After several decades of acclaim and in-depth analysis, the expansive Isaac Asimov book series Foundation is finally getting a huge TV adaptation. With a story that spans several centuries, the premise of Foundation asks a basic question: If human behavior can be mathematically predicted, can math save future generations from impending doom?
With a science-based Nostradamus central to the story — Dr. Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) — the scope of the philosophical scope of Foundation is not only provocative but complex. Here’s what to know about Foundation, from the books and short stories that started it all, to the cast, trailers, and release date for the new Apple+ TV series.
What is Foundation?
Foundation is a new science fiction television series based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels and short stories, which are often regarded as among the greatest sci-fi stories of all time. Collectively, the series earned the Hugo Award for “Best All-Time Series” in 1966, beating out Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
In the first book, the story of Foundation follows the efforts of a scientist named Hari Seldon, who studies the mathematical tendencies of large groups of people over huge periods of time. This is refined into a practice Seldon calls “psychohistory” — a kind of super-math that can predict the future. If you saw Westworld Season 3, they basically tried to rip off psychohistory with a few giant AIs thrown in for good measure.
In the first book — initially published as a series of short stories — Seldon creates the Foundation when he realizes the Dune-esque Galactic Empire in which everyone lives is headed for a huge Dark Ages. The “Foundation” is a colony of exceptional people who must preserve all of the human knowledge to ensure civilization can shorten the dark ages. Basically, instead of 30,000 years of horrible hysteria and horror, Seldon thinks if society is guided by psychohistory, this bad period can be shortened to only 1,000 years of terribleness. The rest of the books (including two prequels) basically deal with a ton of debates about “The Seldon Plan” and various threats to things that Seldon himself could not have foreseen, including a mutant telepath warlord called “The Mule” in Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation.
Psychologist Martin Seligman, economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, the late Carl Sagan, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have all at some point cited Asimov’s books as among their favorites.
The books have had a major influence on modern science fiction: It’s been referenced by Douglas Adams in his sci-fi comedy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the TV series Futurama, and was name-dropped in issue #542 of Marvel’s Fantastic Four.
What’s the release date for Foundation?
Foundation will premiere on Apple TV+ on September 24, 2021. Like other Apple TV+ shows, Foundation will release new episodes weekly.
Is there a trailer for Foundation?
Yes! There are two trailers for Foundation. The first was revealed on June 22, 2020, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Watch it above.
There is also a second trailer, much more detailed. This one really digs into the pushback from the Empire and Seldon’s buddies. Their exile is made into a much bigger deal in this trailer. You can watch it below.
Who is producing Apple’s Foundation?
Foundation will be produced by Josh Friedman (the screenwriter on Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds) and David S. Goyer (screenwriter for Blade II, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Terminator: Dark Fate, and a reboot of the Mattel toy franchise, Masters of the Universe.)
Goyer’s TV credits include ABC's 2009 series FlashForward, NBC's 2014 procedural horror Constantine, and the 2018 Superman prequel show Krypton, another sci-fi epic about Superman’s home planet trying to delay their own inevitable doom.
The series will be produced by Skydance Media, the production company founded by David Ellison, who is responsible for some of the biggest sci-fi movies of the past decade, including Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), World War Z (2013), Annihilation (2018), and every Mission: Impossible movie since 2011’s Ghost Protocol.
Where can I watch Foundation?
The series will stream exclusively on Apple TV+, the tech giant’s response to Netflix, Disney+, Amazon, and Hulu. Apple TV+ has already had some success with The Morning Show, Mythic Quest, For All Mankind, and more, but this could be its biggest release yet.
Unlike Netflix's popular binging model, Apple TV+ releases most new shows on a weekly basis. We assume Foundation will have a similar schedule.
Who's in the cast of Foundation?
Here's the full cast, via IMDb:
Cassian Bilton ... Brother Dawn
Laura Birn ... Demerzel
Jared Harris ... Hari Seldon
Leah Harvey ... Salvor
Lou Llobell ... Gaal
Terrence Mann ... Brother Dusk
Lee Pace ... Brother Day
Mido Hamada ... Master Shadow Obrecht
Isaiah Joshua Chambers ... Mystery Boy
Johanna O'Brien ... Shivaughn
Geoffrey Cantor ... Ambassador Thanwall
Brian F. Mulvey ... Travik
Cooper Carter ... Young Dawn
Abdul Alshareef ... Comms Tech
Orion Ben ... Pistis
Nikhil Dubey ... Bomber One
Samir Fuchs ... Prime Magistrate
Stevie Greaney ... (N/A)
Jerry Kwarteng ... Imperial Guardian Suit
Fergus Mulligan ... Eiton
Georg Nikoloff ... Thorin senior laundry worker
Florence Ordesh ... Briwan
Slaney Power ... Daia
Ahd Tamimi ... Magnus
Where can I read Foundation?
Besides ordering them from a local bookstore, you can pick up the books on Amazon:
- Foundation (1951), the book that started it all.
- Foundation and Empire (1952), a sequel with two parts, titled “The General” and “The Mule.” Both stories explore a war that’s waged against the Foundation.
- Second Foundation (1953), confusingly the third book in Asimov’s original trilogy that continues the events of “The Mule,” which involves the rise of a Second Foundation, another separate colony.
After the first three books, Asimov wrote two sequels: Foundation’s Edge (1982) and Foundation and Earth (1986). At the end of the saga, the two books follow a politician and a scholar who seek a mythical planet called “Earth” that’s believed to be the origins of humanity. At the same time, the stories create tension between the now-influential First Foundation and the super-secretive Second Foundation, as both groups begin to question the dogma of the Seldon Plan, thousands of years later.
These books also being Asimov’s process at integrating the mythology of his famous robot books (like I, Robot) into the canon of the Foundation series, a process he continued with the prequels. It’s all connected!
In 1988, Asimov began a prequel era with Prelude to Foundation, which reveals Hari Seldon’s life, and Forward the Foundation (1993), which tells of Seldon’s final years. Critics have called the book somewhat autobiographical, as they point out parallels between Hari Seldon and Asimov himself, who was in the final years of his life when writing Forward the Foundation.
Foundation premieres his Apple TV+ on September 24, 2021.
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