- Jared Harris, Lou Llobell, Leah Harvey, Lee Pace
- Josh Friedman and David S. Goyer
- Drama, Sci-Fi
- Where to watch
- Apple TV
Isaac Asimov is one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of all time, and the Foundation series is one of the largest and strongest in his bibliography. If you’ve seen any screen adaptation of any beloved book series in the last decade, you can probably guess where this is going.
Foundation is set roughly ten millennia in the future, where humanity has expanded into space and formed a vast galactic empire. Hari Seldon is an exotic mathematician who has developed a school of science for predicting future events with startling accuracy, and it just so happens that he predicts that the Empire will fall within 500 years, undermining the Emperor’s legacy. With help, Seldon is able to convince the Emperor to fund the creation of a Foundation on the edge of the galaxy, which will help speed the galaxy’s recovery from its predicted fall.
From the opening sequence to the end credits, the production values of this show are some of the highest out there – rivaling even large cinematic masterpieces like 2021’s Dune. The sets and sequences are breathtaking in their scope and creativity. The scope and detail of Trantor and its artificial rings, for example, really sell the notion that this is a real place that exists in the distant future.
All facets of the production design are extraordinary. Both inside and out, spaceships are unique, interesting, and realistic, and the exquisite costumes are immersive and otherworldly – Every group and faction dresses uniquely, and even the most garish and ornate of adornments have purpose.
Whether you have full surround or basic television speakers, you are in for a sonic treat. The sound design is profoundly immersive, with music that blends with the on-screen images in a way that’s both supportive and transportive. It clicks together so naturally that it’s easy to overlook.
In that same vein, the sound effects are unique and convincing, and even the actors’ voices are perfectly balanced.
The camera work and direction are also top-notch. You’re frequently treated to interesting and pseudo-experimental perspectives, which is no small feat considering the scale of some of the set pieces.
With all that the production design and sound engineer teams got right, there is an unfortunate inconsistency with the acting quality. Performances range from masterful (Jared Harris) to downright cringeworthy (Isabella Laughland).
Where Harris’ Hari Seldon is portrayed with conviction and an emotional range commensurate with the epic and dramatic scale of the plot, Laughland’s Brother Constant can only be described as juvenile, more fitting for an after-school sitcom than a large-budget Asimov adaptation. Her snarky 2020 mannerisms and delivery are some of the most immersion-breaking aspects of the series.
Leah Harvey’s over-the-top Salvor Hardin is between those extremes, which plays into the “Strong Female Character” trope with eye-rolling predictability. Also in the middle of the scale, you have Lou Llobell, who plays the now female and greatly expanded role of Gaal Dornick. She brings conviction and range to the stage despite an obvious lack of experience.
While the plot diverges from the source material fairly early on, it nevertheless effectively creates a compelling sense of some grand design that is likely coalescing into a larger conclusion., Though what that might be at this point is anyone’s guess.
The pacing is fairly good, with action sequences interwoven with dramatic and interpersonal development. There are spots where things get bogged down in the slower interpersonal parts, but with one exception: it doesn’t usually last long enough to bore the audience.
There are elements of violence, sex, and sensuality throughout, which make this wholly inappropriate for younger viewers. Yes, I’m making a definitive statement about that – deal with it.
To sum up, Foundation is a visually impressive and sonically beautiful piece of science fiction. The sub-par performances by its underqualified actors, no-holds-barred diversity re-casting, and elevating the gay agenda above the central narrative are extremely distracting and mar what would otherwise be an exceptional series. Fans of the novels should not expect an experience that respects the source material.
- Diversity casting
- Asimov’s original Foundation series didn’t focus on race or ethnicity for any but a couple of characters, so we genuinely don’t know, and it’s not relevant what the original characters’ races were, but the primary cast is very BIPOC heavy, and many of the weaker performances come from characters that have been gender-swapped and actors that make you wonder how they could have possibly passed their auditions based on merit.
- Multiple principal male characters have been gender-swapped for females; with one exception, the females are also BIPOC.
- Gaal Dornick, originally a male role that was little more than a short-lived plot device, has been recast as a BIPOC female, and her role has been expanded to eclipse Hari Seldon’s in importance. Hari Seldon, who was originally the single most pivotal character in the story was not mentally unstable as he has been depicted here.
- Every male character in a position of authority or influence that was not gender-swapped is now defined almost exclusively by his character flaws. Many of these characters were also made beta for a double dose of keeping them in their place.
- Gay agenda
- As of the second season, the single example thus far of a powerful male character having his gender and his competence left intact was made gay. It was not sufficient to simply mention it; the show writers ground plot progress to a halt in order to devote over two-thirds of an entire episode to romanticizing his reunion with his captive husband.
- Two of the female leads who have discovered they’re mother and daughter but are, by way of timey-wimey plot devices, relatively the same age, nevertheless frequently exchange ambiguous looks of longing with one another for several episodes before the writers contrived an absurd circumstance allowing them to share an on-screen kiss absent any overt romantic involvement.
- The Empire and Emperor are often used as stand-ins for capitalism and Western society. The Emperor clones himself to remain effectively immortal, but this maintains a closed system devoid of new and diverse thought leadership, which is blamed for the decline of the Empire itself.
Simon is a science fiction author, tech blogger and retro gaming enthusiast. He lives in the US Midwest with his two sons and wife of 26 years. Though he doesn't consider it a religion, he is unabashedly Christian. His heritage is primarily Native American and Scott/Irish. He is an outspoken libertarian (in belief, not necessarily in party) and values the principles of freedom and individual sovereignty above all else.