Isaac Asimov’s seminal sci-fi stories have previously been the basis of hit films such as I, Robot and The Bicentennial Man, but his most famous work has not yet made it to the screen – until now.
Long considered unfilmable, Asimov’s ambitious Foundation novels were written over fifty years and covered a complex story spanning centuries, following humans across the galaxy living under the rule of the Galactic Empire.
With a beloved book series as a basis and a staggering budget, Foundation may well become the next big TV hit on par with Game of Thrones – and provide fledgling streaming service Apple TV+ with their first big-budget blockbuster success.
Here’s everything you need to know about Foundation.
Foundation release date
Foundation will touch down on Apple TV+ on 24th September 2021.
Only the first two episodes will be available at launch, with the remaining eight then releasing weekly on Fridays.
In keeping with the show’s expansive galaxy-wide scope, Foundation’s globetrotting shoot saw filming take place in Ireland, Malta, Fuerteventura and Tenerife. In particular volcanic landscapes were used to stand in for alien environments, in particular Fuerteventura’s Caldera de los Arrabales and Granja de Pozo Negro.
As if adapting one of the most complex book series of all time wasn’t hard enough, Foundation joined pretty much every TV show in suspending production in March 2020. Filming resumed in October that year, with the 19-month(!) shoot eventually wrapping in April 2021.
Appropriately for a sci-fi epic of ambitious scope, Apple has acquired quite the impressive cast. Jared Harris – no stranger to big-budget TV after starring in Chernobyl and The Crown – stars as Hari Seldon, a mathematician who develops a theory that could bring down the Galactic Empire.
Showrunner David S. Goyer explained Seldon’s influence when talking to Entertainment Weekly, saying: “No one understands his mathematics. They know he’s really smart, but they don’t know whether he’s lying or not [about the Empire’s destruction]. And that’s what makes the Empire really nervous.”
Joining Harris is Lee Pace, who will be returning to the stars after playing space-bound supervillain Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy. Pace will be playing Galactic Emperor Brother Day, a clone of former ruler Emperor Cleon.
However Brother Day has two ‘brothers’ who were also cloned from Cleon, with Cassian Bilton (Shoal) as the youngest royal family member Brother Dawn and Terence Mann (Sense8) as eldest member Brother Dusk. All three brothers are new creations for the TV show, designed to better portray Cleon who mostly operated in the shadows in the books.
Lou Llobell (Voyagers) and Laura Birn (A Walk Among the Tombstones) will be playing gender-swapped versions of book characters Dr. Gaal Dornick and Eto Demerzel. Llobell portrays Seldon’s biographer Dornick, whereas Birn appears as Brother Day’s aide Demerzel.
Rounding out the cast is Leah Harvey (Fighting With My Family) as Terminus mayor Salvor Hardin, Alicia Gerrard (Ripper Street) as Yate Fulham and Harry Potter actor Alfred Enoch as Hari’s adopted son Raych Seldon.
Behind the scenes David S. Goyer – whose writing credits include The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man Of Steel and The Sandman – will serve as showrunner, including co-writing several episodes and directing the finale.
Isaac Asimov’s daughter Robyn Asimov is also on board as an executive producer.
According to Apple TV’s synopsis, Foundation “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilisation amid the fall of the Galactic Empire”.
Foundation initially began as a series of eight short stories, which were later published together as a trilogy in the 1950s. Thirty years later Asimov returned to the Foundation series, releasing four new volumes for a total of seven books.
While one of Asimov’s later additions included a prequel titled Prelude to Foundation, it seems that Apple’s TV series will be adapting the original trilogy’s first instalment, which was succinctly titled Foundation.
The book follows Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who develops the science of “psychohistory” that predicts the collapse of the current Galactic Empire and a subsequent dark age that will last 30,000 years before a second Empire begins.
However Seldon also predicts that this intervening period of turmoil can be reduced to 1,000 years if certain conditions are met – and thus is granted permission to form the Foundation, a group of the greatest living scientists, engineers, and historians tasked with preserving humanity’s knowledge in the Encyclopedia Galactica ready for this new Empire.
The Galactic Empire is not too thrilled about their supposed imminent downfall though, and banish Seldon to the remote and inhospitable planet of Terminus. It is here that Seldon encounters the Vault, a mysterious floating object that appears in Asimov’s books – and Goyer has promised we will find out what secrets lie within the Vault during season one.
However, Seldon also creates a second, mysterious Foundation at the opposite end of the galaxy for initially unknown reasons – setting the stage for an ambitious and interweaving saga that spans centuries.
Goyer told The Hollywood Reporter that he initially pitched the series with one sentence: “It’s a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens.’”
It’s unsurprising then that Foundation has drawn many comparisons with Game of Thrones – and Goyer has revealed that the fantasy series has also helped set the stage for sprawling novel adaptations previously thought unfilmable.
“The audience is changing the way that we’re consuming stories,” Goyer told LovinMalta. “Game of Thrones was one of the first to do a giant novelistic show and now, with Foundation, we can hopefully [tell] the story over 80 episodes, or 80 hours, as opposed to trying to condense it down into a two or three-hour film.”
There’s certainly plenty of source material available should Apple wish to commission eight seasons – though first things first we’ll have to see if the tech giant renews Foundation for season two…
Despite still being halfway through production, Apple gave us a rather extensive two-minute first look back in August 2020. It features Goyer explaining how influential Foundation has been on science fiction and pop culture in general, before revealing the first footage of the series:
A full, official trailer was eventually released in August 2021 along with the announcement of the release date. It does a rather good job of explaining the somewhat unwieldy story, and features several stunning special effects:
Foundation begins on Friday 24th September 2021 on Apple TV+. Find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide.