Money on the screen in Apple's ambitious space opera, with rewards for those who pace themselves.

No question that with Apple TV’s sprawling new sci-fi drama Foundation there is money on the screen. But what does it all mean?

Isaac Asimov’s classic franchise was published across 1942 – 1993, revolving around the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire. Now under David S. Goyer (Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, Dark City) & Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Snowpiercer, War of the Worlds) it is a big budget 10 part series.

Jared Harris stars as mathematician Hari Seldon whose ability to predict the future and a subsequent society sees him feted by the good folk of Trantor.

One believer is prodigy Gaal (Lou Llobell) who leaves her Synnax home behind to fulfil her destiny with Harry.

“I’ll die if I stay here. On Trantor I’ll be safe, going to work with Hari,” she reveals.

Hari knows his futuristic hypothesis leaves him as a threat to the ruling Cleon Emperors Brother Day (Lee Pace), Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann)

“They’re worried people believe I can. And they don’t like the future I can predict.”

Meanwhile Raych (Alfred Enoch), the adopted son of Hari Seldon, quickly forms an intimate bond with Gaal, which probably wasn’t in the original Asimov books given Gaal was originally a male character. The other key characters are Demerzel (Laura Birn), eternal advisor to the empire and Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) an outpost warden in the present time of Terminus.

TV has updated the story for modern audiences, which could be problematic for purists, but unsurprising given the volumes of literary work that must be distilled into a cohesive narrative drama. Therein lies one of Foundation‘s biggest challenges. Spanning time and space -literally- with some dialogue-heavy exchanges this is a beast of a show which at times yearns to be Game of Thrones in space.

On the plus side the costumes, music and sets are often sumptuous and theatrical. Visually there are hints of Star Wars, Blade Runner, and Star Trek‘s Holodeck, which -to be fair- were themselves doubtless influenced by Asimov.

Jared Harris brings a sense of gravitas and Lee Pace, as the dominant Emporer, runs riot with his Nero-like power. Lou Llobell is the latest black female heroine to personify an imbalance in sci-fi.

Yet for all the grandiose and expense on display this doesn’t quite satisfy the mind as much as the eye. Plotting is dense and direction sometimes sluggish. It requires serious commitment for eventual rewards, landing somewhere between action dramas such as Star Wars, The Mandalorian and the intellectual in Battlestar Galactica.

Pace yourself for this space opera. “Respect and enjoy the peace.”

Foundation is now screening on Apple TV+.

6 Responses

  1. Foundation looks amazing. Clearly, huge amounts of money have been spent. The problem is that from the first frame to the last it’s the same set of visual sci-fi cliches – from the glittering cityscapes to the hovercraft with retro WW2 vibes, we’ve seen it all before. Where’s the point in doing precisely what Star Wars did forty years ago, just with slightly better effects? Worse, what story there is moves at a glacial pace and is largely relayed in tedious dialogue-heavy scenes. Whatever happened to the first rule of drama being “show, don’t tell”?

  2. A good summary of what can be described as a potpourri of classic sci-fi genre’s, most notably those from Star wars especially the opening sequence. I would also add ‘Altered Carbon’ and ‘Dune’ to the list as well, as genetics and cloning does play a role in this show. The sub orbital tower with a lift that takes 14 hours to reach the Earth is also a concept promoted by Arthur C. Clarke in his visions for the future, who knows if this concept would be possible, its buoyancy would be generated using a perfect vacuum inside its cells, thus becoming lighter than air, free from the scarce availability of Helium and safe from Hydrogen’ s reactiveness. Foundation does appear to be a slow burner and dare I say for sci-fi fans mostly as those looking for instant gratification wont have the patience for the slow burn story being told, also the time changes will become confusing if you don’t pay attention.

  3. I actually couldn’t possibly agree with you any more on this review David. I didn’t have expectations going in having no idea about the source material, but left the first episode conflicted… so much is right as you mentioned (namely the money splashed on screen), but the sluggish way the story is told is a bit of a drag. I cannot believe how Star Wars-esque it is at times… that franchise was absolutely influenced by this novel.
    The slow start did make me think back to the early episodes of Game Of Thrones and Sons Of Anarchy where after a few episodes I was at the crossroads on whether to continue… both became two of my favourite programs ever. So I know a thing or two about sticking around on shows like this.
    I’ll stick with it because I believe Apple have huuuuge plans for this show. Writer David S. Goyer has mentioned he has plans for 8 seasons… which is obviously ambitious so I hope it becomes a hit for them. It could be a giant that needs waking though.

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