Wednesday, 25 May, 2022

Television Whitenoise: Foundation


There are two types of sci-fi — the kind where you are looking at something exploring so far beyond the bounds of what is known that you entirely suspend your disbelief and view it more as a kind of fantasy, with most aspects of the story being metaphorical rather than representing an expected future. Then there are those stories that are told where you believe that what you are looking at is a believable extension of the path that we are now on.

Foundation, based on the books by Isaac Asimov almost straddles the two streams. It does this in a similar way to 3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, where we have both what one might call “extrapolated tech” that you can draw a straight line to from the tech of today, and more fanciful tech that serves the needs of the story.

I used to look at the flashy special effects in a show as the benchmark of how good the show was, but now I look at how they handle what would amount to workaday tech. How does the technology the average joe that populates the background seem? Does that have a realness? If not it can undercut the whole effect. Foundation works.

There are a lot of different dynamics in this show. You get to watch Empire, the avatar of the Empire, disintegrate in different ways. Dawn’s genetic stability is not as strong as his predecessors, and he is literally letting down his guard to let love in … something unprecedented in the life of an entity whose ego trumps all. Dusk, the steward and memory of Empire is slowly edging into the distance for his junior iterations, becoming irrelevant to how they view things. Day is also engaged in unprecedented action our on the edge of the system he rules over, failing to see that his actions are hastening the end.

Hari Seldon’s arrogance which he sees as single-minded purposes rolls ahead roughshod over anyone caught in its gravity. Gaal Dornick, as smart as, or smarter than Hari, has thus far been buffeted around, by the choices he has been made. To describe the rest of the Foundation as floundering would be accurate if we could really say we had seen much of what they are doing thus far.

Salvor, who we know is tied to the mystery of the Vault, has navigated an invasion, and finds herself on a jumpship hurtling to the heart of Empire.

There are no weak links in the acting here. I think my favourite thing to observe though is the interplay between Lee Pace, Terrence Mann and Cassian Bilton as the iterations of Empire — watching the initial mirroring of mannerisms and behaviours that convinced you they were the same person, set the stage for the later disintegration of those ties. It is a human scale portrayal of the dissolution of an empire. I can’t recommend this show more highly.

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