The Emperor’s Peace
Episode 1 of Foundation Season 1 begins with a whole group of colonists on a planet. Looming on the horizon is the “vault”, a strange triangular shape that’s supposed to ward people away. A group of kids each take it in turns to step up, dodging and weaving past a group of flags to catch a glimpse of the “ghosts”, which seem to be strange projections.
Poly, one of the children, gets too close and passes out. While the other kids run away, the warden drags Poly to safety and reveals that the object is surrounded by a null field, which stops anyone getting too close to it.
We then skip back 35 years earlier to Trantor. Hari Seldon and his son Raych sit in the candlelit library, discussing what they’re going to do next. “There’s no other way son,” Hari says ominously.
Over on the watery docks of the planet Synnx, a teenage girl called Gaal decides to leave and head across to Trantor, believing she’ll be safe there. Ferried across to sea, she hugs her parents goodbye and hops aboard an imperial jumpship, bound for Trantor.
Now, Trantor is dubbed the “eye of the empire” and is essentially a massive floating ship – and Gaal’s ticket to the library. It takes 14 hours to drop to the surface so during that time, it gives her a lot to think about.
The planet’s surface has devolved into layers, with the natural world belonging to The Genetic Dynasty. These are the ones who rule here, split between Brother Dusk, Brother Day and Brother Dawn. There are others in this family but this trio appear to be the most significant.
Gaal’s contact is Hari’s son, Raych. He shows her the ropes but this level, below the surface, has a sky being projected up that looks utterly breathtaking. Eventually she makes it into the library, where Hari quizzes her intellect. Gaal has quite the knack for math and after solving a difficult puzzle, Hari Sheldon admits his recent predictions about the future are grim. Within these projections, Trantor and the empire will fall. This is what the math tells him but unfortunately the authorities want to keep this quiet.
Given Gaal has just shown up, she’s been thrust right into the heart of this conflict. She’s not exactly pleased and given she’s escaped arrest on Synnx (hence the secretive exit) she may well have to do the same on Trantor. The Genetic Dynasty don’t want to break the status quo, arresting Hari and Gaal. The pair are charged with treason and destabilizing the Imperium.
Now, Gaal was not only brought here because of her brilliant math skills – but also to serve as bait. For now, she decides to play along and stands alongside Hari in court.
Before everyone, Hari confirms his theories and claims that the imperium will be destroyed in 500 years or less. Given the recent events in the Outer Reach, the Empire could well fall sooner.
Apparently this period of barbarism that’s due to follow will grip the population and cause at least 30,000 years of war. If they manage to follow Hari’s predictive model though, they could reduce that to 1000. But what is this massive cataclysmic event? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.
For now, Hari wants to set up an Encyclopedia Galactica to get the ball rolling on preserving their empire. This would hold the foundation for all of their current knowledge. In order to confirm whether Hari’s story is true or not, his falls to Gaal to corroborate – or incriminate – his story.
Now, during a recess in the midst of this trial we cut to see Gaal meet Jerril outside. He actually happens to be a secret agent that’s been watching Gaal since she solved the Abraxis. In secret, she’s given the Prime Radiant, which holds all of Hari’s secrets and his projections regarding the future.
Gaal is given the role of trying to fix the equations and if Hari’s predictions are true then she could well be killed, especially if she doesn’t testify that Hari is a liar before everyone.
Back in court, Gaal does the courageous thing and backs up Hari, confirming that the end is nigh. This brings massive gasps from everyone in attendance and sets up the sequence of events to follow.
As Hari and Gaal are sentenced to death, several suicide bombers detonate explosives at strategic locations on Trantor and plunge them all into chaos. The elevator and its subsequent tether uncoils and slams down to the planet’s surface, dropping fifty floors down as the Genetic Dynasty watch from afar in shock.
Reports of Anacreon and Thespin war cries before the explosion sees the empire plunged into chaos. Gaal and Hari are brought before the Genetic Dynasty in the middle of this. Hari wants imperial cloning to stop and killing Hari will only accelerate the downfall too. These two points keep the pair alive for the time being.
However, Hari and Gaal are essentially exiled to stay on Terminus, which is 50,000 light years away. They’ll be right next to the neighbouring Anacreon and Thespin tribes, that are currently gripped by war. It’s a pretty risky move but something they’re being forced to enact.
Well, the pair decide to remain optimistic, eventually making it onto Terminus and preparing for what’s to come. And this is what catches us up to 35 years later, as the Foundation settlement is a successful and Gaal is at the heart of all this.
The Episode Review
Having never read the books I can’t comment on how well this has been adapted. However, based on what’s here, there’s a fascinating world that takes a lot of inspiration from sci-fi and fantasy already out on the small screen. From Game of Thrones and The Expanse through to Interstellar and Star Trek, all the influences are here and blended up into this gorgeously presented tale.
The worldbuilding is okay, although I’m hoping we see more of the world itself and how it functions during the coming episodes. So far we’ve only seen snapshots of these areas so it would be good to dive into the nitty gritty aspects of life and turn this into a living, breathing universe.
The Expanse is obviously the most notable influence here, with these Anacreon and Thespin essentially made out to be the Foundation equivalent of the Belters. Still, the first episode sets things up well and the amount of money put into this show is clear to see. This is one beautiful, lavishly developed series and everything from the set design to the acting is exemplary. The writing though? Not so much. At least not yet anyway.
With lots of intriguing possibilities for the future, we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for us but Apple may actually have a pretty decent sci-fi hit on their hands here.
Expect a full season write-up when this season concludes!