Apple TV + premieres this Friday what is its most ambitious series to date. Foundation (Foundation) faces the enormous challenge of being the first adaptation of the immense literary saga of Isaac Asimov. For now, its premiere is already a great victory, being the first attempt of many that has gone from being simply a production idea that soon proved unaffordable.
With a cast headed by (Mad Men, Chernobyl) who will play Hari Seldon, Lee Pace (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit), Laura Birn (A walk among the tombstones) or the young Spanish Lou Llobel, Apple’s adaptation comes after an announcement made three years ago years and as an almost personal bet on the part of the showrunner, writer and director David S. Goyer, who has revealed that he has a special connection with novels since he was a child.
But, how has the one that is valued as the most important saga of science fiction not had an adaptation, even if it was minor, or bad, until now? The answer is similar to that of other great totems of the genre, such as Dune, which has now reached the big screen after several attempts that skidded: the almost intrinsic maladjustment of stories that open universes that seem to be only transferable from paper to imagination.
A cosmic saga with cosmic dimensions
Apple TV + and Goyer have taken up the challenge in a series that it seems that in its first season will go very little by little, showing us just a handful of pages of the saga.
Goyer has already advanced that the series will have several licenses that have the approval of the Asimov family
“It is an adaptation more than 70 years after Asimov created it. The audience I was writing for in a post-WWII setting is not the one that exists today. Fortunately, Asimov’s relatives fully accepted it. They said Asimov himself would have accepted it. It’s impossible to do a line-by-line adaptation, ”Goyer said in an interview.
A great care with several licenses already advised by the creators that we will have to see how they land. Let’s see how we got here and why the Foundation deserves so much praise.
And you have to understand the colossal of the saga, not only in dimension, but in the ideas that it raises and the temporary leaps that it goes through.
The first stories that would compose The first Foundation books were written by Isaac Asimov at the age of 23, in Astounding Magazine since 1942. Those first stories gave rise to books Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952) and Second Foundation (1953), the original trilogy.
Asimov began writing the Foundation stories at the age of 23 and the last title was published posthumously
That trilogy won the Hugo Award as the best series of all time. There is nothing. During the 1980s, Asimov wrote more letters to history with The Limits of the Foundation (1982), Foundation and Earth (1986), the prequel Prelude to the Foundation (1988) and, finally, Towards the Foundation (1993) another prequel that was already published with Asimov deceased. In these books it is revealed that there is a connection with his other great work, the Saga of the Robots.
And a legacy that goes far beyond science fiction
In the original trilogy, Hari Seldon, mathematician and psychologist, develops the science of psychohistory, which is “a predictive model designed to predict the behavior of very large populations.” He uses mathematics to foresee broad historical trends, and Seldon predicts the collapse of the Galactic Empire with a consequent period of barbarism that will last 30,000 years, unless Seldon’s plan is accepted, which involves the creation of a Foundation to act as a repository of crucial knowledge for the preservation of civilization.
In that case, the Dark Ages could last as little as 1,000 years and the Foundation could rebuild the ashes of whatever remains faster. Gaal dornick (character who happens to be female in the series and is played by Llobell), a gifted young mathematician and possibly the only person in the galaxy capable of fully understanding Seldon’s work, is crucial to his plan. The Galactic Empire, which has endured for millennia, is not thrilled by Seldon’s prediction and he and the Foundation are banished from the planet of Trantor, the capital of the Empire, to Terminus, an almost inhospitable planet light years away.
It is believed that Bin Laden could be inspired by the Foundation when creating Al-Qaeda
Along the way, numerous time and character and point of view jumps tell us how Seldon’s statistical predictions (or prophecies?) Are coming true or not.
The point of view of science almost like a religion to be believed at face value, and the huge world created by Asimov from the optimism that, despite all the collapse that is anticipated, the human being has managed to dominate the Galaxy, is present in referential stories like Dune, Star Trek, and also to a lesser extent Star Wars. Without a Foundation, science fiction would not be what it is today.
But his influence has been such that he has also inspired the dark side. The Japanese sect Aum Shinrikyo, responsible for the 1995 terrorist attack On the Tokyo subway that claimed 13 lives, he believed he was going to rebuild the world after an upcoming apocalypse with a community of scientists inspired by the Hari Seldon Foundation. It has even been speculated that Osama bin Laden read the books –al-Qaeda can be translated as “Foundation”– and that he was able to draw inspiration from them to create his vision of a kind of necessary collapse. However, the vast majority of readers have understood that Asimov’s message is ultimately one of hope about the future of humanity.
Attempts to adapt Fundación that failed
Of course, what is evident is that it is strange that such a powerful story has never been brought to the small or the big screen until now. But the challenge is colossal.
Goyer has said he cast the series on Apple as “a 1,000-year game of chess between Seldon and the Empire,” implying that it will take it easy. It is possible, in fact, that this first season only accounts for, say, a few pages of the first book. The creator has even said that he aspires to have 80 chapters in several seasons, similar to the 73 that Game of Thrones was extended.
The history of the other attempts to bring Fundación to the screen makes for almost another series in itself.
In 1998, New Line Cinema first tried to convert the original trilogy of the Foundation in a series of films. The project did not materialize and was retaken in 2008, first by Warner Bros. and then by Columbia Pictures in 2009.
New Lince Cine or HBO have already tried before to bring it to the screen without success
Later in 2014, HBO acquired the rights to the series after a bumpy production run and it was said that Jonathan Nolan was going to direct it. But it also failed.
After so many attempts, it seemed like a project denied by all the producers. But in 2017, the potential franchise saw another glimmer of hope when it was reported that Skydance Television was developing the adaptation with Davis S Goyer and Josh Friedman as lead writers.
It was in 2018, however, that it was announced that Apple had bought the rights of the television series and the same project, continuing production with the same showrunners at the helm. Friedman eventually left production, but Apple brought in Robyn Asimov, the late author’s daughter, as executive producer, and the series got the green light for a first season consisting of ten episodes, which are the ones we can already enjoy.