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Stunning official trailer for Foundation whets the appetite for more

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A mathematical genius predicts the imminent collapse of a galactic empire, and he and his protege set plans in motion to preserve the foundational knowledge of their civilization in Foundation, Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s hugely influential series of science fiction novels. It’s a story that takes place across multiple planets over 1,000 years, with a huge cast of characters. That makes adapting it extremely difficult, particularly to film. But the streaming platform is betting that the series format will be better suited to bring Asimov’s futuristic vision to life. It’s certainly one of several hotly anticipated science fiction projects debuting this fall.

As I’ve written previously, Asimov’s original trilogy centered on a mathematician named Hari Seldon, who has developed a mathematical approach to sociology. Called “psychohistory,” it 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. This will usher in a Dark Age lasting 30,000 years, after which a second empire will arise.

Seldon cannot stop the collapse, but he insists 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.

The Apple TV+ series looks like it will hew pretty closely to the fundamental narrative arc of the books. Per the official synopsis:

When revolutionary Dr. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) predicts the impending fall of the Empire, he and a band of loyal followers venture to the far reaches of the galaxy to establish The Foundation in an attempt to rebuild and preserve the future of civilization. Enraged by Hari’s claims, the ruling Cleons—a long line of emperor clones—fear their grasp on the galaxy may be weakening as they’re forced to reckon with the potential reality of losing their legacy forever.

In addition to Harris, Lee Pace co-stars as Brother Day, current emperor of the galaxy and part of that long line of emperor clones. The other Cleons are 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. All three are original characters created for the series. Lou Llobell plays Seldon’s mathematical genius protegé, Gaal; Leah Harvey plays a gender-swapped Salvor, warden of Terminus; and Laura Birn plays Eto Demerzel, aide to Brother Day. The cast also includes 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, Alfred Enoch as Raych Seldon, and Buddy Skelton as Keir.

The first teaser appeared in June 2020 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). That included some behind-the-scene images and brief commentary from showrunner David S. Goyer, who co-wrote Terminator: Dark Fate and Batman v. Superman. He noted all the past efforts to adapt Foundation over the last 50 years, as well as the enormous influence the series had on Star Wars. A second teaser appeared this past June, focused heavily on Brother Dusk and his ruling Cleon family, particularly their reliance on cloned fetuses to ensure the dynasty endures.

This latest trailer opens with a focus on Gaal’s perspective as she arrives on the capitol planet, Tranton, to study under Seldon. “When I was a child at the edge of the galaxy, I heard stories about a man who could forecast the future,” she says in a voiceover. “But the story remained dark to me until many years later. It became my story—until it became the only story.” She meets Seldon, assuring him that she is familiar with his theory of psychohistory, and he responds that it is not a theory. Rather, he tells her, “It’s the future of mankind expressed in numbers. And the Empire won’t like the future I predict.”

The Empire most definitely does not like his predictions, and there seems to be a smear campaign to dismiss him as a charlatan or false messiah. But Seldon’s influence still grows, as he predicts endless wars and “a thousand worlds reduced to cinders.” People seem to like his brand of what one might call rational fatalism. Brother Dusk suggests killing him, but Brother Day quickly spots the flaw in this strategy. “We can murder the man, but what about the movement, brother?” he says. “Martyrs tend to have a long half-life.” And then all hell breaks loose as everyone realizes that Seldon’s math was correct, and the Empire is indeed dying.

Asimov was strongly influenced by Edward Gibbons’ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, particularly while writing the earlier books. This trailer really brings out the theme of embracing inevitable change, even if it’s frightening—and there’s nothing more frightening to a ruler than the imminent collapse of his empire. In Seldon’s view, only by facing that change can one sufficiently prepare a foundation of knowledge to enable humanity to one day “climb from the ashes.”

The first three episodes of Foundation will premiere on Apple TV+ on September 24, 2021. After that, new episodes will air weekly every Friday. The series is clearly expansive and ambitious, with terrific visuals, and we look forward to seeing just how well Goyer has captured the essence of these classic novels.

Official trailer for Foundation, coming to Apple TV+ in September.

Listing image by YouTube/Apple TV+

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