Every network has wanted something similar since Game of Thrones. A big, expensive epic genre that can be referred to as their biggest thing. This is especially true for streaming. Netflix has The Witcher, Amazon spends a lot on Lord of the Rings, Apple has Foundation, a sci fi series that is based on the Isaac Asimov novels. The first episode will air on September 24th. After that, Apple TV Plus will be releasing new episodes every week.
Foundation is a tentpole epic in many ways. The story is about the fall of a galactic empire with plenty of political intrigue. The production is also extravagant, featuring amazing special effects and stunning production design. It is evident in every frame that it is expensive. Apple clearly has big plans. Showrunner David S. Goyer recently stated that he's already plotted eight seasons. It's also a very strange story. You'll see more people doing calculations than any action.
Verge editors Chaim Gardenberg and Andrew Webster had the opportunity to see the first episode before the premiere to find out how fascinating a space about math can be.
Andrew: I know it is difficult to summarize Foundation's purpose, but I will try. The main character of Foundation is not a person but a type of math. Foundations is about psychohistory. This is a method of using mathematics to study large populations. This means that you can use a calculator to forecast the future, as Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), does. He is the universe's most respected expert on psychohistory and reveals that the Galactic Empire is being overthrown by a steady stream of clones, each of which is controlled by a terrifying Lee Pace. This will be followed by thousands upon years of barbarism.
Hari and his fellow math whiz Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell), who won the galaxy-wide math competition to meet Hari, are exiled to a barren, cold planet in the far reaches. They will set up the Foundation to preserve knowledge lost in the long and dark period of galactic decay. The episodes follow Haris' exile and his initial prediction. There is also a terrorist attack against Trantor, which appears to indicate the period of decline he predicted.
It's hard to fit so much into two hours. For me, it felt like I was learning a long history lesson. I never felt like the show was slowing down to allow me to connect with any of its characters. It was fitting that it was a show about mathematics, as it was often cold, and sterile. Seldon is particularly detached from the people he's trying to save. The show is full of math talk. Many people say math doesn't take sides or tell lies, but numbers don't do that with a straight face. Gaal keeps reciting prime numbers to help him relax. Gaal starts a lengthy diatribe about base 10, when the Foundation is discussing what parts of different cultures they should preserve. It's like going back to high school.
Chaim, what did you think?
Chaim: I have mixed feelings about Foundation's launch. Given the anthology nature the source material, the choice to make Foundation a traditional TV series seems odd. Each book is a collection of short stories that break up the 1000-year story.
Foundation appears to be taking a more slow-paced approach to its adaptation. They are focusing on the fall and not jumping ahead. It is possible that the events will speed up over the course the series. The flash-forward at the beginning of the show suggests that we will be seeing more of this story.
Foundation, the book, tells its readers that the Galactic Empire is going to fall and that an encyclopedia will be created. Foundation, the TV series, will show every step of the process. Andrew stated that arguing about an encyclopedia was not a good idea for a TV program.
The show's sheer size and scope is what I love, however. The visual effects are stunning with huge space elevators and unique ships that make it stand out from other series like Star Wars, Star Trek or The Expanse.
Andrew: The show is absolutely stunning. The visuals are more than just pleasing to the eye. They also contribute to worldbuilding. It really feels like a society made up of many different cultures and has been around for a long time. It is evident in the elaborate costumes half the characters wear, which make them look as if they have just stepped out from the Met Gala. A kind of living painting is one of my favorites. It needs to be maintained by skilled craftsmen. The Emperor even uses it to display how advanced his culture when visiting from other worlds. It's a world that feels real and alive.
Problem is, after only two episodes, I don't care about anyone in that universe. It's great to watch Paces the emperor, a methodically ruthless dictator who towers over all others while wearing blue superhero armor. Seldon and his somewhat detached nature are the only ones that have really captured my attention.
Chaim: Chaim is 100 percent in agreement on Pace who is amazing at dancing between cruelty and charisma like Brother Day. Although the other parts of the imperial triovirate don't quite measure up, I like the idea in theory, even if it isn't 100 percent in practice.
Part of the problem with the show, I believe, is Seldon and psychohistory in general. It's a lot like the child at the playground, who believes his power is always winning. The very nature of the books and the show is that Seldon is always right. Seldon always has a plan. Even if he loses it, that is the plan. Even if things go horribly wrong, he always had a plan.
Math is a favorite topic of the Foundation. The show regards math as the highest form logic and order. Gaals' backstory is dominated by this. She gave up what appears to be Empires primary dogmatic religion in order to study math. However, Foundations math is so complex that it's almost like a form of sorcery. It is so complicated that no one on the show can understand the swirls and dots that make Seldons Prime Radian calculator. Seldon and Gaal are the only ones who can comprehend its intricate details.
It's not surprising that so many people want him dead, it is.
I'm curious to know what you would like to see from the rest of this show, more of Gaal, Hari and Raych (Alfred Enoch), building the Foundation of Trantor. Deeper dive into imperial politics and the fall of empire with the emperors Time travel? There are many ways that the season (or seasons), could go.
Andrew: Just give me some interesting characters! I would love to see the Foundation's more normal members as they establish a new life on an alien world. (We get a hint of that in episode 2), and how that affects people on the many planets that make up the empire. You have a lot of space to explore, literally and metaphorically. It just needs some warmth to offset the evil dictators, intergalactic mathletes, and other machinations.