Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

A few months ago, I saw that an adaptation of the classic “Foundation Trilogy” by Isaac Asimov was in the works for Apple+. The original trilogy is one of the classic Science Fiction works that I have read so many times, that it is really familiar.

When I heard about the adaptation, I wasn’t excited at all. I knew it would be difficult to make into a movie or series, like many of Asimov’s works, but in this case, it was doubly difficult.

The Foundation Trilogy was something Asimov wrote early in his career, and was serialized in Analog magazines. The premise was that a “Galactic Empire” was in a downward spiral, just that it didn’t know it. A new science called Psychohistory, the mathematical and statistical language that describes the behavior of populations. It predicts that the empire will fall, and the originator of the discipline of psychohistory has a plan that will shorten the interregnum from 30,000 years to just 1,000 years. Some early drama convinces the emperor to fund the “Foundation” some 50,000 light years away in the planet Terminus.

The full three volumes describes about 2/3 of the 1,000 years, several crises, and their predicted resolutions.

I won’t spoil the whole trilogy, but I will say that this is a rather cerebral read. Very little actual action, and you learn about the resolution of these crises largely after the fact, when key personalities have solved them. No big action scenes, no excitement, no heroics. Lots of politics and strategy.

I wondered how this would be adapted, thinking that it was likely to suck.

I was not wrong.

Sure, the cinematography is great, the effects are fine, but not terribly convincing. The casting is unique. In the original the key players are written as white men, the early mayors and traders of the foundation - Salvor Hardin, Hober Mallow - who smoke cigars, and flit about their corner of the universe addressing the decaying edges of the empire.

In the show, well, a lot of the subtle hinted at trends are made explicit, and the forcing of character development and personalities into the story feel forced.

Granted, I just watched the first episode, but the fact that Gaal Dornick (played by a charming young lady) and Hari Seldon are part of the Foundation, whereas in the original, they remained on the Galactic Empire seat, Trantor.

If I hadn’t read the books, probably 15 times, I might enjoy it. But throughout the first episode, I kept trying to reconcile it with the books.

I can’t. It sucks. It sucks as bad as I expected. A total disappointment.

Coda

According to the lore behind the genesis of the story, Asimov had pitched the idea after reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the opus by Edward Gibbons. I have made it through about an inch of that beast, and I can see why Asimov wanted to write the far future version.

If you are watching the series and enjoy it, I cannot recommend reading the books. You will be disappointed.

If you have read the trilogy, skip the show.

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