Thursday, July 13, 2023

Foundation, Season Two Premiere, on Apple TV+

Nobody ever read Isaac Asimov for steamy sex scenes. His books were informed by real science and written with a deliciously dry, mordant wit. Perhaps the ultimate Asimov is his short story “The Billiard Ball,” wherein a scientist uses physics to murder his rival, right in plain sight. Unfortunately, the first season of Foundation never felt very Asimovian. Yes, there was Hari Seldon, the Foundation, and psychohistory, but all the intrigue with lusty, naked emperor clones was more like something out of the Dune series than Foundation. At the end of season one, the digital copy of Seldon’s consciousness learned he might have gotten something wrong—which is inconceivable. Nevertheless, history might be slightly off-course in the season premiere of Foundation, which premieres tomorrow on Apple TV+.

One of the only original aspects of season one that stayed true to the spirit and ideas of Asimov’s speculative fiction was the way it found clever ways to span decades and eras. Much to the surprise of Salvor Hardin, the former warden of the Foundation’s home planet of Terminus, Gaal Dornick (Seldon’s estranged protégé) just introduced herself as her biological mother (after a loong slumber in suspended animation). (Both characters were men in the books, but that is least of showrunner David S. Goyer’s unfaithfulness). They start to get to know each other in the season premiere, but it is still mostly awkward—and boring.

The best scene is the attempted assassination of “Brother Day,” the primary governing “Brother” of the cloned triumvirate of Emperor Cleon the First, who jointly rule over the galactic empire. Frankly, the preening Brother Day is so out of place in a universe ostensibly created by Asimov, it is a shame they fail. Again, he is saved by Demerzel, who once again violates Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics.” For Asimov readers, this is truly unforgivable.
 Briefly, Nimrat Kaur is introduced as Seldon’s late wife, so hopefully she gets more interesting things to do in the next episode.

Frankly, Asimov’s concept of psychohistory has been used by other science fiction writers, so Goyer could have applied the concept to an entirely original series. Presumably, Apple wanted the Asimov brand, but the liberties they take with
Foundation ignore and outright disrespect Asimov’s ideas and concepts.

There was some decent space opera in season one, but aside from the attempt on Brother Day’s life, the second season premiere is strangely dull. It also compounds and double-downs on its worst departures from Asimov’s novels. Read the books instead (the earlier ones are relatively short). Not recommended, the season two premiere of
Foundation starts streaming tomorrow (7/14) on Apple TV+.