I LOVE a good sci-fi series! It feels like it’s been ages since I binge on an expansive space opera, if you will. I finished the latest sci-fi obsession of mine, THE EXPANSE season 5, last November, unfortunately it’s not clear when season 6 will drop. Well, thank goodness FOUNDATION is for sure arriving on Apple TV+ this Friday (yay!!), as I’ve been anticipating this for nearly a year!
PREMISE + SHOW RUNNER
For those who aren’t familiar with FOUNDATION, it’s based on Isaac Asimov‘s seven novel series. The original trilogy was actually written in the 1950s, which won the one time HUGO award for Best All-Time Series, even beating out The Lord of The Rings! He later picked up the book series again in the 1980s with four more books, including two prequels. So what is the story about? Well, according to THR, apparently show-runner David S. Goyer sold THIS one-sentence pitch to Apple which got him the gig:
It’s a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens
The article puts it like “… a bit like Game of Thrones in space — but over a much, much longer time span.” It’s astounding that this influential work (which apparently inspired Star Wars, Dune, etc.) has never brought to screen before, though not for lack of trying.
Per Wiki, even Jonathan Nolan reportedly was writing and producing a TV series based on the Foundation Trilogy for HBO. Interesting that Nolan and Goyer were both working on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It seems the centuries-spanning and multiple plot lines of the novels seems to make FOUNDATION deemed ‘un-filmable.’ In this BBC article, even James Cameron told Goyer at one point ‘That one’s hard’, when they heard the rights to Asimov’s work became available.
Here’s Goyer talking about what FOUNDATION is all about and its influences:
I’ve been reading articles and watching videos to educate myself about the story to help prepare me for the series, as I have not read any of Asimov’s books. I always find it helpful to have experts on the subject explain them to me in layman’s terms, so if you’re curious about it, check out this video:
I’m even more intrigued that Asimov was heavily influenced by The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by English historian Edward Gibbon. There are obviously many factors that cause the fall of such a vast empire, but government corruption, political dispute, and power struggle cause the empire to weaken over time, and that’s a cautionary tale for our world today as well.
I have to admit I’m instantly on board with this series when I saw LEE PACE had been cast! He’s such a terrific actor who somehow still hasn’t gotten his moment to shine yet despite having been in big-budget films like The Hobbit. I first saw him in Tarsem’s The Fall and am baffled as to why he isn’t a bigger star by now.
Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Watch this interview of him describing the character as being more than one man, but a series of men who for a time in their life inhabit the role of the emperor. Sounds like a challenging part but I’m sure he’d be great in the role.
I’m also excited to see JARED HARRIS as his co-lead in the series. The talented British actor was also in The Expanse and he’s always delivered a solid performance in everything I’ve seen him in. He’s also no stranger to big-budget television productions as he was also in BBC’s Sherlock and The Crown.
Harris plays Hari Sheldon, the central character of Asimov’s books, the mathematician who predicts the fall of the Empire that would usher in the Dark Ages lasting 30,000 years. He proposes creating the Foundation comprised of the most intelligent minds in the universe as a way to limit those Dark Ages to just 1,000 years, which puts him in direct opposition to the Galactic Empire who’s resistant to change [surprise, surprise!].
In one of the interviews, Goyer said FOUNDATION isn’t so much about the future but about the NOW… as we likely will see parallels of two competing visions of the future, and that there are elite forces in world governments today who are resistant to change. He cites Brexit as one of the examples.
Check out this clip where two parties with competing visions of the future clash:
Per IMDb, three major male characters in the original novels are portrayed by females. Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and Eto Demerzel (Laura Birn). Good to see a diverse cast as well.
Per this blog post, Llobell acknowledged there are similarities between her character Dornick with Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins … “He doesn’t know anything about this world, and gets thrown into it, and then has to deal with everything that comes with it… Gaal starts off as a small-town girl, who arrives in the big city, and all her hopes and everything she kind of anticipates is going to happen, doesn’t. She is thrown into this whirlwind of a story and she goes with it, because she really does believe in the math. And that is what drives her, the truth is what drives her.” I‘m most curious to see her character journey in this series!
Salvor Hardin, a Warden of a planet called Terminus at the edge of the galaxy, where Seldon’s followers establish a Foundation to prepare for the Dark Ages that will follow the fall of the Empire. Hardin is played by non-binary actor Leah Harvey. Interestingly, Harvey had originally auditioned for the role of Dornick, but Goyer saw them more as Hardin. Per that Ownkart blog, she’s quoted as saying “Being non-binary, I see gender as kind of something that’s nothing and everything at the same time, … I’ve had experiences playing Shakespeare characters who are typically male, and my experience doing that is that it doesn’t really change anything, which is quite nice to actually feel because it takes the pressure off.”
Then there’s Finnish actress Laura Birn who plays Demerzel, the First Minister to the Emperor. Per this CNET article, this character was not in the original trilogy, only in the prequel. The article mentioned that it’s “…a potentially handy device for Goyer and the other creators to have an essentially immortal character that audiences can identify across multiple seasons.”
SERIES ADAPTATION VS BOOKS
I think adapting such a complex series would be really challenging if they stick too closely to the books, given the large scope and centuries-spanning timeline. Well, based on this article, the series will be a philosophically faithful adaptation of the source material, though the TV series is taking creative liberties elsewhere. I think that is a wise decision on Goyer part. The sheer scale of it would make it hard to have characters audiences can latch on to in a serialized format… I mean, unless all of the characters are immortal or alien beings who live for hundreds/thousands of years.
Per the CNET article above, a lack of direct conflict in the books would also make it challenging to make for riveting TV series. So I’m hopeful that the creative licenses Goyer + co. are taking would improve the story.
One thing for sure, the production design and cinematography look absolutely stunning! The filming locations include County Limerick, Ireland, Malta, Iceland, etc. so Apple certainly spent $$$ for this series.
I’m REALLY hoping this series is good! Apple is launching the first two episodes tomorrow, Sept. 24, and one episode is released every Friday thereafter. Check out the latest trailer if you haven’t already: