The SciFi Thomas Paine

by Peggy Nelson

8 October 2004

Richard HatchRichard Hatch, well-known in SciFi circles for his portrayal of Apollo in the TV series Battlestar Galactica, was in Worcester, Massachusetts in early June 2004 to show the trailer for his new film-in-development, Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, and The Great War of Magellan, which follows the further adventures of Apollo in a race to save the universe from its own worst enemy: ourselves. Lead the mission, win the battles, save the universe, placate the aliens, get the girl, ... and redistribute the wealth? The future can look very, very different, if only we have the courage to imagine it. I managed to grab an interview with him just as he was packing up to take off on his next mission.

PN: I have a couple of questions for you. I've noticed in a lot of science fiction films and TV, there's a military metaphor for the exploration of the unknown. You've got the captain, you've got the ship. What do you think about that? It seems like your trailer is continuing that theme, but you said that your interest was in people's relationships, and surviving in space, and more of the human element.

RH: Because drama comes out of conflict. And love stories come out of conflict. And without conflict, you don't have drama. So the whole key is that, if you watch a love story, there's a conflict.

PN: Something goes wrong.

RH: Somebody abuses somebody, somebody beats somebody up, somebody doesn't communicate, somebody hurts somebody by cheating on them: that's violence. And the only reason we (scriptwriters, filmmakers) do that, is because that forces characters to deal with their issues. Everything is about relationship. And war is one of the most prevalent issues of our time. My show talks about the original root race having moved beyond war and self-destruction, and what is it that has gotten lost that we once knew? So the whole journey, even though it deals with conflict, is about what is it that causes conflict, how do we move out of conflict, and how do we bring our people back from the brink of destruction. What is it that we need to remember and reconnect to?

It's usually out of chaos and conflict and catastrophic events like 9/11 that people who never talked to each other finally say hello. That's when people come together and hold hands. That's when people move through their defenses and their walls and connect and realize that we're all here together. So it takes conflict unfortunately in order for people to remember what's important in life. That's the whole thing.

I'm not interested in conflict for conflict's sake, I'm not interested dying and death and all that stuff. Great action movies, what makes them exciting, it's not killing people. It's when people who have no courage, find courage. It's when people move through fears and do extraordinary things. It's when people go beyond the call of duty and do things they never thought they could do. That's what catastrophic events bring out of people, you know what I mean? And I'm always looking for those miracles: that's the joy of life. And also, sometimes in conflict is where you recognize how precious peace is. Sometimes you need the extremes in order to appreciate what you have. Sometimes you need to lose something in order to appreciate what you have.

Richard HatchPN: Now about your interest in science fiction. Did you first get interested when you were doing Battlestar Galactica? You've obviously continued that interest. What do you like about the genre?

RH: Science fiction is the greatest genre there is, because science fiction is about the exploration of the mysteries of the universe, and the mysteries of the human heart. And it explores it in a fresh context that makes you look at things that you have taken for granted. It also is a metaphor for life. Because whether you're an alien, it doesn't matter. The point of it is that we have biases and prejudices against somebody of a different color, a different nationality; and so, looking at alien species and possible other races, it opens the mind to the possibility that we're not alone in this universe, it explores the possibility that there will be beings that will look different than us, and in a sense it prepares us for realizing that no matter how different they may be, at the core of all of our beings is the spark of life, the spark of humanity that binds all of us together. We may look different, but that inside our hearts and spirits we're the same.

So again, everything is a metaphor. Fantasy is a metaphor. Fantasy actually deals with subconscious belief systems, judgments, archetypal structures. Think the hero, and the woman in the tower, and saving her - it's not about saving somebody. What it really is, it's about the journey within all of us to come home to our truth, come home to our spirit, come home to what's important. Rescuing the maiden is really maybe not rescuing the maiden, maybe what it is, is facing our fear, or surrendering to the female or the receptive aspect of our being, the polarity of our being, where we can actually come home to God, to spirit, to nature, realizing that we're both physical and spiritual beings. I mean there's many ways you could look at it but the point of it is that everything in SciFi/fantasy is a spiritual metaphor. And what I love about science fiction is that at its core, it explores the spiritual, philosophical, mystical, all those areas that we are all curious about, and want to know more about, and yet it does it with extraordinary human beings.

People's concept of SciFi is monsters and B-movies and lasers; those are just like icing on the cake. The point of it is that great SciFi is intelligent, it's insightful, it's written by some of the most scientific, intelligent, profound minds of our time. And great SciFi couples, like I said, scientific, theoretical probabilities, possibilities, exploring the mysteries of the universe, along with great human interest stories, stories about people, about life, about connection, about relationship, and it brings it all together. There's no other genre that does it better than that. Within science fiction there are great love stories, there's comedy, there's drama, but there's always, at its core, a deep insightful look at who we are as human beings, where we come from, where we are, where we're going.

PN: I have two questions about business aspects of it. Now you're doing your own project after trying to cooperate with the powers that be, and have them do a project, and it didn't come out the way you wanted it. How do you keep your ego intact in a town where it's all about other people's opinions? How do you find the courage to put your idea forward in the face of other people trying to do their thing?

RH: What Jesus said on the cross, "Forget them, for they know not what they do!" (laughing) I think that so often the way business is done in the world is that it comes from fear. It comes from fear, insecurity, low self-esteem. There are very gifted talented people in the business, but the truth is that most people these days are operating on fear. They so desperately need to succeed, and not only succeed; but in their minds, in order to succeed, others may have to fail. It's like their need for self-importance is so great that everything else around them has to be somehow invalidated or put down or conquered.

It's a mentality I think that comes from the way our society in a sense is going at the moment. The family structure is not very healthy. Children are born into situations where both parents are working and nobody has time to give the children quality time, children are really left on their own, they don't get the love or the support, and they grow up wounded. They grow up feeling abandoned. They grow up feeling not important. And then of course what do you do when you feel unimportant? You spend your life trying to feel important. And the ego overcompensates, and so, the more success, the more money I make, then the more I can fill that deep hole, but the trouble is I've made millions of dollars and I was never able to fill that hole. So I realized that money is important, I love money, but if you don't create success that comes from your heart, from your soul, your spirit, that really honors people, honors the product you're putting together, honors the customer, and honors the employee, if it's not a win-win scenario, you never feel good about the money. Real success means you got to cover all the bases, and that's something I learned the hard way. Now, for me, I think greater success actually is achieved through business practices that come out of respect and out of sharing the wealth, rather than squeezing everybody and underpaying everybody, and ending up with one or two people taking all the money and everybody else suffering.

A little bit right now we're at an extreme point in history where too few people are trying to hoard all the money, and more money than ever before is being generated and less of it is going to the people underneath the one or two percent. And you know something? Money is not limited. The problem is that when people operate out of greed and out of insecurity and out of fear, they end up wanting to take it all. There's more than enough for everybody, and I'm not about 'everybody should make the same amount,' but, let's just say an actor, instead of making $30 million, made $20 million, or $25 million, you took that other $5 million, you actually put it into the departments that need the money and paid the employees that need the pay, and you let the actors that are maybe third, fourth and fifth down the list make a decent living? With a few million dollars less, everybody would be in great shape! And that star would still have his $25 million.

But the trouble is it's gotten so greedy that stars are making so much money at the top, and everybody down beneath them is making so little, that it's making it every hard for talented gifted people to survive in this industry. Everything is just a little too lopsided and unbalanced right now. I would rather get a business that pays people what they're worth, honors people's contributions. You know, the people that actually make the product should be rewarded! Distributors unfortunately take a lion's share of the finances; they do the least amount of work, and they receive the most. Distributors deserve money, but the customer should be paying a little less, the people who make the product should be making more, and the distributors would make a little less, and it would be more balanced. They get to find a more equitable way of doing business so that everybody feels honored and valued, and so that everybody gets what they deserve. You're still going to have multi-millionaires, you're still going to have people making lots of money, but instead of being so extreme and so imbalanced ...! I think any economy ultimately collapses if it's not set up in a more balanced way. If the middle class disappears, and it becomes Poor and Rich, those are the conditions for economic collapse. Right now we're tending to move the pendulum into that kind of extreme position.

I'm for more equity, more fairness, and for better business practices, that for me, in the long run, I think generate actually more revenue. If you honored your employees, if you actually honored your product and you put more of your time and energy into creating a more superior product and you treated your customer with more respect, I think down the line you ultimately generate more revenue, not less. But everybody in today's market seems to be short-term interested. They're interested in the bottom line today, not tomorrow. They don't think long-term. They want their money upfront, now; so they make their money off of big deals, and then they want to move on to the next train wreck and they don't even care now what happens to the product that they just put together because they've already made their money. They walk away with a lot of money in their pockets, and then the product gets thrown together, gets thrown out there, and they spend a lot of money advertising it, and lying to people, getting them to buy something that's inferior, and then people buy it and they're angry and pissed off because they just got sold a bill of goods, and so it leaves a lot of train wrecks. Ultimately, that's why companies go down.

Because no matter how much money they make, it's not what you make, it's how much you spend. And it's also where you spend it, how you spend it, and whose pocket it goes into. Imagine a movie like Matrix, or Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, not really even showing a profit! Making billions of dollars, everybody gets paid, but there's no profit. Well, I understand, they're trying to show as little profit as possible so they pay as little tax, but the point I'm trying to make is that the investors - who makes the money? I'll tell you who pays for all that. For all that debt that gets incurred? We pay for it. We all pay for it. Yeah. All debt is paid for by the common man out there. He pays more of it, a larger weight of it, than the people at the top. We just need to come back to common sense, and do business based on common sense. Everybody would be a lot more happy, a lot more fulfilled, we would have less war, we would have fewer people out there trying to rob and steal to make a living. It just seems like we've forgotten the basic simple laws of life I think that lead to happiness, fulfillment and success.

My joy is not just creating a product, but also creating a business where people want to work because they are valued and because they are treated with respect, and honestly I think that leads to real success. And ultimately I think it leads, like I said before, to generating more revenue. In the long run, everybody makes more money when you think long-term.

PN: Because they can all spend it, there's more in circulation.

RH: And also, people become your best friends because they get a superior product that looks great, they tell everybody about it, and long-term, it comes back to you because more people will come to you as a result of having given them a superior product and treating them with respect. The industry puts all their money into advertising and all their money into the wrong places because they don't trust that anything will go out there and be successful. They want to ensure their success by getting paid up-front. They want to minimize their risk, and they leave a lot of train wrecks behind them and a lot of unhappy people and then they move on to the next train wreck.

And then the horrible part is that people take it. People's self-worth is so low in this world that even when they get 1% of value from something they should have gotten 100% of value from, they take it. And they don't communicate back that this is not acceptable. So in a sense, people need to be empowered so that they don't accept that. And I'll tell you something, if people stand up, then companies will have to deliver us more superior product because people will demand it. People get what they ask for!

PN: One more question, and then I'll let you go. This one is about the role of celebrity. We live in a culture where entertainment workers are anointed with this special status, and I'm wondering as someone who is an actor and working within that industry, how do you feel about the notion of celebrity? Do you feel that it's a coat that gets hung on you from some other place; do you feel like it's in some way connected to your work or talent; is it a limitation, a restriction?

RH: I think celebrity is a million things. and everybody makes it into what it is. It can be restricting, it can be limiting, it can be an incredible key that opens the door to incredible opportunities, it can be an opportunity to make a difference in the world, a major difference in the world, it can be an opportunity to face your deepest, darkest fears. Celebrity is a misconstrued term, and all it is, is it takes whatever it is and magnifies it a hundred times. So whatever your insecurities are, it magnifies it. Whatever your agendas are, it magnifies it. Whatever your issues are, it magnifies it. If you were an asshole before, you're a bigger asshole! (laughing) It also forces you to deal with stuff that you don't normally deal with. You learn as much through becoming rich and successful; sometimes that can be just as stern a taskmaster as poverty and suffering from the other side of the structure. So the point is that we learn from everything that we do.

But I love celebrity because it allows me to travel the world, meet people I normally wouldn't meet, be invited to people's barbeques that consider me family! What a great opportunity to get to know people that normally I would never get a chance to meet! And also one word from you at an appropriate time can change somebody's life because they value you in what you've done; you just saying one word of inspiration to them can change their whole life because it's somebody they respect seeing something special in them. So you're in a position to really affect a lot of positive change. And celebrities are no different, we're all human. Trouble is, people invest people with value, and I always try to invest people back with value to let them know that underneath the celebrity is the human being that's just as flawed and imperfect as them, and that what you've accomplished, they can accomplish. You teach what you learn the hard way.

(Peggy Nelson is a painter and writer for Otherzine.)