Foundation – a lavish TV epic that is brave, bold and beautiful

24th September 2021

Foundation is now showing on Apple TV.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you thought Dune was the only epic science fiction adaptation in town this Autumn, think again. Apple TV’s adaptation of Issac Asimov’s legendary Foundation is beautiful, complex and utterly fascinating. David S. Goyer, Josh Friedman, Skydance and Apple took a significant risk on this show; after all, Asimov’s books have often been called ‘unfilmable’ with several attempts at adaptations falling into oblivion. This is due to Asimov’s expansive and complicated saga weaving multiple plotlines through a story that spans centuries. Even for passionate science fiction fans, Foundation has often proved a challenge as they attempt to navigate the political intrigue, complex characters, time jumps and elaborate world-building.

Issac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia, around 1920, before his family emigrated to the United States in 1923. As a Jew, Asimov watched the Second World War unfold from a safe distance, but the impact of the events surrounding him would find a voice through his past time of writing as he became a professor of biochemistry at Boston University. In sculpting what would become Foundation, Asimov took inspiration from The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Arnold Toynbee’s theories on the cycle of history alongside the fight against fascism in Europe. Foundation began as a series of short stories in Astounding Science Fiction Magazine in the 1940s. But by 1951, it had been published as a stand-alone book, followed by two sequels and two prequels over his lifetime. Asimov died in 1992, but the Foundation story has continued through a range of other authors, each working with the direct blessing of the Asimov estate.

Asimov’s Foundation books have four clear themes; empire and corruption, the human longing for continuation, power and oppression and belief and science. His groundbreaking work would inspire science fiction films and books ranging from Star Wars to Dune; however, translating this material for the screen was never going to be easy.

Jared Harris stars in Foundation (Apple TV and Skydance 2021)

From its opening scenes, Foundation clarifies that this is a show to be savoured like the finest wines. Foundation isn’t designed for binge-viewing; it demands your attention, commitment, and mind as it weaves its complex narrative path. Foundation offers us a spectacular slice of intensely creative science fiction. It is big, bold and utterly beautiful; it defies its television roots and deserves the largest screen possible and the best surround sound.

Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) is a mathematician and psychologist living on the imperial planet of Trantor. However, in embracing psychohistory, Seldon challenges the very foundations of the Empire and its genetically engineered Emporer’s Dusk, Dawn and Day. Seldon’s mathematical model predicts the collapse of the Galactic Empire and a period of barbarism that will last for 30,000 years. Meanwhile, Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) is one of the only people in the galaxy capable of fully understanding Seldon’s work. But, as she travels from a nearby star to assist Seldon, Gaal is unaware of the trap she is walking into – a trap Seldon may have already seen coming through his elaborate mathematical model.

Goyer and Friedman’s adaptation builds on Asimov’s work rather than offering us a word-for-word adaptation, helping Foundation to create a cohesive episodic path while finding a contemporary voice. Goyer and Friedman play with several modern-day political concerns and debates, from climate change to the ever-increasing divide between rich and poor, allowing Foundation to grow and expand upon its literary roots while remaining fiercely loyal. Over each stunningly crafted episode, exquisite performances dovetail with brave and bold eye-popping world-building to create a genuinely lavish TV epic. Foundation is TV at its most creative, and while it may not appeal to everyone due to its complex themes and slow pace, its wonder and power are something to behold.


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