How Foundation Brings the Asimov Novels to Life on Apple TV+

In fact, where Asimov’s short stories skipped ahead in time, the Foundation of Apple TV+ is able to explore more of how the burgeoning colony that sprung from Seldon’s theories developed and survived, allowing Dornick to continue a character arc that didn’t exist in the original novel. Additionally, the Emperor himself, played by the formidable Lee Pace, takes a much more immediate personal interest in the foretold end of his reign than anything found in the books.

Asimov himself realized the narrative possibilities when he revisited Foundation for a new trilogy in the 1980s. In the author’s note for Foundation’s Edge, he says that, upon re-reading his earlier work, “I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing ever did. All three volumes, all the nearly quarter of a million words, consisted of thoughts and of conversations. No action. No physical suspense… each book in the trilogy had at least two stories and lacked unity.”

Just as the author discovered he could revise the format of his storytelling for the next book in the series, the television adaptation does the same for a visual medium. An off-stage emperor, for example, isn’t as interesting as a triumvirate of clones led by Brother Day, who rules alongside younger and older versions of himself, known as Brothers Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and Dusk (Terrence Mann). Each has their own foibles based on their age and station, giving the fall of an empire personal stakes that viewers will sympathize with, even in villainy.

Neither Asimov nor the Foundation television series stopped there. One enigmatic character  that the author didn’t even introduce until the second trilogy makes an appearance in the first round of episodes on Apple TV+: that of Laura Birn’s character, Eto Demerzel, an imperial advisor who carries an interesting secret. Asimov repurposed Demerzel from one of his other famous novels in order to create a shared universe, and now the TV series likewise has brought her forward to the start of the story to add a different perspective on the empire’s decline.

As for waiting for the fall to happen, Foundation doesn’t immediately fast forward through time to see signs of societal uproar as in the novels. Instead, the show reveals the seeds of discord in an interplanetary rivalry between two cultures on the edge of the Emperor’s sphere of influence. This subplot acts as an illustration of Seldon’s predictions, magnifying Brother Day’s justifiable fears that the forecast doom will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Despite all the changes Foundation made to some characters and circumstances in its source material, fans of the novels will be in awe of the depiction of Trantor, the planetary seat of imperial power. The sky of metal, the vast underground network, and the star bridge are rendered with such accuracy, viewers will think they sprung directly from their imagination and remembrance of Asimov’s descriptions.

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