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‘Foundation’ season one review: A mesmeric and contemplative take on Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi world

A still of Empire (Lee Pace) in ‘Foundation’, an Apple TV+ original series adapted from the books by Isaac Asimov   | Photo Credit: Apple Inc

There was a generation of audiences that considered Star Wars and Star Trek to be nothing but fiction, speaking of other worlds in unimaginable circumstances. Cut to 2021 and we have a generation that has come to the conclusion that such shows are probably retellings of our world in terrifying circumstances.

And Foundation could very well be one of them.

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Deeply entrenched in all-too-familiar political messes and struggles for power, Foundation also taps into futurism with genetic dynasties and time travel. As far as adaptations can go, the series created by Josh Friedman and David S. Goyer is a dramatic divergent from the books – actually veering towards the prequel books – while still the central plot is kept the same: a mathematician and developer of psychohistory, Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) predicts the end of the Galactic Empire, much to the dismay of the Empire (Lee Pace). Hari then forms The Foundation, a group of remarkable minds who can help him and the universe preserve civilisations for centuries to come.

An international cast

While the diverse cast reflects a potentially globalised world — or universe, in this case — there is a pushed tone of ‘wokeness’ in every debate. Too much of it lends preachy messaging; and today’s audiences know when they are being lectured, not just entertained. This could have been treated with more subtlety.

Lou Llobel, playing Hari’s protege Gaal Dornick, conveys both innocence and defiance impressively on screen. Llobel’s portrayal of Gaal’s journey of strength is a delight to watch, making her an international talent to watch for the years to come.

The same goes for Leah Harvey’s depiction of Salvor Hardin. In each scene, Harvey leaves audiences wanting more, without bringing much ego to Salvor – a game-changing choice given the character goes through waves of uncertainty as she fights for what she believes is right and tries to also find out more about herself and why she has a connection to the future.

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While most series tend to sideline South Asian actors save for a scene or two for token’s sake, Foundation has done well with Kubbra Sait’s Phara Keaen. The Anacreon extremist strike team leader is not just an angry entity, but someone who genuinely believes that what she is doing is right for her people. Sait does well to breathe life into the Grand Huntress; her chemistry with on-screen rival Salvor works well with their intense interactions and occasional tussle.

While most leaders on-screen brim with perfection, Jared Harris brings vulnerability and humanity to Hari Seldon. As audiences, we are not too sure of Hari, especially given we see him through Gaal’s eyes. I was pleased that there was no cliched paternal vibe with Hari, keeping his role as tight as possible thus opening up more dialogue into his work as a psycho-historian which audiences want to know more of.

Lee Pace does what he does best: taking ownership of his role – or roles, plural, rather. As a series of genetic clones of variants of Cleon, his screen presence is impactful. Goyer and Pace bring to life our fear of clones; that there will be too many of them and one day, one of the said clones will inevitably want something more for himself and his legacy, i.e. to be a clone above others. Even in the most simple scene, Pace brings his all.

A visual masterpiece

The world designs across Foundation are stunning; and Goyer makes sure audiences feel every cinematic punch, be the panoramic scene of Gaal travelling through the Starbridge or the different planets and their distinctive looks, down to the architecture, weaponry and costumes. A lot of screentime is devoted to helping the audience get to know these new surroundings and rightfully so; but be sure to dedicate Foundation to your television or other bigger screens only to feel the magnitude of each and every detail.

But do not expect constant and large-scale warfare all the time; while Foundation has many a fight scene, the stories are more dialogue-driven

The industry has shelled out its unfair share of disastrous remakes and adaptations, so you might be thinking reductively if you assumed Apple TV+ was playing it safe with Foundation. Rather, for such a beloved series of books, the pressure is extremely high. Given the scale of Asimov’s work, Goyer and his team justified – and even magnified – a lot of what was on the page. And, there is a strong paving for a second season.

Foundation is streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes every week.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 11:05:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/foundation-apple-tv-plus-season-one-review-mesmeric-contemplative-take-of-isaac-asimov-books/article37001686.ece

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