Foundation – Season 1 Episode 3 “The Mathematician’s Ghost” Recap & Review

The Mathematician’s Ghost

Episode 3 of Foundation begins 400 years before the events of our first two episodes. Prepare yourself guys, this chapter is messy and all over the place.

We start off with the Genetic Dynasty, and in particular Cleon the First talking to Demerzel, doubting his legacy as he looks out at the construction work taking place on the incomplete star platform. Faced with his own mortality, he prepares to pass his legacy on.

We then jump forward 400 years – and precisely 19 years after the star-bridge bombing. Demerzel reflects on Cleon the First while talking to Brother Dusk, admitting that every version of him has been different since 400 years ago.

Faced with his own death, Dusk looks over all the previous versions of Cleon, or at least their projections anyway. From dreamers through to visionaries, Cleon tries to make the most of what he has left and wonders what sort of legacy he’ll leave behind.

For now, he’s taken out to see the Eye of the Empire, boarding a ship with the other Brothers (and Demerzel of course) to see the ship. It’s an unwritten rule not to be here, especially since his own youngest version of himself being grown in a large test tube.

This loop continues on past Brother Dusk though, as he awakens for a new day – his final day – and is handed the youngest among them to say goodbye. And goodbye is the name of the game here, as Brother Dusk steps into the flickering light, fading to dust.

This is not Demerzel’s first rodeo, and she nonchalantly touches the dust with two fingers, placing it over the babe’s forehead as a sign of the torch passing.

This singular act then thrusts us forward 17 years as Cleon the 14th (the older version of that baby from before) is very different to Brother Dusk. He decides to get rid of the art that his previous iteration loved so, razing it to the ground and starting anew. Demerzel is understandably concerned but remains quiet for now.

Given how long has passed, in that time Foundation has begun colonizing Terminus. Over the years, countless myths have begun circling about the mysterious Vault, that triangular shape we saw at the start of the first episode. Anyway, the settlers simply decide not to go near it.

In the wake of this, all the different settlers try to pick up where Hari Seldon left off. There’s no explanation for what happened followed his death though, so I guess it’s just on with the story. Anyway, it turns out the field around The Vault is actually expanding, emanating out from its original position at an exponential rate.

Salvor Hardin is the one to figure all this out, as we soon come to learn that she’s special given she can actually withstand some of the energy this Vault gives off. Everyone else though seems to just pass out. Salvor is convinced that it’s waking up, believing the aforementioned cataclysmic act could actually be this Vault.

Hugo touches down and returns to the planet, heading over to see Salvor. He spins tales of his adventures away, encouraging her to join him in space next time. Salvor smiles, choosing not to this time as she reminds him that she has priorities at Foundation.

After the pair sleep together, Salvor struggles to relax, sensing something awry with the Vault. More specifically, she notices a young boy running into a crashed shuttle. As she follows, Salvor comes face to face with a rather nasty native creature, not unlike the one from the simulations.

Salvor scares it away, heading back over to see Hugo, who happens to be awake and teleported atop a cliff edge now, as they notice gunships approaching. With communications failing and the empire out of range, the gang have three days until the Anacreons arrive, ready to fight.

Salvor is taken aside and shown Hari’s equations in the wake of all this. With Gaal gone and Hari dead, Salvor steps up and is forced to try and protect this settlement. In order to do that, she needs to try and figure out what this Vault is.

That evening, Salvor follows that same young boy into the ruined ship again, but this time she’s outsmarted by the Anacreons, who have already touched down and have… bow and arrows?

The Episode Review

The most important part of any production – big or small – is the story. 12 Angry Men stands up to this day because of its story and sharp dialogue – and that was filmed in a single room. Likewise, the original Cube was produced on a shoestring budget in one or two sets and it’s utterly captivating.

On the other side of the spectrum you have Game Of Thrones Season 8 which is a gorgeous and utterly breathtaking mess. And judging by this recent episode, Foundation is following that same trajectory.

Foundation has cost Apple $45 million to produce. That’s a staggering amount of money but it seems very little of it was actually put into the script and editing – which are pretty woeful to be honest.

The story here skips all over the place with no focal point, and – more alarmingly – no Gaal or Hari who were both the central focus of the first two chapters. It seemed like they were going to be key figures of the first season and yet they’re just gone. Instead, we shift across to Salvor and then back to the Genetic Dynasty in an episode that doesn’t really tell us very much of anything.

Who are the Anacreons? Why are they using bow and arrows? What do they actually want? What role does Demerzel play in the whole Dynasty? And where on earth is Gaal? I mean, these questions may be answered in the upcoming episodes but this 50 minute chapter feels so messy and haphazard.

The end scenes with Hugo and Salvor, for example, skip between the crashed ship, the bedroom, the high clifftop outside Foundation and then a meeting room to discuss the ships. All of this happens in the space of 8 minutes or so and there are no bridging scenes between any of it.

I really want to like this show and as a huge sci-fi fan, the production design and the visuals are utterly breathtaking and really give me the itch to dive into Babylon 5 or Star Trek: The Next Generation again. I’m sure many others feel the same! Foundation really needs to step it up a gear – lets hope next week improves.

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You can read our full season review for Foundation Season 1 here!

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8 thoughts on “Foundation – Season 1 Episode 3 “The Mathematician’s Ghost” Recap & Review”

  1. Wonderful to hear that I’m not the only one in the dark here, Greg!
    Got one more recap to read, then watch episode 5.

  2. The series, so far, has no focus. Its a mess and this episode was a cure for insomnia. We’re supposed to care that the Anacreons are coming when we barely know the people on Terminus. Why isn’t the Empire coming to help? We’ve been given no understanding of how the Empire is decaying. Instead we get a the lame line about a blocked communications relay. They don’t seem to understand the basic premise of the books or don’t want to work at presenting the premise.

    Also, is there a point to the PG sex scenes? I’m not calling for explicit sex scenes. I’m wondering why have them it all.

  3. “Who are the Anacreons? Why are they using bow and arrows? What do they actually want? What role does Demerzel play in the whole Dynasty? And where on earth is Gaal”

    Jesus H Christ, it’s only the third episode and already the reviewer is banging on about the above questions. Show some patience, little man.

    I’m loving this show. Love the slow burn and the time jumps. Wish each episodes were even longer.

  4. One last post. On AppleTV, you can see one image from the next episode and in it the Anarcreonian soldiers are carrying some type of guns in it. They did bring guns with them apparently.

  5. In my last post, I meant to say that the Anacreonians probably don’t have the ability to manufacture that many different types of high tech items due to all sorts of problems and that they rely on mostly automated production when it exists and remains functional. This would especially apply to military equipment, which the Empire would have guarded carefully. So they probably have a very eclectic technology level. Spacecraft, being absolutely vital, might be more easily obtained. Their military spacecraft could be modified civilian types.

    Also, it could be that the party Salvor Hardin encountered was a scout or hunting party and it was less well equipped than the heavy forces of Anacreon, who do have some higher tech weapons.

  6. The part about Anacreons wielding bows and arrows might seem strange, but it can be explained by several factors.

    The first thing to keep in mind is that the Anacreonians frequently love hunting and seem to value bows as a hunting tool. Therefore if they had to use low tech weapons for some reason, bows would be to their liking.

    Also, Anacreon is considered a barbarian world and is cut off from the Empire and all its expertise. This means that they probably have a mixture of low and hi tech infrastructure and a lot of their military equipment was probably secretly acquired over time and hidden away from the Empire. They manufactured that much high tech
    equipment and rely on the still intact and easy to use factories.

  7. Anacreons coming in spaceships and use bows and arrows?!? And they are spot on Terminus city of 20 tipis? 3 spaceships ships for fight? 30mins of Cleons generation shift?!? I’ve thought that GOT ending was disaster, but this episode wins the crown, hands down. I’m sad for 1 hour of my life wasted on this…

  8. Your review is spot on. Where did Saal go after the escape pod. What happened after she escaped. Why did the exiled spaceship crash land ? Too many open stories. Hopefully it’ll work itself out. I think I’ll watch after 3 more weeks , to mini binge and make some sense

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