TV Review: Foundation, Series Premiere

User Rating: 10

Foundation is the latest science fiction program from Apple TV+. The novel was first written by Isaac Asimov in 1951. The show has a lot of dense material to cover. The first two episodes focus on the lead of the first season Gaal (Lou Llobel). Gaal is a mathematician in a society and culture that frowns upon any form of science being studied.  She is asked by Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) to join him and help prove that the work he is doing in psychohistory is accurate.  The work explicitly states that the imperial civilization will collapse for 30,000 years, and nothing can be done about that. Hari Seldon is proposing that length can be shortened to 1,000 years if certain precautions are made.

The imperial leader Cleon I ( Lee Pace) doesn’t like the idea of science dictating how society runs and, as a result, exiles Gaal and Dr. Hari Seldon. During the period of exile, Gaal falls in love with Dr. Shelton’s assistant Raych (Alfred Enoch) and, as a result of that attraction, is planning on having a future with him. Meanwhile, the imperial leader is punishing 2 separate races for a terrorist attack in the first episode. Raych commits a treacherous act and then sends her away in an escape pod.

The reason that Foundation as a series works is the deep mythology on which it is based. All of the concepts feel overly clever when viewing them on the screen. None of that detracts from how engaging every character is, no matter what moment is catching them by surprise. The real standout for the first two episodes that encompass the series premiere is  Jared Harris as Hari Seldon. He is the linchpin on which all of the prophecies hold together, and without the level of conviction he demonstrates, the science falls entirely apart.  The other strong actor in the film is Lou Llobel.  She is very good at bringing a calm yet curious energy to the entire world she is experiencing, and she is our fish out of water that is very good at drawing us into what she’s experiencing.  Lee Pace is more menacing as Cleon I than he was ever was during Guardians of the Galaxy.

The themes of the series have a lot to do with where is society is going and how each culture in that society treats each other. These are fundamental truths we need to be asking ourselves in 2021. This is why the science fiction story told by Isaac Asimov couldn’t be more relevant in the modern-day, with everyone’s opinions being so divisive and conflicting.  This is a series about bringing life forward, not holding it back.

The other half of what makes this television series succeed is the political intrigue between the conflicting ideals. Cleon I very much wants to keep society in the order he built and feels like the teachings of Hari Seldon cause chaos he doesn’t need. What makes this conflict particularly interesting is that there is no defined way to prove that the doctor’s predictions are correct, and of course, the emperor does not want to lose power. Every moment of fighting occurs in dialogue rather than action.

This is a clever play by the writer because it allows conflict to occur over time without much injury. The calculated chess moves made by both men make for a compelling journey for everyone in that society. My only real question is, what are we supposed to learn about life while we’re waiting for that prediction to either fail or come true? I don’t know the answer yet, but I can’t wait to find out.

Foundation is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Written by
Chike has been a film critic in Illinois for the last 10 years with Urbana Public Television. Most of his work can be found on their YouTube channel where his show Reel Reviews is posted. The films he enjoys most are the kind that surprise you with characters that are deeper than you could ever suspect. As much as he loves reviewing it’s the stories that are unexpected that bring him the most joy. He lives in Champaign with his parents surrounded by cornfields.

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