Month: September 2021
And so it begins:
Influential sf sequence by Isaac Asimov (whom see for fuller discussion), initially a trilogy beginning with Foundation (May 1942-October 1944 Astounding; fixup 1951; cut vt The 1,000 Year Plan 1955 dos), in which Psychohistory predicts the fall of a Galactic Empire and points the way to a newer, more stable organization of galactic society.
After the first two episodes, it looks to me as if the Apple TV+ adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy is very much what you’d expect from an adaptation of a very old piece of speculative fiction that started out being written for the pulps and ended up being anointed as one of the greatest science fiction series of all time. Sumptuous looking, with a decent cast but fatally weakened by the way the plot is almost certainly going to deprive us of almost all1 the characters we meet in the opening episodes by the time the story gets going. I assume they’re hoping to hook us all with the look of the show so that we’ll ignore the jumps from one era/cast to the next.
Show-runner David S Goyer has indicated that the writers’ room are up for spending seven seasons telling this story, but I fear that three seasons in the show will be cancelled when audiences notice that suddenly this new character The Mule2 is getting all that screen time and where’s that nice Lee Pace3 gone? I do hope that David S Goyer has a backup plan for the moment when he’s informed that Apple are giving him funding for season 3 but that’ll be his lot, so now instead of showing us the fall of The Mule in the forthcoming season he’s going to have to fast-forward through the remainder of the Foundation saga in one go. The fanboy reaction to dropping the ball on the Foundation saga will make the roasting he got for stepping into the director’s chair for the third Blade film and alienating Wesley Snipes seem like a picnic.
To be fair, the writers may yet surprise me. I’ll certainly keep watching just because of the enjoyment I got from the original trilogy4 when I read it back in the early 1970s. There’s not so much good speculative fiction on TV right now that I can afford to discard a show that looks that good this early. I reserve judgement on the show overall because we’re just two episodes in and the events of that second episode suggest that things might just be about to take a turn. Let’s see…
- Is Jared Harris going to pop up as a hologram occasionally throughout the show? Will that be enough to keep everyone happy in the absence of every other character we thought we were getting to know? ↩
- Already name-dropped in the first episode. ↩
- Is it possible that the whole Emperor Cleon-cloning plot device, which doesn’t appear in the original trilogy, is a master stroke that will allow the writers to have the middle brother in the trio of Emperors played by Lee Pace throughout the story? Is this where one day we’re destined to look back and declare David S Goyer a genius as he gave Lee Pace the career-defining role that’ll allow him to play the same character several times over but with different personalities depending upon the pressures he faces as the Empire falls and rises and falls relative to the power of the Foundation and the Second Foundation and Galaxia over the centuries. Are we looking, even now, at Lee Pace’s Don Draper or Tony Soprano? Wouldn’t that be a thing… ↩
- For the record, I’ve never read the later additions to the series tying it into Asimov’s Robot stories: I have a very bad feeling about how poor a fit that would have been, and I get the impression that I’m not alone in that. ↩
The news that Sir Clive Sinclair has passed away makes me sad, like a few million others who got the chance to own a microcomputer of their own for a ridiculously low price in the 1980s.
Sad that a quick search of the text in that obituary doesn’t even find a single instance of the letters "QL." Such a missed opportunity, launched right at the point when the computer-buying public was starting to look askance at the Sinclair model of launching really cheap hardware that it turned out cut a few too many corners. No denying it, for a few years in the early 1980s Sinclair’s machines hit a sweet spot and the limitations were bearable.
At one point I had expanded my Sinclair QL’s RAM capacity to a whopping 640KB and was running a utility that let me run multiple copies of Quill and Abacus and a RAM Disk and jump between them at a keystroke1 and it was GLORIOUS, particularly since there wasn’t a cat’s chance in hell that I could afford an Apple Mac.
I could have afforded a BBC Micro Model B and I’m sure I’d have liked BBC Basic, but SuperBASIC suited me nicely. Also, Quill and Abacus were really, really good home office software so I could make a Sinclair QL work for me until, a few years later, I upgraded to an Atari 520STM with a gorgeously sharp monochrome monitor. Uncle Clive started me down that road, and I suspect that an unusually high proportion of my contemporaries built a life-long interest in IT on the foundations the ZX-80, ZX-81 and ZX Spectrum provided.
Sinclair never got the second act that Steve Jobs did or the level of fame, but a lot of people like me in the UK owe him a huge debt for giving us a chance to get early hands-on experience with technology that dominated the 21st century.
- I forget which software that was. This is what I get for mentioning stuff I was using in the mid-late 1980s and haven’t thought about in almost forty years. Man, I’m getting old… ↩