Get a First Glimpse of Foundation, the New TV Series Being Adapted from Isaac Asimov’s Iconic Series of Novels

Five years ago we told you about the plans to cre­ate a mini-series out of Isaac Asimov’s clas­sic sci-fi series Foun­da­tion, while also point­ing you in the direc­tion of the 1973 BBC radio drama­ti­za­tion. Back in 2015, Jonathan Nolan, broth­er of Christo­pher, was attached and HBO was set to pro­duce. And then we all for­got about it. (Well I did, any­way.)

Fast for­ward into the COVID tsuna­mi of this week and AppleTV just dropped the first trail­er for the series. Nolan is out and David Goy­er is in as showrun­ner. Goy­er loves his pulp, and wrote or co-wrote the Blade tril­o­gy, the Dark Knight tril­o­gy, Dark City, and a lot of the recent DC Uni­verse films. Also on board as exec­u­tive pro­duc­er is Robyn Asi­mov, Isaac’s daugh­ter.

Pro­duc­tion had start­ed in Ire­land on the series, but it closed up shop in March due to COVID-19. We have no idea how much of the 10-episode first sea­son was shot, which might explain a pre­pon­der­ance of footage in the above trail­er of peo­ple walk­ing down cor­ri­dors, walk­ing into rooms, and star­ing out of win­dows, along with pure­ly CGI estab­lish­ing shots of space­ships and a black hole straight out of Inter­stel­lar.

On the oth­er hand, we get a glimpse of Jared Har­ris (Mad Men, Cher­nobyl) as Hari Sel­don, a math­e­mati­cian who has devel­oped a the­o­ry called “psy­chohis­to­ry” that allows him to see the future. And he does not like what he sees–empires col­laps­ing, and a long dark age of 30,000 years. There’s also his pro­tege called Gaal, played here by new­com­er Lou Llo­bell; Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) plays Broth­er Day, the emper­or; and Leah Har­vey plays Salvor, the war­den of Ter­mi­nus, where Sel­don and Gaal are exiled. (Spoil­er alert…we think.)

Two large ques­tions to ask right now: will this ever get fin­ished? And do we real­ly need Foun­da­tion, or has its time passed?

For the first, AppleTV has put a date of 2021 for the hope­ful pre­miere, but all the arts are on hold now. We might be look­ing at films that are even more CGI than they are now, shot total­ly on green­screen in large social­ly dis­tant stu­dios, and assem­bled by a gigan­tic crew of remote ani­ma­tors. (Ire­land is down to less than 10 cas­es of COVID-19 per day, so who knows.)

The sec­ond is more a mat­ter of taste and a case of who’s adapt­ing the books. Goyer’s fil­mog­ra­phy shows he’s much more of an action guy, and Asi­mov was more of an intel­lec­tu­al. We might see some­thing between the inter­na­tion­al trade tar­iff skull­dug­gery of The Phan­tom Men­ace and some Game of Thrones court intrigue.

The dis­cus­sion on Metafil­ter cer­tain­ly deserves a look, as it brings up issues like Asimov’s his­to­ry of sex­u­al harass­ment, the idea of Grand Old White Men of Sci-Fi, and a need to keep pres­tige tele­vi­sion churn­ing out prod­uct. And, of course, there’s a dis­cus­sion of how much we might need some of Asimov’s opti­mism.

Asimov’s Foun­da­tion series was influ­enced by Edward Gib­bon’s His­to­ry of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and we are cer­tain­ly think­ing about empires falling right now, espe­cial­ly as we can hear Nero’s fid­dle off in the dis­tance, get­ting loud­er every day.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts the Future of Civilization–and Rec­om­mends Ways to Ensure That It Sur­vives (1978)

Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: A Wit­ty, Eru­dite Atheist’s Guide to the World’s Most Famous Book

Isaac Asi­mov Laments the “Cult of Igno­rance” in the Unit­ed States: A Short, Scathing Essay from 1980

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (6)
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  • Othon says:

    Ques­tion. I read the nov­els long time ago. In the nov­els, Gaal and Salvor where rep­re­sent­ed as men right or maybe my mem­o­ry is fail­ing me? Any rea­son as to why Apple pro­duc­ers decid­ed to change main char­ac­ters to female?

  • Stuart Collins says:

    Their gen­der real­ly does­n’t mat­ter, and isn’t impor­tant to the sto­ry. I’m just excit­ed that it’s being made.

  • Frank says:

    This is very wor­ri­some!
    An action film writer involved in Foun­da­tion is com­plete­ly against the spir­it if the nov­el series.
    Already I see vast dif­fer­ences feom the source mate­r­i­al. With­out much spoil­ers:
    Gaal Dormick and Salvor Hard­ing are both male.
    Sel­don is an old man about 80 years old at the start of the book. He NEVER sets foot on Ter­mi­nus.
    Im con­cerned this will be noth­ing but an “in name only” series just like the hor­ri­ble, unspeak­able I Robot. Sad.

  • Arcadia Darell says:


  • Tina says:

    It’s a shame you can only watch it on Apple tv. Some­thing of this mag­ni­tude should be avail­able to EVERYONE. I SHOULDN’T have to sub­scribe to a stream­ing ser­vice to watch this show, or any show.

  • Steven Wallis, PhD says:

    Indeed! (in response to some com­ments… ahem… any­way… ) Yes, this has the poten­tial to be an awe­some series for a num­ber of rea­sons. First, because we of the USA are fac­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of our own col­lapse (as did Rome back in the day). Sec­ond, because we in the present are also strug­gling with the devel­op­ment of some kind of social sci­ence (be it psy­chol­o­gy, pol­i­cy, soci­ol­o­gy, or what­ev­er) that will help us to bet­ter under­stand our sit­u­a­tion, to make bet­ter deci­sions, to improve our world. my won research in this area sug­gests that we have about a 20% under­stand­ing of our soci­ety — so that our poli­cies fail about 80% of the time! The social sci­ences will not advance to a lev­el of Asi­mov’s dream for hun­dreds of years… unless to work to advance them in a new direc­tion.

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