Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy: Hear a Radio Dramatization (1973)

Last year Jonathan Nolan–screenwriter of Memen­to and Inter­stel­lar and not coin­ci­den­tal­ly direc­tor Christo­pher Nolan’s brother–announced that he would be devel­op­ing Isaac Asimov’s leg­endary Foun­da­tion tril­o­gy for HBO as a series. And we assume he’s still doing that, because there’s been nary a peep from the chan­nel since. So far the Inter­net con­sen­sus has been a col­lec­tive “well, that could be good!” instead of groans, which is a heart­en­ing thing these days.

For those who haven’t read the clas­sic books, but would like to get the jump on ol’ Nolan, we sub­mit this BBC Radio pro­duc­tion from 1973, which is now avail­able on Spo­ti­fy below. (Down­load Spo­ti­fy soft­ware here.) The record­ing also lives on as well.

Right from the begin­ning we know we are in good hands, with the ana­log drones of the BBC Radio­phon­ic Work­shop ush­er­ing us into a stereo land­scape filled with plum­my British accents and atmos­pher­ic sound effects. It’s like the best ever episode of Doc­tor Who with­out a Tardis, cor­ri­dors, or the enfee­bled cries of a lost com­pan­ion.

The Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy is heav­i­ly indebt­ed to Edward Gibbon’s The His­to­ry of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as well as a belief in the cir­cu­lar nature of his­to­ry.

Asimov’s hero in the first book, Hari Sel­don, using a sci­ence called psy­chohis­to­ry, can see the inevitable col­lapse of the Galac­tic Empire in which he lives and sets about try­ing to change it by set­ting up an oppo­si­tion called the Foun­da­tion. The nov­els then jump decades ahead, check­ing in with this essen­tial con­flict, much like Gibbon’s work goes from emper­or to emper­or, mark­ing the decline of empire and its inevitabil­i­ty. Free of aliens and shoot-em-ups, Foun­da­tion is very human despite its galac­tic scope.

Adapt­ed by Patrick Tull and Mike Stott, the eight part radio series does a good job of pre­sent­ing the nov­els as a char­ac­ter-dri­ven dra­ma, and while it is talky (it’s radio after all), it was Orson Scott Card who said of Foun­da­tion, it is “all talk, no action — but Asi­mov’s talk is action.”

It also influ­enced many future sci-fi writ­ers. No doubt some­where along the way Dou­glas Adams was lis­ten­ing to the radio play’s talk­ing ency­clo­pe­dia and think­ing, hmm, what if this had jokes?
And once you get through the trilogy–maybe after an eight-hour flight?–there’s more Asi­mov radio plays for your lis­ten­ing plea­sure on Spo­ti­fy: Host­ess, Peb­ble in the Sky, and Night­fall.

NOTE: Look­ing for free, pro­fes­sion­al­ly-read audio books from Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free tri­al with, you can down­load two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

And note this: also has a free tri­al offer where you can down­load a free audio­book. Details.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Isaac Asimov’s Favorite Sto­ry “The Last Ques­tion” Read by Isaac Asi­mov— and by Leonard Nimoy

Lis­ten to 188 Dra­ma­tized Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries by Ursu­la K. Le Guin, Isaac Asi­mov, Philip K. Dick, J.G. Bal­lard & More

Two Doc­u­men­taries Intro­duce Delia Der­byshire, the Pio­neer in Elec­tron­ic Music

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (6)
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  • Pat Hartman says:

    Asi­mov is for think­ing peo­ple. There are no shoot-em-up-bang-bangs, which is why his books don’t have mass appeal. It’s too bad, but you can see how the “media” world treats his mate­r­i­al when you watch the movie “I Robot.” They had to put the “action” into it to get it to sell. They’ve done the same thing to Tolkien’s “The Hob­bit,” by throw­ing in all kinds of “action scenes.” I just hope they don’t butch­er “The Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy” that way.

  • 5thEncounter says:

    It does­nt work, sor­ry

  • Mike Matthews says:

    defi­nate­ly a think­ing per­son­’s read. No CGI need­ed and cer­tain­ly no action scenes. You can draw the same con­clu­sions to Dis­c­world as well. The reader“s imag­i­na­tion does all of the hard work. Cin­e­ma; nope. No seduc­tion need­ed for me.

  • Scott says:

    Please please please, before I’m dead, some­one pro­duce this tril­o­gy and base the screen­play on the books!! One of the great­est SF trilo­gies ever. I live by one of Salvor Hardin’s epigrams…that is how much influ­ence this author had on my life!

  • Eliezer says:

    If con­de­scen­sion is your only response to a work of lit­er­a­ture, you are sad.

  • Dennis Bower says:

    Absolute­ly the very best sci-fi series of all time. I’ve read ALL the foun­da­tion books mul­ti­ple times. It explodes the imag­i­na­tion like no oth­er. It was so inno­v­a­tive and cap­ti­vat­ing that it actu­al­ly cre­at­ed a new book award as it was award­ed the 1st Hugo Award.
    If movies were made true to the books it would dwarf Star Wars.

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