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+.