|Battlestar Galactica character|
|First appearance||"Bastille Day"|
|Last appearance||"Blood on the Scales"|
|Portrayed by||Richard Hatch|
|Occupation||Vice President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol|
Thomas "Tom" Zarek is the name of a fictional character on the Syfy series Battlestar Galactica. He is played by Richard Hatch, who had previously portrayed Captain Apollo, one of the main characters on the original Battlestar Galactica series of the late 1970s.
Zarek is a charismatic and philosophical populist political leader from the Colony of Sagittaron, who was jailed twenty years before the Cylon holocaust for terrorist activities (he planted explosives in a government building, destroying it and causing many deaths) and for spurring political unrest. After the destruction of the Twelve Colonies, he and a number of other inmates find themselves stuck on the Astral Queen, a prison ship which joins the Battlestar Galactica in fleeing the Cylons.
Gathering followers among the prisoners, Zarek leads a riot against the leadership of the ragtag fleet, protesting the poor living conditions on the Astral Queen. He creates a hostage situation which then-Commander Adama and President Roslin must resolve in the midst of a crisis of water supply in the fleet. ("Bastille Day"). As an homage to the original 1970s series, at one point in the episode Zarek and Lee Adama are in discussion sitting opposite each other in one of the cells. One of Zarek's co-conspirators calls "Apollo!", at which point they both turn in recognition.
Later in the series, Zarek runs for political office, and is elected representative for Sagittaron on the new Quorum of Twelve (the upper house of the legislative branch of the government, and the only one expedient to use under the circumstances). He then runs for the vacant office of Vice President, in a power play meant to take a step towards ascending to the presidency, but is defeated when Roslin makes a surprise replacement for her own nominee, and Dr. Gaius Baltar is elected Vice President.
Actor Richard Hatch has stated that Zarek ran for office because "he's always looking for positions where he can leverage himself, where he can have more influence. He obviously believes that he's fighting for the people, but very much so often the idealistic revolutionary becomes the self-serving politician. So often, what you think is for the people ends up being for you. I think that happens to so many political leaders. They start out for beneficial reasons but they get caught up in the process for their own purposes and agendas."
During the time in which Col. Tigh imposed martial law on the fleet, Zarek assists Lee Adama in hiding Roslin from the military. ("Resistance"). While on the run, he unsuccessfully tries to persuade the younger Adama to record a message to the fleet publicly denouncing his father for ordering Roslin's arrest. ("The Farm"). After the Astral Queen leads the pro-Roslin faction to Kobol, Zarek and his lieutenant, Meier, accompany Roslin's party to the planet's surface, ostensibly to provide security as they search for the Tomb of Athena. Zarek tries to dissuade Meier from his plan of assassinating Lee to no avail, and Meier ends up dead when the plan fails. ("Home").
Soon after reuniting with the fleet, Lee turns to Zarek for information on his "shady friends," who control a black market for essential goods. Zarek names a gangster named Phelan, who is later killed by Lee. Although he denies any involvement in the black market saying that he broke off contact with Phelan when he discovered Phelan's child prostitution ring, Zarek is nevertheless shown associating with one of the late Phelan's former henchmen. ("Black Market").
Subsequently, Zarek goes on to become Gaius Baltar's campaign manager in his bid against Laura Roslin. He engineers a winning platform that called for the fleet to settle on an isolated, newly discovered planet later dubbed "New Caprica." When Baltar is elected President of the Twelve Colonies, Zarek became his vice president. Zarek was placed in confinement, however, when he refused to collaborate with the Cylons after they forced the surrender of the Baltar administration. He, along with Laura Roslin and Cally Tyrol, was one of 200 citizens sentenced to death by the Cylon-controlled Colonial Government. Believing themselves to be doomed, Zarek elicited a confession from Roslin about the election fraud that almost denied Baltar the presidency. Upon hearing the truth from Roslin, Zarek admitted that in light of the Cylon occupation, settling on New Caprica was a bad idea. The group is saved at the last minute by the human resistance movement.
After Galactica's return to help the remnants of humanity escape, Baltar is left with the Cylons. Zarek becomes president of the Colonies, but decides to step down, believing that without the military's support he wouldn't be able to control the fleet. Before his resignation, he appoints Laura Roslin as his Vice President. Although saying he would like any position in Roslin's new administration, Zarek is clearly surprised when Roslin asks him to be her new Vice President. Before Roslin resumed her presidency, Zarek in conjunction with Saul Tigh secretly authorized "The Circle" to carry out death squad executions of those who collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica. Roslin is horrified when she learns of this, but Zarek says that the fleet needs quick justice to prevent chaos and that Roslin's new mandate needs to start with clean hands. The executions are stopped when Roslin declared a general amnesty in her inaugural address. After Baltar is returned by the Cylons to the Colonials during the Eye of Jupiter incident, Zarek repeatedly counsels Roslin against giving him a public trial, again citing the potential for chaos in the fleet that could ensue. He strongly advises Roslin to declare martial law as a precaution during the trial. When Zarek leaves, Roslin and Tory note that Zarek seemed extremely worried about possible unrest, as Zarek's political philosophy has always been fundamentally opposed to martial law.
When Roslin is kidnapped by renegade Cylons in the episode "Sine Qua Non", Zarek, under the Colonial Constitution, declared himself "Acting President" pending Roslin's return. Although the Quorum of 12 fully supported Zarek's actions, Lee Adama later advises him to step down due to the fact that the military will not back Zarek's administration. Zarek reluctantly agrees to exercise a provision that allows for an "Interim President" to be appointed in a time of crisis. This results in Lee Adama becoming interim president until Roslin is returned to the fleet.
After the fleet finds Earth to be a desolate, irradiated wasteland, Roslin retreats from the public eye, leaving Zarek as the government's de facto leader. In "A Disquiet Follows My Soul," tensions quickly arise between him and Admiral Adama over the latter's plan to install advanced Cylon jump drives on all civilian ships. While the admiral believes the use of Cylon technology will expedite the discovery of a new homeworld, Zarek sees it as an illegal military usurpation of civilian authority, and yet another step towards an unwise permanent alliance with the rebel Cylons. At Zarek's behest, the Quorum soon passes legislation forbidding Cylon engineers from boarding any ship whose captain refuses them, and Zarek privately exhorts the fleet to resist Adama's attempts to force compliance. The fleet's tylium ship, the "Hitei Kan," jumps away shortly after communicating with Zarek; Admiral Adama then has the Vice President arrested. In Galactica's brig, Adama confronts him with a stack of documents purportedly proving that Zarek is corrupt. Although it transpires that the documents are merely ship laundry slips, Zarek relents, giving Adama the coordinates to which the "Hitei Kan" jumped.
Not long afterward, Felix Gaeta visits Zarek in the brig, proposing a mutiny and coup d'état. Zarek agrees. In "The Oath", Gaeta sets his plan in motion, removing Zarek from the brig and escorting him to the hangar deck. Claiming to have spotted a dangerous fuel leak, co-conspirator Racetrack clears the deck of all personnel save for Crew Chief Laird and Jeanne, one of Baltar's acolytes. A suspicious Laird is about to contact the LSO when Zarek strikes him in the back of the head with a wrench, killing him. Racetrack then flies Zarek back to Colonial One, where he claims to Lee Adama that the Admiral had changed his mind about the imprisonment. Zarek remains in communication with Gaeta throughout the mutiny aboard Galactica, expressing annoyance when he hears that Admiral Adama had not been killed but congratulating Gaeta on his good work.
Shortly after Gaeta seizes control of Galactica, Zarek meets with the Quorum. When it becomes clear that the Quorum will not follow Zarek as the new President, Zarek orders the entire Quorum to be executed.
Zarek and Gaeta end up only controlling Galactica for a brief period of time. It soon becomes clear that the mutiny does not have as much support as Zarek and Gaeta anticipated. The relationship between the two breaks down shortly before Adama and loyalists break into the CIC and regain control of the ship.
After regaining control of Galactica and defeating the mutiny, Adama has Zarek and Gaeta executed by firing squad.
Zarek is a central character in The Cylons' Secret (2006) by Craig Shaw Gardner. The novel is set twenty years after the first Cylon War. At this time, Zarek is a junior crew member aboard the free cruiser Lightning, a scavenger/pirate ship owned by Captain Nadu.
A four-part comic book miniseries provided his biography.
Richard Hatch on Zarek 
After "Blood on the Scales", Richard Hatch commented on Zarek's motives on the Chicago Tribune website: "I would like to say that never did I play this character as a villain nor did I think he was one and I still feel that way. After paying the price of 25 years in prison for standing up for human rights and seeing both his family, friends and cohorts killed by a supressive government on his home planet he had every right to distrust the powers that be on Galactica that seemed to think that only they had the right to make decisions for the people. And since Zarek was blocked illegally by Roslin and Adama at every turn including from winning a fair election he had to resort to any leverage he could gain to assert some kind of voice in what had become an almost dictatorial government run by Adama and Roslin, who looked with disdain upon the council of the 12 and did pretty much what they wanted without consensus of the people." In his opinion, "Zarek, Adama and Roslin all wanted power for the same reason, to make a positive difference but Zarek still idealistically believed that the government should always be accountable".
"I feel privileged to have been a part of this wonderful series and I truly loved playing Tom Zarek. One of the most flawed, complex and misundertood characters I've ever played."
- "Chicago Tribune: Richard Hatch speaks out about 'Battlestar Galactica's' Tom Zarek". Featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com. 2009-02-09. Retrieved 2012-07-25.
- Tom Zarek entry on Battlestar Wiki
- Chicago Tribune - Richard Hatch speaks out about Battlestar Galactica's Tom Zarek