Last summer, we got our first glimpse of Apple TV’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels when Apple dropped a teaser trailer during the 2020 Worldwide Developers Conference. Production on the new show, which stars Jared Harris and Lee Pace, shut down last March along with everything else, although filming resumed last October. No official air date besides “late 2021” has surfaced, but there are a few tantalizing extra glimpses in the streaming platform’s new summer (and beyond) preview trailer, per the eagle eye of The Spaceshipper on Twitter.
Mild spoilers for the first book in the Foundation series below.)
The series started as eight short stories by Asimov that appeared in Astounding Magazine between 1942 and early 1950. Those stories were inspired in part by Edward Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the first four were collected, along with a new introductory story, and published as Foundation in 1951. The next pair of stories became Foundation and Empire (1952), and the final two stories appeared in 1953’s Second Foundation. Asimov’s publishers eventually convinced him to continue the series, starting with two sequels: Foundation’s Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986). Next came a pair of prequels: Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1993), the latter published posthumously (Asimov died in 1992).
The original trilogy centered on mathematician Hari Seldon, who has developed a mathematical approach to sociology he calls “psychohistory.” Psychohistory enables him to predict the future of large populations—like the Galactic Empire, which incorporates all inhabitants of the Milky Way. Unfortunately, Seldon’s theory predicts an imminent collapse of the empire—well, in 500 years, which is certainly imminent on galactic time scales. This will usher in a Dark Age lasting 30,000 years, after which a second empire will arise. The news is not well received by the members of the Committee on Public Safety, who essentially rule the empire, and Seldon is forced to stand trial for treason, along with a brilliant young mathematical protégé named Gaal.
In his defense, Seldon argues that he cannot stop the collapse, but there is a way to limit those Dark Ages to just 1,000 years. He proposes creating a Foundation, a group of the most intelligent minds in the empire, charged with preserving all human knowledge in the Encyclopedia Galactica. Rather than executing Seldon, the committee decides to exile him to a remote world called Terminus, along with the members of the new Foundation, where they can begin compiling the encyclopedia. Much of the first book in the trilogy follows the establishment of the colony on Terminus and the various political machinations that shape its early history, along with a startling revelation: unbeknownst to the committee, Seldon has established a second Foundation at the other end of the galaxy.
We don’t yet know how much of this history will be included in the TV adaptation or how closely the show’s narrative will follow the books, given that TV is a very different medium.
Per the premise for Foundation the TV series, it “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire.” Harris plays Seldon, with Pace co-starring as Brother Day, current emperor of the galaxy. Lou Llobell plays Gaal, Leah Harvey plays a gender-swapped Salvor, warden of Terminus, and Laura Birn plays Eto Demerzel, aide to Brother Day.
Other listed characters include Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann), the ruling family’s oldest living member, and Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton), the youngest member and heir apparent to Brother Day; Daniel MacPherson as Hugo; T’Nia Miller as Halima; Pravessh Rana as Rowan; Kubbra Sait as Phara; Mido Hamada as Shadow Master Obrecht; Amy Tyger as Azura; and Buddy Skelton as Keir.
We do know where some of the filming took place: Limerick, Ireland; the island nation of Malta; and the Canary Islands, particularly its largest island, Tenerife. The filmmakers make good use of the Canaries’ volcanic landscapes, such as the Caldera de los Arrabales and Granja de Pozo Negro, while Malta is ideal for scenes set on a water planet. Meanwhile, showrunner David Goyer said in a recent interview that the locations in Malta have expanded to cover scenes set on another world as well.
Addressing prior failed attempts at adapting Asimov’s series to film, Goyer (co-writer of Batman v Superman and Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy) said the rise of streaming TV has made it easier to do justice to such sprawling epic tales. “Now with Foundation, we can tell the story hopefully over the course of 80 episodes, 80 hours, as opposed to trying to condense it all to two or three hours for a single film,” he said.
Listing image by YouTube/Apple TV