Foundation Review: Isaac Asimov TV adaptation is imaginative rework

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Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) in foundation

Apple TV

WHAT would happen if we could predict the future? Not by some kind of magic or clairvoyance, but by applying the rules of a new branch of science.

That is the premise behind it Foundation, endowment, a new series on Apple TV + based on a series of books by US science fiction titan Isaac Asimov, takes place 12,000 years in the future.

At Foundation, the science of prediction has become a reality with the development of a field called psychological history. The well-known tools of science – mathematics, equations and data on existing conditions – are used to make predictions about the most likely course of world events.

Science, of course, has its limits – it cannot, for example, predict the actions of individuals. But with enough baseline data, it can predict the probabilities of events like war, insurrection, and famine.

In episode one we see how the technology comes into play under its ingenious developer Hari Seldon at a particularly uncomfortable time for everyone.

The entire Milky Way is united as an empire ruled by the planet in its galactic heart, Trantor, which appears to be the culmination of technological and cultural sophistication. But just as historical empires may have appeared inexorably on real Earth just before their demise, the Galactic Empire already contains the seeds of its own destruction.

The galaxy is ruled by a dissolute Emperor whose megalomania leads him to make ill-advised decisions when it comes to rebellious planets on the empire’s outskirts. He won’t even give up his power to death, as he has created a number of his own clones to rule in turn as each body ages and dies.

From psychological history, Seldon can see that all of this will end with the collapse of civilization, but the only people who believe him are the few other mathematicians who understand his language.

Fortunately, Seldon is letting his own science manipulate events to send settlers to a new colony – the foundation of the title – on a barren and overlooked planet in the far corner of the galaxy. The aim is to create a knowledge and technology repository that will outlast the coming centuries of galactic war and barbarism.

As a staunch Asimov fan, I was delighted to learn that the foundation books were finally successfully adapted for the screen after numerous unsuccessful attempts. In the episodes I’ve seen so far, the story seems to use the most interesting of its ideas without sticking too much to them original act.

That’s probably for the best, because even when I read the books as a young teenager in the 1980s, much of his work struck me as sexist. In the first book – which grew largely from a collection of four short stories written in the 1940s – every main character was a man, and once a woman appears to be involved, she is distracted by a sparkling high. technical jewelry. The TV series, on the other hand, simply rewrites about half of the characters as women, such as Seldon’s protégé Gaal Dornick (pictured). Unlike in Asimov’s worlds, they are full-bodied people and not just decorative sex objects.

The series also deals with questions I asked myself when I first read the books. Could psychological history be possible with sufficiently powerful computers? Would it be good or bad to know the future when the prospects are bleak? And should we insist that our political leaders are educated?

The screenwriters may originally have wanted viewers to ponder this question in relation to the real problem of climate change, but it has taken on new relevance today as Covid-19 death rates depend on our leaders’ willingness to “follow science “. “.

While Apple TV + currently bans reviewers from disclosing everything that happens after the second episode, I can say that the imaginative reworking of Asimov’s ideas keeps the tension consistently high, even for those familiar with the original plot.

I may not be a psychohistorian, but I predict this series will be enjoyed by Asimov fans and newbies alike.


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