On Foundation

Good to see Paul Krugman weigh in with his thoughts on the TV adaptation of Asimov's Foundation series:

“Foundation” might seem unfilmable. It mostly involves people talking, and its narrative inverts the hero-saves-the-universe theme that burns many acres of CGI every year. The story spans centuries; in each episode everything appears to be on the brink, and it seems as if only desperate efforts by the protagonists can save the day. […]

So how does the Apple TV+ series turn this into a visually compelling tale? It doesn’t. What it does instead is remake “Star Wars” under another name. There are indispensable heroes, mystical powers, even a Death Star. These aren’t necessarily bad things to include in a TV series, but they’re completely antithetical to the spirit of Asimov’s writing. Pretending that this series has anything to do with the “Foundation” novels is fraudulent marketing, and I’ve stopped watching.

It strikes me that if showrunner David Goyer gets the full eight seasons he's hoping for,1 Foundation is destined, at best, to be regarded as similar to the various films inspired by the works of Philip K Dick.2 Granted the show that's rolled out so far has deviated wildly from a straight adaptation of Asimov's story, but there's still plenty of time for the story to cover a few hundred years of galactic history and end up in the vicinity of where Asimov's story ended up.

It's way too early to paint the story as aping Star Wars. If we get to season 5 and we're still being shown a current storyline that features Gall Dornick and Hari Seldon and Lewis Pirenne as current protagonists (rather than featuring in flashbacks or as hologram recordings being consulted by the present day characters) then I'd be worried, but for all we know the plan is to give the current cast a couple of seasons and then move on to a new generation running the Foundation and facing a new set of challenges as the empire collapses.

Admittedly, David Goyer running things is by no means a guarantee that we'll get a satisfactory adaptation, but none of us can really know how this project will go this early.

[Via FanFare]

  1. I'm doubtful that'll happen, but it has to be said that Apple have the money to make it happen if anyone does. 
  2. Sticking closely to plot of the the Dick original isn't necessarily the most productive approach. Better to grab a couple of ideas/plot devices and build a story around that.