Isaac Asimov is almost impossible to adapt. Despite writing and editing over 500 books, redefining the laws of robotics and inspiring countless other writers and thinkers, from author Douglas Adams to economist Paul Krugman, no-one has ever been able to successfully put his work onto the screen. The only two major attempts were I, Robot, which isn’t even based on the Asimov book series whose name it co-opts, and Bicentennial Man, the less said about which the better. Enter Apple TV+ and its big-budget adaptation of Asimov’s award-winning Foundation.
The series begins with maths professor Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) who creates a mathematical equation that predicts the oncoming end of the seemingly omnipotent galactic empire. Seldon and his followers are exiled by the empire to the distant planet Terminus, where they try to create an archive of human knowledge to kick start a future society. An Encyclopaedia Galactica that can keep humanity alive after the empire’s collapse.
Inspired by Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the philosophy of Plato, the galactic empire itself is stilted and unchanging. It’s ruled over by three differently-aged genetic clones of an original emperor (played by Cassian Bilton, Lee Pace and Terence Mann) who each train their younger counterpart to be the ideal successor. Their empire is the kind of soft dystopia where “enjoy the peace” feels like a threat.