Issac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy is quite rightly regarded as not only a classic, but a cornerstone of science fiction. It’s set in the very far future; humanity has spread across the stars, an Empire that has lasted over 12,000 years but is already starting to show signs of fading. Enter Hari Seldon, a man who has used incredibly complex mathematics to predict the future. His grand plan is to use this science for the good of humanity.
Apple TV’s adaptation is visually stunning and filled with a wide variety of incredible talent. Tone-wise, it will remind some of The Expanse; space is dangerous and majestic, yet humanity’s petty bickering and lust for power is even more deadly.
The original books are hardly action-packed – immersive and engaging yes, but mostly filled with mesmerising prose that comprises an extensive meditation on the nature of empire. Luckily for viewers, the fall of an empire, especially a galactic one is something that will feature a lot of action. Big, sweeping events get plenty of air-time, making the galaxy seem vast and dangerous.
The TV series opens pretty much in the middle of the narrative and then flashes back to the story of Gaal Dornick, a genius unlucky enough to be born in a place where scientific thought is reviled. This show is a modern parable about how there will always be those who deny scientific facts in their quest for power, and as timely as it was then as it is today.
The original story was written in 1942 for an audience of white American men. The TV show has made some changes to the characters in order to make the whole thing more visually interesting and to appeal to more people. The cast is more diverse and some characters have been gender-flipped, for example. It’s an obvious choice and a welcome one. After all, having a cast of mostly one type of person in a story about a galaxy filled with humanity would be a serious misstep in this day and age.
They are some petty gripes; it’s an American show so everyone says math instead of maths, and the narrative does stop at points to focus on character development and show the audience how much has been spent on costumes and special effects. Though this is mostly welcome, it does slow down a narrative that isn’t exactly quick.
The performances are staggering. Lee Pace is jaw-dropping as the Galactic Emperor Brother Day. Jared Harris portrays the role of Hari Seldon as if he’s actually lived the character’s life and Lou Llobell is unstoppable as Gaal Dornick, taking on perhaps the trickiest lead role in the show and being fantastic throughout.
If these two episodes are a sign of things to come, then this sci-fi classic has finally found an adaptation it deserves. Let’s hope that the show becomes as influential as the books are.
Episodes 1 and 2 of FOUNDATION are available on apple TV+ now, with new episodes premiering weekly. Read our interview with the showrunner here.