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Foundation may have been flawed, but its Apple TV+ overhaul was necessary

  • Although co-creator Davis S. Goyer "clearly put a great deal of effort into making Asimov’s characters more three-dimensional, it just doesn’t work," says Zachary D. Carter of Season 1 of the Apple TV+ Isaac Asimov adaptation. "Rather than careful character development, he relies on titillating events—They’re having sex! Oh no, a murder!—to maintain the audience’s attention. Goyer has taken Asimov’s engagement with the complexity of empire and rewritten it as a good-guys-with-laser-guns tale, the very (semi-) literary tradition that Asimov rejected. The show’s most inspired change is in its casting. Race does not exist in Asimov’s far future, and Goyer attempts to stay true to that vision by casting Black and brown actors, including many women, in roles that Asimov wrote as un-raced men. This works very well in dialogue about, well, anything other than race, but it breaks down when actual character comes into play. It is not easy to present a raceless far future to a race-conscious contemporary audience, and Goyer frequently stumbles. Casting a young Foundation student, Gaal Dornick, as a Black woman works so long as she’s studying math, but when the camera moves to Dornick’s all-Black homeworld, the power of representation leaks into crude stereotyping—the planet is repressive and anti-intellectual, a world constructed of rope and bamboo in a universe of technological wonder. Most of these problems would be mitigated substantially if Goyer would pick up the pace. The 10 hour-long episodes of the first season cover only the first two Asimov short stories from 1942, amounting to fewer than 100 pages of the 1991 paperback edition. Goyer’s otherwise commendable anti-imperialism, however, has left him with a fundamentally incoherent story line. Asimov’s Galactic Empire, despite its flaws, is the greatest incubator of art and knowledge the universe has ever known. Goyer’s is just a brutal autocracy. Who cares if it is destroyed? Why would anyone want to make another one? And yet there is no small pleasure in watching a serious mind wrestle with Edward Gibbon in the 21st century an hour at a time, particularly when that mind is armed with a massive budget and extraordinary special effects. For all the show’s missteps, Asimov’s Foundation needed an intellectual overhaul. The dramatic key for subsequent seasons is to ditch the first’s plodding focus on the Galactic Emperor Bad Guy and emphasize the internal contradictions of the Foundation itself." ALSO: Lee Pace explains the Season 1 finale shocker.

    TOPICS: Foundation, Apple TV+, David S. Goyer, Isaac Asimov, Lee Pace