Foundation, Isaac Asimov’s great adaptation, Apple TV +, is entering the murky waters of intergalactic politics this week. Brother Dan hears of a possible rebellion, Salvor Hardin plays a pawn in a game of genocidal chess, and Harry Seldon’s words haunt everything and anything.
Can either side hold it together long enough to adopt its decades-long agendas? Foundationwhich grows stronger by the minute, serves more questions than answers.
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Foundation review: ‘Barbarians at the door’
In this week’s episode called “Barbarians at the Door”, the latest Brother’s Day (played by Lee Pace) became something like a doll. He would rather walk with royal geishas than deal with state affairs. When he hears that a new religious leader (T’Nia Miller) is trying to win a favor by reviving the old way of thinking, he murderously focuses on stopping her.
The heretical belief in question, which preceded the imperial cloning program that spawned Day, Dusk (Terrence Mann) and Dawn (Cassian Bilton), says that the souls of everyone in the galaxy are equal and that rulers are no more special than anyone else. Twilight wants to personally end her campaign before it’s too late, but Day doesn’t let him. He thinks it requires his personal attention.
In the meantime, at Terminus …
On the planet Terminus, Waste kidnapped Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) from a planet called Anacreon. Salvor manages to steer their leader Phara (Kubbra Sait) near the vault, making her dizzy and then unconscious. This gives Salvor enough time to warn the other people on Terminus to assemble a perimeter to protect them from the rest of Phara’s crew.
Salvor, blessed with unusual deductive reasoning and something close to telepathy, has no problem examining Phare. However, he can’t quite imagine the reason the Anacreons are here until Phara accidentally lets something slip. Salvor sees that Phara isn’t just some scavenger looking for notes. She is the main hunter from Anacreon, one of their most important people.
So why would they reach Terminus at the far ends of the galaxy? Well, they want everyone’s attention on Trantor. All this commotion around Terminus arouses Brother’s day’s interest in the mathematical predictions of Jared Harris, the man who predicted the fall of the empire.
Day is consulting with a council of statisticians who have been checking Seldon’s math for the past few years. The only conclusion they came to was that it was not impossible that Seldon was right. So, against the protocol and wishes of the imperial android Demerzel (Laura Byrne), Dan goes to Terminus. Will he arrive in time to prevent the destruction of the colony by the naughty Anacreons?
Foundation it moves nicely
Foundation has almost completely abandoned the form of its first two episodes and is now headlong towards its next plot development. This isn’t exactly unusual, but it seems unusual for a show like this, a kind of big gamble from a large transmission network.
If we look at something like Amazon Prime The Expanse for example, this sci-fi show took a long time to ensure that each chess piece was firmly placed before the flash started. We usually see four or five episodes of building the world and explaining the conflict and then parts of a set of actions begin in earnest.
Foundation, on the other hand, he introduced several extremely specific concepts into the introductory hall of the episode. Now the sci-fi series is just waking up towards the end of the first season. The show introduces new characters and obstacles and gradually brings all these elements closer for a kind of prolonged attack. It’s like any episode Star Trek but spread over 10 episodes.
A fresh approach to epic science fiction
As unusual as this approach may be for the bow of the series, I have to say it works. Knowing what we know about the kind of cosmic equilibria thrown out by Harry Seldon’s work means we know that every thing that happens on Trantor or Terminus has serious consequences for the galaxy. But the writers of the show do not lose sight of the fact that what we really pay attention to is micro.
The defense of Salvor Hardin’s city is a small thing and easy to contextualize. We may be more excited about the coming attack of the Anacreon than is the case with the titanic tide shift for galactic politics and the ruling class.
It’s the same strategy that directors use for historical war stories. You know the units are in Navarone’s weapon or Rescue Private Ryan you don’t really have any influence on the outcome of the war, but you are still able to support the outcome because you know whose side everyone is on.
It’s a circular way of saying that I suddenly became excited about the breathless tempo of the show. The last two episodes are very satisfactorily constructed and unobtrusively performed. The question is what the cumulative effect of the series will be, but I am much more excited when I find out than when I was Foundation debuted.
Watch Foundation on Apple TV +
New episodes of the series Foundation arrive on Apple TV + on Fridays.
Look at: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of a long series of video essays The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He wrote for The Village Voice, Movie Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books i Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films and the author of more than 300 video essays that can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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