Psychohistory has foreseen the collapse of the Galactic Empire in Foundation, the small-screen adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s seminal science fiction novel on the rise and fall of civilizations, and how human folly remains a universal force for change. David S. Goyer (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) is co-writing with sci-fi vet Josh Friedman, the mind behind Terminator: Dark Fate, Avatar 2, Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and the Snowpiercer TV series. Apple TV+ released a full-length trailer on Tuesday.
Check out the harrowing first glimpse for Foundation below:
Foundation tells the story of Hari Seldon, a mathematics professor on a quest to minimize human suffering, having accurately predicted the fall of the Galactic Empire, the known universe’s reigning superpower. He endeavors to enlighten leaders with the precepts of psychohistory, a branch of mathematical sociology that uses algorithms and statistical probabilities to foretell future events in outstanding detail. As expected, attempts at dialogue fail spectacularly and the Empire dubs Seldon an enemy of bureaucracy and a threat to human advancement.
In response, the beleaguered professor assembles a team of intellectuals committed to alleviating the societal repercussions of the Galactic Empire’s demise; Seldon calls this group the Foundation. Seldon’s long-term goal is to limit the oncoming dark ages from 30,000 years to just a thousand, saving potentially millions of lives from the impending perils of anarchy, poverty, barbarism, and a leaderless society where only the strong survive.
The Foundation TV series is positively gorgeous, and communicates the urgency of Seldon’s crusade to a distractingly horrifying tee, and looks to be a near-perfect adaptation of the seven-book series that has defined science fiction for generations to come. Jared Harris ditches his Crown Jewels for another shot at scientific edification. Based on the trailer, he plays Seldon with the smashing emotional gravitas of browbeaten Soviet chemist Valery Legasov, a man who once tried saving Chernobyl and a previous role Harris played to absolute perfection. Like Legasov, Seldon is neither a dissident nor a “revolutionary,” to borrow words from the trailer; he is simply the messenger. The Morbius star is on track to repeat history by grappling with the same kind of corrupt dignitaries. Hari Seldon’s brand of psychohistory is inspired by real-world social science. The concept of mass action allows academics to prophesize the fate of large enough populations, in that collective awareness of the future and all predicted outcomes ultimately makes for the most unpredictable of choices. In other words, certainty creates uncertainty. As Harris’s Seldon tells the Galactic Empire in the trailer, “You can’t save yourselves, but you can save your legacy.”
The original Foundation was released by Isaac Asimov in stages. The trilogy, which was based on a series of short stories written from 1942 to 1950, chronicles Seldon’s otherwise futile attempts (through the Foundation) at saving the Empire’s besieged inhabitants from becoming collateral damage, and was published from 1951 to 1953. It was followed by two sequels that came out in the 80s and two prequels that survived all the way to the 90s. The series eventually ended in 1993.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because Star Wars has an almost identical narrative structure, but on a much smaller and less comprehensive scale. George Lucas has never credited Foundation with helping mold Star Wars, but Asimov was certain his books played a pivotal role in its conception, once in 1983 and another in 1994 when his memoir was published. He writes: “I borrowed freely from Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in planning the Foundation series, and I believe that the motion picture Star Wars did not hesitate, in turn, to borrow from the Foundation series.” Foundation won the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966.
Apple TV+’s Foundation also stars Lee Pace as Galactic Emperor Brother Day, Lou Llobell as Hari Seldon’s biographer Gaal Dornick, Leah Harvey as Terminus mayor Salvor Hardin, Laura Birn as Eto Demerzel, the alter-ego of Emperor Cleon I’s First Minister R. Daneel Olivaw, and Alfred Enoch as Seldon’s adopted son Raych. Cassian Bilton and Terrence Mann play new roles created specifically for the streaming exclusive, namely Brothers Dawn and Dusk. Jared Harris, of course, plays Professor Hari Seldon, psychohistory expert, mathematician, and the Galactic Empire’s First Minister under Cleon I. The first episode of Foundation is directed by Rupert Sanders (Ghost in the Shell) and comes out September 24.