you could write a comic about any other sci-fi TV show, what show would you want to do?
“Space 1999.” Or “Blake’s Seven.” Those are two of my faves from earlier days.
“Battlestar Galactica: The Death Of Apollo” lands in stores Wednesday, December 3.
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