Warning: spoilers for the first three episodes of the series and the Foundation books follow.
The Apple TV Foundation (read our review) is a sprawling adaptation of the space opera of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi spin on the fall of the Roman Empire, a series that spans seven books written in over nearly four decades. Asimov’s original series and its two prequels jumped decades or even centuries into the future and changed protagonists between entries, meaning showrunner David S. Goyer had to make significant changes to the TV version in order to to produce a coherent spectacle.
We’re three episodes into the show’s 10-episode first season, and there’s a lot of mystery and intrigue that is only beginning to unfold. So let’s take a look at some of the biggest unanswered questions and what Asimov’s books might tell us about what the show’s writers have planned.
Anacreon and Thespis: who is responsible for the destruction of the Starbridge?
Asimov mentioned in the previous novel Prelude to Foundation that Trantor, the planet that serves as the capital of the Galactic Empire, has an antigravity-powered elevator, but the show takes the concept and makes it much more important. The Starbridge serves as a symbol of the might of the Empire, and the depiction of its destruction is highly evocative of the fall of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
The structure was apparently destroyed by a pair of suicide bombers representing the warring planets of Anacreon and Thespis, which had recently clashed with the Empire, but their ambassadors claimed to have no knowledge of the attack. Unconvinced, the ruling Emperor Brother Day (Lee Pace) ordered the execution of most of their diplomatic contingent and the bombardment of the planets.
The Emperor’s chief advisor, Eto Demerzel (Laura Birn), notes that Day’s response was predictable. This violence may be the reason why the attack was actually planned. Anacreon and Thespis exist on the edge of Empire control, near the planet Terminus, where mathematician and psychohistorian Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) and his followers are exiled. The Foundation created to preserve all human knowledge comes into conflict with Anacreon and other neighboring planets of the Asimov Foundation. If the show features a more Machiavellian version of Hari, as it could be, perhaps he designed the attack to make sure those planets were weakened to the point that they wouldn’t be able to destroy his budding colony.
Is Hari Seldon dead?
It seems highly unlikely given that Seldon is such an important character in the Foundation series and that Jared Harris is the biggest star on the show. Hari’s supporters certainly believe him dead, but the circumstances of his murder by his adopted son Raych (Alfred Enoch) are strange. It is possible that Raych killed him because he felt betrayed by the flaws that mathematical prodigy Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) found in psychohistory, or he suspected that the destruction of the Starbridge may have been partly the fault of Hari, but it’s just as likely that he’s playing his part in a plot. Hari thought he would be killed on Trantor and might think that his martyrdom is important to the success of the Foundation project.
It’s very different from the books, where Hari tells Gaal that he is dying shortly after exile and urges his protege to continue his work. Either way, we’re unlikely to have seen Harris’ last one. In the books, Hari left a series of holograms of himself that share his psychohistory predictions with the Foundation. Additionally, the show’s writers seem fond of flashbacks, and Asimov wrote numerous documents involving Hari that the Foundation has yet to use.
Asimov wrote a lot of material involving Hari that the TV Series Foundation has yet to use.
Brothers Day, Dawn and Dusk: how does Imperial cloning work?
Another invention of the show is the cloning program. In the books, it’s actually Cleon I who first meets Hari, not a retired 500-year-old clone. But the books also mention that emperors have an unfortunate tendency to be murdered and that control of Trantor has shifted from dynasty to dynasty. The idea of cloning is a clever solution to the problem of succession, ensuring stability but also contributing to the stagnation of the Galactic Empire.
Foundation episode 3 offers insight into both the science and ritual involved in the process, which is overseen by the immortal robot Demerzel. But as Elder Emperor Brother Dusk is declared Brother Night and pushed into a disintegration chamber, he declares that something is wrong.
Is he just nervous about his own death or did something really go wrong with the process? None of the Emperors are allowed to enter the Cloning Chamber, which could simply be due to the fact that it would be an emotionally charged experience. But it’s also possible that Demerzel is hiding something. Many sci-fi stories involving clones imagine their integrity to decline over time and this may be the case with Cleon. Either way, the Clone Dynasty may be in its last days.
What does Demerzel do?
Asimov was a prolific writer and, alongside his Foundation series, he also wrote many novels and short stories about robots. In fact, Asimov is responsible for inventing the very term “robotics,” as well as a series of laws that robots must obey to prevent them from harming their human masters.
Demerzel is featured in the book Prelude to Foundation as the puppeteer behind Cleon I, obeying the Zero Law of Robotics, which allows a robot to harm individual humans for greater protection of humanity. He (the character is one of the many gender-changed men on the show) understands the harm the fall of the Galactic Empire could do to the species and works with Hari to perfect the psychohistory in the hopes of reduce this calamity.
While the Emperor Clones have a lot more agency than Cleon I had in Prelude to Foundation, odds are they still don’t know everything about Demerzel. In addition to being 20,000 years old, the book version of Demerzel also has the power to control human emotions. If Hari did not plan the destruction of the Starbridge himself, it is possible that Demerzel did. She would certainly have access to the people and technology involved in both carrying out the attack and blocking the investigation, and would be a perfect judge of Elder Day’s reaction.
What happened to Gaal Dornick?
After apparently seeing Raych murder Hari, Gaal is pushed into a pod and sent into space. Again, this is truly uncharted territory for the books, where Gaal does not appear after Trantor’s exile.
It could be important that Raych sent the knife with her. He’s unlikely to try to cover up his crime, but Gaal might need Hari’s blood for cloning or a genetic lock. The pod appears to put her in a state of stasis, which could also allow her to return to the series in the “today” played by the same actor and without age makeup, even though decades have passed. It is possible that Raych was simply trying to protect her lover, fearing that she would be involved alongside him in Hari’s murder, but her removal from the ship could also be part of a larger plot or even a police force. insurance in case something goes wrong with the Colony Ship. Remember that the whole of Hari has many steps forward!
What is the safe?
The very first Asimov Foundation story, “The Encyclopedists” (which would later be combined with other stories to form the first book), mentions a Time Vault playing a holographic recording of Hari at a scheduled time of crisis. to tell his followers how he predicted they would react and test his theory of psychohistory. The title of the third episode, “The Mathematician’s Ghost,” alludes to this goal with children of Terminus citing rumors that a ghost can be seen in the artifact – likely Hari’s hologram. However, the “zero field” that knocks out almost anyone who approaches it is an invention of the spectacle.
What’s going on with Salvor Hardin?
Salvor Hardin’s (Leah Harvey) version of the show is vastly different from what Asimov wrote. In Foundation, Salvor is not a rifle-armed guardian fighting alien megafauna, but a mayor of the city of Terminus, indebted to the Foundation’s leaders and their work on the Encyclopedia Galactica. However, Salvor, who has also changed his gender in the series, reverses that leadership as he believes it is the best way to protect the colony from the conquest of Anacreon.
As well as being a much more action-oriented leader, the show’s version of Salvor also appears to have psychic powers that both shield her from the influence of the zero field and give her visions of a child. leading her to find the Anacreons. It is not known why this is the case, but it is possible that it was a mutation caused by radiation and other harsh conditions experienced by the settlers on their long journey to Terminus.
Developing Mental Powers is an important part of Asimov’s Third Foundation novel, Second Foundation, and it looks like the show’s writers are trying to make sure the plot doesn’t sound like nonsense if the TV series reaches this point in the books.
Why are Anacreon’s forces on Terminus?
In Foundation, Anacreon leads an alliance of planets that have declared independence from Trantor and seek to steal the power and technology of Terminus to achieve their goals. It is possible that the Anacreons had the same mission in the series, although they may also suspect that the Foundation played a role in the attack that led to the devastation of their planet. They might even be bitter that Hari and his followers received a comparatively lighter sentence, apparently in part because the Emperor was shaken by the destruction of the Starbridge.
What do you think of these questions? And have a question (or answers) about Foundation? Let us know in the comments!