Latest details about Asimov’s Foundation TV series on Apple TV Plus

Delayed by COVID-19 like everything else, the first season of Apple’s Foundation series is fast approaching. Could this be the start of a series as epic as Game of Thrones (preferably without a Game of Thrones style last season)? With Apple’s financial backing, Isaac Asimov’s iconic science fiction story and universe, and the extremely promising first trailers, the signs are good. If you are unfamiliar with Asimov’s many science fiction novels, check out our Isaac Asimov reading guide here. Apple first announced their intention to create the Foundation series in August 2018 when they revealed a collaboration with Skydance Television (Skydance have been working on an Foundation TV series for some time).

When will Apple’s Foundation TV show be released?

The global release date for Foundation is Friday, 24 September, 2021. As an Apple production, it will be exclusive to the Apple TV Plus’s streaming service. Here’s a link to the original press release on Apple’s blog. If Foundation is anything like other Apple TV Plus shows, the first three episodes will be released initially and then we’ll see one episode a week until the end of the season. You might want to wait just before Foundation’s release date to start a free trial of Apple TV Plus’s streaming service (if you are not already member).

What Foundation trailers have been released?

Four main Foundation trailers have been released so far. The latest titled “First look” (part documentary) was released on 18 September. A featured trailer titled “Official Trailer” was released 18 August 2021. A teaser trailer (part documentary) came first on 23 June, followed by a longer, more revealing teaser trailer on 28 June . Additionally, a few extra scenes from Foundation were included in Apple TV Plus’s Summer 2021 and beyond video preview. All the trailers and preview reveal a slick, futuristic style reminiscent of the upcoming Dune production, the latest Westworld series (1 to 3), and a touch of Gattaca. The Foundation trailers and preview released so far are embedded below:

Foundation trailer 4 – First look

Foundation trailer 3 – Fate
Foundation trailer 2 – Legacy
Foundation trailer 1 – Future

How many Foundation TV episodes will there be?

While the first season of Apple’s Foundation series is just 10 episodes long, in a February interview with Lovin Malta, showrunner David S. Goyer suggested their could be many more if all goes well:

Game of Thrones was really the first of these big, giant novelistic shows, and now with Foundation we can tell the story hopefully over the course of 80 episodes, 80 hours, as opposed to trying to condense it all into two or three hours for a single film.

David S. Goyer Foundation showrunner

Apple’s approach to their TV productions seems to be to give TV shows room to breathe and grow, even if initial ratings or reactions are not outstanding. Other Apple TV Plus shows with half the clout and hype of Asimov’s Foundation have already received second seasons. Take See as an example, the apocalyptic science fiction show that stars Jason Momoa and Dave Bautista received mediocre reviews but has already made it to a second season. The better received, For all mankind, the alternative history SF show from Ronald D. Moore, also made it to season 2 and has been green lit for a third already. Several other Apple TV Plus shows (like Servant) were extended beyond what you would expect from the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime, when their initial reception was not sensational. So even if the first Foundation series is not an outstanding success, I’m guessing Apple will at least give a second season a chance.

Isaac Asimov wrote six Foundation series novels (the later novels being extremely lengthy), which I imagine is easily enough for a hundred hours of television. He also tied his robot series (and galactic empire novels) into the same fictional universe in later novels. This gives Apple the potential to expand Asimov’s entire Foundation, Robot and Galactic empire universe in multiple directions, with potentially multiple spin off series too. A TV series based on the Robot novels, The Caves of Steal and The Naked Sun, would be particularly welcome. Asimov’s original books are popular among generations of readers, and if this popularity translates into television, we could be in for an extended journey.

What was David S. Goyer’s one line pitch to Apple for the Foundation TV series?

The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Apple had jokingly asked Goyer for a one-line pitch for the Foundation series. Goyer told Apple that:

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.

David S. Goyer Foundation showrunner

It’s not a bad attempt, given the length and complexity of the original Foundation novels.

Who is directing the Foundation TV series?

So far the names of four directors have been revealed:

Rupert Sanders directed the first episode of Foundation (arguably the most important in any new series). He is most famous for the movies Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Alex Graves directed three episodes (3,4 and 5 – the most of any director). Graves directed episodes of The West Wing and Game of Thrones, so appears an ideal choice for a special effects laden show and Asimov’s dialogue heavy style. The West Wing relied on fast paced conversations.

Roxann Dawson directed 2 episodes (8 and 9). She’s previously directed episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, The Americans, and House of cards (just to name a few).

Finally, Jennifer Phang directed two episodes (6 and 7). Like Dawson, she has a history with science fiction TV, directing episodes of The Expanse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Stargirl.

How will the Foundation TV series differ from the books?

It’s hard to say exactly how far the Apple TV show will stray from Asimov’s source material, but the trailers give us some clues. So far it looks like they will be sticking the core of the plot (unlike some of the past movie adaptations – I,Robot, in particular, which veered so wildly off course it hit a tree). However, the plot spans thousands of years and a multitude of characters, so there are bound to be differences. Here are the ones noted so far from the trailers. We’ll add more when we see more.

  1. Emperors are cloned to stay in power. Not in the original books, although it does strangely sound like something that would be. When Asimov wrote the novels, the idea of cloning had yet to capture the public’s imagination or be experimented with in the real world.
  2. There’s a new cloned character called Brother Day, the Emperor of the Galaxy. He has clones (siblings?), Brother Dawn and Brother Dusk.
  3. Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin in the TV series are women. In the novels, they’re men, which is a sensible change, considering the lack of female voices in Asimov’s original stories.
  4. Galactic renegades unite! In the book, Seldon’s group were intellectuals fighting the empire with tactics and diplomacy, the trailer appears to suggest they are going to spend a lot of time running around with weapons and blowing things up (terrorist style). Hopefully this is not the case.

What’s Foundation about?

According to Apple TV Plus, the Foundation TV series “Chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire”. In the novel, a mathematics professor at Streeling University on the planet Trantor, Hari Seldon, creates psychohistory, allowing him to predict the future in probabilistic terms based on vast galactic populations. Much to the Empire’s dismay, his mathematical analysis leads him to predict the eventual fall of the Galactic Empire within 500 years and a descent into a dark chaotic period that could span 30,000 years if no action is taken. As the popularity of Seldon’s ideas grow, the Empire’s determination to stop his influence increases. Seldon and his pupil Gaal Dornick (a brilliant mathematical protégé) are put on trial for treason. Selden believes he can limit the period of darkness to just 1,000 years. To achieve this goal, he creates two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy. The first book covers setting up the First Foundation on Terminus. It’s unclear at what point in the first novel the first series will get to (of course, it may extend beyond it).

Who are the main Foundation cast?

Jared Harris stars in the pivotal role of Hari Seldon (according to Asimov’s Encyclopedia Galactica, Hari Seldon was born in the 11,988th year of the Galactic Era and died in 12,069.) A mathematics professor at Streeling University on the planet Trantor, Seldon creates psychohistory, allowing him to predict the future in probabilistic terms based on vast galactic populations.

Harris is an Irish actor, based in London, who most recently headlined the Chernobyl mini-series and co-starred in The Expanse. You may also recognise him from Sherlock Holmes and The Mortal Instruments movies.

Lou Llobell is Gaal Dornick, Seldon’s pupil and most likely to take over from Seldon in the future. A socially naïve, math’s genius, Gaal narrates the story in the first book and initially visits Trantor (the Galactic Empire’s capital) to join the Seldon Project.

Lou Llobell is a relatively new, Spanish born actress based in London, who features in two up and coming movies, Voyagers (2021) and The Pilgrim (2021).

Leah Harvey plays Salvor Hardin, the mayor of Terminus. Terminus is the planet where the First Foundation is established, located at the edge of the Galaxy. He (she in the TV series) is a skilled diplomat and leader, manipulating foreign affairs to keep the First Foundation safe.

In the novels, Hardin had numerous sayings. Here are my top five favourites:

  1. “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
  2. “It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.”
  3. “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.”
  4. “A fire-eater must eat fire even if he has to kindle it himself.”
  5. “To succeed, planning alone is insufficient.”

A London actress, Harvey has stared in numerous TV shows, movies, and mini-series, including Les Misérables, Fighting with my family, and Uncle.

Lee Pace is the Galactic Emperor Brother Day, leader of a “long line of emperor clones” who fear their dynasty may come to an end. Other cloned versions are called Brother Dusk (played by Terrance Mann) and Brother Dawn (played by Cassian Bilton). These characters were not in the original books.

Pace has starred in numerous films, including Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, Guardians of the Galaxy and Lincoln.

Where was Foundation filmed?

Shooting was completed in February 2021 in Malta. Filming also took place in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands and Tenerife. The series is currently in preproduction.

We’ll keep this article updated as new information comes to hand. You’ll be able to read our review of Foundation once the TV series launches on 24 September.