Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
On September 24 Apple TV premiered the first two episodes of the Foundation TV series, which is an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s epic and Hugo awarding series of novels of the same name. Now I have only read one of the novels (I believe it was Forward the Foundation) and that was years ago, but I am aware of the massive scale of this world and what it means to hardcore Sci Fi fans. But does this new series do justice to Asimov’s masterwork?
Well I checked out the first three episodes (a third was released October 3) and while there are some good things here the show has its fair share of issues. With a Starbridge-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s break it down in three blasts:
Blast #1 Stunning Sights
First off, this show looks gorgeous. They definitely did not skimp on the visual effects budget because the planets, ships, and space flight effects are all highly detailed, stunning and beautiful to look at. The costuming and production design are both very good and I thoroughly enjoyed just seeing all the cool stuff in this futuristic world. In terms of scenes, the stuff with the Vault and destruction of the Spacebridge have been my favourite so far. So if you like good-looking Sci Fi then Foundation will be right up your alley.
Blast #2 Future People
When it comes to characters this is where the flaws begin to show up. Let me deal with the space elephant in the room first. The series changed both the gender (and likely the race) of novel characters Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin. Now personally I don’t mind these types of changes once they work for the story or don’t majorly affect the characterisation. And I thought Lou Llobell and Leah Harvey (who play Gaal and Salvor respectively) were decent in their roles. But making them women seemed to be mostly to sex up the show and to feature them in romantic relationships, which in Gaal’s case seemed rushed and simplistic. I do hope the changes weren’t only to tick diversity boxes, but when you take two white male characters and turn them both into black women you may raise some eyebrows. And it would have been nice to have a focus on a male hero as well, though admittedly it is early days yet.
On the less controversial side I thought Jared Harris (Fringe, The Expanse) did good work in portraying father of psychohistory Hari Seldon. There is a wisdom and world-weariness in him that I enjoyed. We don’t get much of him in these early episodes before his apparent shocking death but I liked what I saw. But the standout of the series is easily Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit trilogy) as middle-aged Emperor Cleon I clone Brother Day. He plays the role with such glorious presence, self-importance and viciousness, and commands every scene. Looking forward to more of him. Also a shout out to Terrence Mann (Critters, Sense8) as the wizened and sympathetic Brother Dusk, and Laura Birn as secret android majordomo Eto Demerzel.
Blast #3 Uneven Storytelling
In terms of story, things are a mixed bag so far. The lore-building is good and the plotting in the first episode is very tight. But things felt rushed in the second episode while the third time-jumped so much it could give a viewer whiplash. Also in the third the two plots were interesting on their own but they lacked any thematic thread, making the viewing experience feel somewhat jarring.
With such a complex story a Foundation TV series needs a deft hand to guide it but what I have seen so far has me worried a bit. But there are seven more episodes to go, so let’s see if the show can build a strong Sci Fi series worthy of its iconic source material from this somewhat shaky foundation. You saw what I did there, and you liked it!
So what are your thoughts on Foundation so far? And you can check out more Sci Fi TV content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.