In the 70-plus years since Isaac Asimov published his epic 1951 science fiction novel Foundation and its sequels — 1952’s Foundation and Empire and 1953’s Second Foundation — this space opera has inspired numerous movies and TV shows (and games, and comics, and other novels…). Not only can you see its influence in Star Trek and Star Wars, but elements of it have even turned up in Futurama.
Now, after a few false starts, Asimov’s influential trilogy is finally making its way to television courtesy of Apple+ and some familiar names. Slated to debut on September 24, the 10-episode show Foundation will be overseen by frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator David S. Goyer, with familial assistance from Asimov’s daughter Robyn Asimov. The series is coming from Skydance Television, which previously produced the Netflix series Altered Carbon (which, not coincidentally, was also based on a classic sci-fi novel).
In the intro to the show’s first teaser trailer, Goyer noted that, “People have been trying to make Foundation for over 50 years,” and that “…the story is sprawling, [and] unfolds over the course of a thousand years.” Ironically, the show’s second trailer makes Foundation look a bit like the upcoming Dune movie, which is also based on a sprawling, multi-year sci-fi novel people have been trying (and usually failing) to bring to screens for years.
(Photo by Apple TV+)
Set in the far future, the show, like the novels, will follow as Hari Seldon (Jared Harris, pictured), the inventor of a new predictive science called psychohistory, who uses it to try and both slow and limit the impact of what he sees as the inevitable collapse of the Galactic Empire. Of course, this makes some people rather nervous, not the least of which is Hari, who’s not only smart enough to invent a new kind of science, but also to know how the people in power will react to it.
But while the novels are decidedly hard science-fiction stories, short on action and long on intellect, Apple+’s description of Foundation makes it sound like the show might be a bit less literary. According to their press materials, the show “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire,” which suggests this series will follow the spirit of the novels more than the letter.
It’s also doubtful, given the scope and the 10-episode order (so far), that Foundation will cover all three books. It may not even cover all of the first one, especially if they incorporate elements of Asimov’s prequel novels, 1988’s Prelude to Foundation and 1993’s Forward the Foundation. But with the credentials of the people involved, we’re hopeful that Goyer and Apple will be able to pull it off.
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Goyer serves as the series’ showrunner. (Original co-writer and co-show runner John Friedman left the production in April of 2019, though it’s not known if this was planned or unplanned). And while Goyer is best known as a screenwriter — most notably for Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, the Blade films, and both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — he’s no stranger to TV. He was the co-creator, a producer, and a writer for the SyFy channel’s Superman prequel Krypton, the co-creator and a writer for the WB’s short-lived comic book adaptation Constantine, and is currently helping to develop The Sandman, a show based on author and producer Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic book series.
Joining Goyer in the show’s credits are co-executive producers and writers Leigh Dana Jackson (Helix, 24: Legacy) and Victoria Morrow (Weeds, Rectify), co-producer Adam Banks (Altered Carbon, Luke Cage), and the aforementioned Robyn Asimov, who will serve as an executive producer.
As for the writers, while Goyer will pen an as-yet-unknown number of episodes, he, Jackson, and Morrow will be joined by Marcus Gardley, who was the executive story editor for 10 episodes of The Chi, and a writer of four; Sarah Nolen (The Americans); and Saladin Ahmed, who is best known for writing the comic books Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales: Spider-Man. Isaac Asimov will also share writing credit on all 10 episodes, which is a neat trick given that he passed away in 1992.
Where things get even more interesting is in the director’s chair. Here, Foundation will feature the talents of Alex Graves (Lost in Space, Altered Carbon), Jennifer Phang (The Boys, Resident Alien), and Rupert Sanders (Ghost in the Shell, Snow White and the Huntsman). But the most interesting person who’ll be yelling “CUT!” for Foundation — and twice no less — is Roxann Dawson, who has directed episodes of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, House of Cards, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but is best known to fans of epic sci-fi space operas as B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager…a show she directed twice before doing the same for 10 episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
(Photo by Apple TV+)
Like the crew, many of the cast members also have experience with epic space stories. For the role of Hari Seldon, Goyer and company cast two-time Emmy nominee Harris, who’s well versed in the ways of space and TV thanks to his role as Anderson Dawes in multiple episodes of The Expanse. Harris recently starred in HBO’s Emmy-winning limited series Chernobyl, for which he received his second Emmy nomination; played King George VI in multiple episodes of The Crown; and had roles in the shows The Terror, Carnival Row, Mad Men (his first Emmy nomination), and Fringe.
Foundation also stars Lee Pace, who plays Emperor Brother Day, and will undoubtedly draw from his experience playing Ronan the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy. Pace also has experience with epics, and royalty, having played the Elven king Thranduil in The Hobbit movies, as well as TV experience from playing Joe MacMillan in Halt and Catch Fire. He is also Emmy nominated for his role as Ned on ABC fantasy series Pushing Daisies.
Some of the casting of Foundation will change things up from the book. While the character of Eto Demerzel is male in the novels, the role in the show will instead be played by a female, Finnish actor Laura Birn. Birn is best known for the 2014 movie A Walk Among the Tombstones; though she’s also no stranger to serialized entertainment, having played Elena in all eight episodes of Netflix’s The Innocents.
Alfred Enoch has been cast in an as-yet-unidentified role. Like many of his costars, Enoch also has experience with epics, having played Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter movies, and experience with TV, as Wes Gibbins in How to Get Away with Murder. So he’s probably playing a space wizard who’s in law school…or something.
The cast of Foundation also includes Terrence Mann as Brother Dusk, who is the eldest member of the royal family. Mann previously played Whispers in the Netflix show Sense8, though horror fans know him better as Ug, the interstellar bounty hunter in all four Critters movies. Joining him in the royal family as Brother Dawn is Cassian Bilton, a British actor whose previous credits include a handful of short films, including the BAFTA-nominated Shoal.
Bilton is not the only relatively unknown actor in the Foundation cast, though. Gaal Dornick, a mathematician who becomes Seldon’s biographer, will be played by Lou Llobell (pictured), who also appears in the upcoming sci-fi movie Voyagers, while the role of Salvor Hardin, who is the first mayor of Terminus City, will be played by Leah Harvey, who was previously seen in the wrestling movie Fighting with My Family.
(Photo by Apple TV+)
Like every other show in production these days, production on Foundation experienced delays related to COVID-19, coming to a complete halt in March 2020 before resuming in October. The cast and crew then moved to Malta in January of 2021 to film for a month, then to two separate locations the Canary Islands. Currently, the series is scheduled to debut on Apple TV+ on September 24, 2021, which means you still have plenty of time to read the 220-page original novel — or heck, the entire 660-page trilogy — and forget most of the plot twists before the show comes to your viewing screen.