Foundation – Season 1 Episode 5 “Upon Awakening” Recap & Review

Upon Awakening

Episode 5 of Foundation begins with Gaal awakening from a bad dream. We’re back on Synnax, her homeworld, way before the events of this season. Rumours are abound of someone inside the university after-hours, lights shining bright. So naturally Gaal shows up and in doing so, finds Instructor Sorn.

With Gaal now anointed as an Acolyte, she pleads with Sorn to leave before he’s killed. Reading and learning are forbidden on this planet, as we know, but he encourages her to seek knowledge. Gaal is clearly torn, and even more so when she’s challenged to test her resolve against Kalle’s numbers.

Instead, Gaal continues to follow in her father’s footsteps, watching on sadly as Sorn is sentenced to death. However, curiosity gets the better of her  and that night she sneaks down and takes the Abraxas paperwork, which is thankfully not damaged. Gaal solves the equation, paying to send a message off-world to Trantor.

Word of this spreads across Synnax, leading to Gaal eventually heading aboard the ship and smuggled off-planet. This at least gives some more context over what happened in the past as we jump forward to the present.

Gaal is picked up on a spaceship but it’s completely empty. She manages to find her way to the ship’s log where she tries to send a message to Lewis Prienne. With the ship decommissioned, she realizes she’s been in cryo sleep for 34 years.

Well, with her commands failing to get through and this large ship presumably just floating through space, she looks up what happened to Hari Seldon since her absence, including Raych confessing to Seldon’s murder and being executed.

After seeing all of this – and a moment of contemplating suicide – Gaal checks out where the ship is heading. By “outsmarting” the ship with different questions it turns out that its slowing down and heading for…somewhere. Anyway, Gaal dons a spacesuit and heads out into space to *checks notes* get a better look. Really? And that better look comes from activating the infrared scanners. Hey, couldn’t she just do that inside? Well, she learns the ship is heading for a dark star.

Back on Terminus, Salvor watches as the Anacreons set up some sort of cloak around themselves before firing at the fence. None of the bullets get through but there’s a bigger problem. An Imperial ship breaks the orbit and communicates with Salvor and the others, who feed back what’s going on and how Phara is in their custody. Unfortunately the Anacreons jam communications and prepare to strike.

Salvor realizes a lot of this is linked back to Phara, who’s freed from her cell and moved. As she plays the old “ow-my-head-hurts-please-back-off-me-for-a-second” card, Phara launches a field disruptor hidden on her that completely destroys the Imperial forcefield. It also subsequently lets the Anacreons in. If that wasn’t bad enough, Phara holds Salvor’s mother hostage.

With everything kicking off, the Imperials contemplate whether to head down and intervene or not. Phara encourages Salvor to watch as the Anacreons slaughter those on Terminus while the imperial ship tries to land… only to be met with an anti-aircraft cannon blast, exploding on impact. So much for Imperial smarts.

As the episode closes out, we skip back to Gaal who returns to the computer following her brief space walk. However, holographic projections of Hari Seldon start to, quite literally, bleed through. Could he help Gaal out of this predicament?

The Episode Review

One of the biggest problems with this show is the editing. The scenes in Foundation are stitched together in a such a bizarre way that it dissipates much of the tension and mystery with any of the timelines we’ve seen.

We know what happens to Hari Seldon and the others from Terminus already but yet we have to watch Gaal discover what we already know from the computers she’s trying to outsmart. Would it not have made more sense to continue Gaal’s story and then reveal that she’s been asleep for 34 years to us, the audience, in a cleverly constructed twist? Instead, we have to wait for her to play catch up.

Because of this, the moments on Terminus lose some of the tension during the fighting precisely because we keep cutting back to Gaal’s mission to uncover the truth. The same truth that we’ve known now for 2 or 3 episodes.

It seems like a small nitpick but in a much broader sense, it disrupts the flow of Foundation completely and wastes 20 minutes of run-time as we see Gaal’s home world and what happened to get her to this point. But yet, we already know because we’ve been told all this already so it feels like filler, failing to add anything of value to the series.

There’s no denying that Foundation is visually stunning and the characters are at least interesting enough to stick with for the time being. Is that enough to make the first season worth watching so far? Well, the verdict is still out on that one, as the second half of this season looks to kick things off in a big way. Let’s just hope the editing and writing improve.

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


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5 thoughts on “Foundation – Season 1 Episode 5 “Upon Awakening” Recap & Review”

  1. I feel like this show is about a religious cult and it is very boring. I love SciFi but not pretentious long drawn out useless scenes that waste time. Also question, why do they always dress people in the far future in cult like outfits that are basically always robes and look like they are from the medieval times? Is fashion dead in the future?

  2. Raych’s confession and his continued enthusiasm for the Foundation were new. The Gaal catch up wasn’t that long either.

    I thought the Gaal background was fine. We haven’t seen her in a while so good to get some filler that a) added some color to her becoming a math super genius on a world that kills people for thinking, and b) didn’t take up an entire episode. I think this is a nice way of satisfying the twin desires of the audience to know what is going on and to see the story pushed forward.

    If I had a question it would be of what interest such a planet would be to the Empire. Also, if they have no technology how did they melt their ice caps? Maybe it happened a while ago but they are talking about the sea levels still rising?

  3. She had to leave the ship to see where she was going because the ship was hiding the destination. One might quibble about the intelligence of the ship AI, but it’s a far future story dumbed down for 21st century earthers, so live a little.

  4. I like the way the show captures the fisticuffs, gun battles and space battles of Asimov’s Foundation. And how the coincidental actions of individuals affect the march of history (psychohistory?).

    Or maybe I feel as if the producers of this show read the original work, hated it and decided they could make something better. I didn’t expect the show to be a remake of Foundation plot-point for plot-point, but maybe I did expect them to respect the spirit and character of the work. I’ve watched 5 eps and I feel as if nothing has really happened of import, esp in regard to the plot. The characterization is weak as well, though they are trying so hard. Gaal, as depicted, is an inexplicable Mary Sue in regard to her maths abilities.

    The show and world-building are stunning, but irrelevant. If I wanted stunning visuals at the expense of plot and characters, I’d watch a sfx demo. If I wanted just world-building, I’d read a book ABOUT Foundation instead of Foundation. There were an innumerable number of ways to respect Foundation and be different. This show is doing its own thing and not well, to its own detriment and the to the original work.

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