The long-awaited adaptation of the seminal sci-fi book series titled ‘Foundation’ from iconic novelist Isaac Asimov is finally here packaged in a 10-episode series set to premiere on Apple TV Plus streaming platform come September 24. It is indeed a long-overdue tribute as the author worked on the literary works for over 50 years, with the last volume in the fan-favorite saga being released posthumously in 1993.
The production of the series took an incredible 19 months after the shooting was initially suspended in March 2020 due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Filming resumed in October, wrapping up in April 2021. Now, after four years of hard work, a visually stunning, emotionally engaging, and thought-provoking drama is finally ready for audiences.
David S. Goyer, best known for the ‘Blade,’ trilogy ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Man of Steel’ serves as the showrunner, writer, and executive producer of the series and had to decide on what to prioritize for the show to make sure the story unfolds without noticeable plot holes. To make sure this happens organically, David talked to Asimov’s family as the legendary writer is now deceased to ensure that every core aspect of the tomes is highlighted. He then developed the series around this perspective.
The project definitely has a lot of characters, settings, and big ideas. Thankfully the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing when they set off on the mission to bring the incredible literary work to life but most notably, plenty of the source material is left out as not everything could fit in the limited screen time.
‘Foundation’ opens up with a math genius named Hari Seldon, a role embodied by Jared Haris as he affirms his complex plotted theory that the infamous Galactic Empire, a kingdom responsible for all humankind, is on the verge of collapsing. This leads to Hari and the followers of his camp being sent to exile from the planet of Trantor, which is described as the eye of the empire, to Terminus, almost inhospitable planet light-years away. While stuck here, the genius team takes over this new habitat as they make plans for the unforeseen future ahead.
The books were written decades ago and are a symbolic reference to the environment left behind after the second world war; hence David was tasked with making the material relate to the modern world audiences.
David invested a lot in the characters, ensuring they were fully developed and having three-dimensional lives that make audiences relate to and get attached to.
The characters inhabit the themes and ideas that the legendary writer of the novels envisioned.
For the fans of the book series, one would notice that there are absolutely no female characters in the first book, and those scattered within the series are not given any flattering roles, possibly because of the way women were perceived during those early days. So, the screen adaptation had to diversify the characters to be more inclusive and appealing to today’s audience. For instance, the Dornick character gender has been switched in the series and is now played by newcomer Lou Lobell. Lou’s role helps in bringing forth the parallels to the world we live in today. For instance, people from her home planet do not believe in science or global warming. This denial has long existed among earthlings over the years as the environment continues to dwindle.
Another central character who undergoes a gender transformation is Salvor Hardin, a warden in Terminus who is now embodied by the non-binary actor Leah Harvey. Kubbra Sait, who plays the warrior Phara Khan, the grant huntress for planet Anacreon that exists on the fringe of the Terminus, is another character joining the female ensemble. Still sticking with diversity and inclusivity, auditions for the cast were conducted in 17 cities from across the globe, including Tokyo, India, South Africa, Portugal, Berlin, just to name but a few.
One of the most interesting players in the show is time that has shaped the structure of the franchise to a great extent. The narrative is packed with plenty of time shifts in between the present, past, and future. Sometimes different stories happening at different times run concurrently to each other.
The books are majorly philosophical, lacking in emotion, action, and drama. Television being a visual medium, the show’s creators had to inject some emotion to marry seamlessly with the philosophical themes; hence those major dramatic events in the books that happen off-screen and in between sentences are now dramatized on-screen to evoke a human connection.
As a way of tapping into the emotional aspect of audiences, David had to come up with a way of making characters exist over a thousand years. So backstories for the main characters were created, and clones of the original were made in such as way that the audience still sees the same face over the generations and potentially different seasons.
The series didn’t want to over-rely on computer-generated imagery or rather CGI, so shooting took place in more than five different countries such as Iceland, Malta, and the Canary Islands, representing the various planets and making sure the visuals were as authentic as possible. For instance, the incredible scenes next to a volcano were filmed on location in Iceland, which is very relatable considering this place to some extend feels like another planet in reality.
The series explores religious and political extremism, lack of trust among well-known leaders, casting immense doubts on science, all issues which audiences see almost every day plastered in their local and global newspapers. The ‘Foundation’ addresses what’s happening now but through the tinted glass of the future, further cementing Asimov’s message of hope and faith in human ingenuity.
It has been a struggle among filmmakers to bring to life the incredible work that Isaac Asimov left behind, as it is so diverse and massive that adapting it for the screen seemed unattainable until David took it up. Despite all the challenges, the filmmaker has managed to bring this sensational universe to life in an expansive yet character-driven vision that will please both fans and newbies alike. Once the ‘Foundation’ premieres, a new episode will be released every Friday.