Isaac Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy has always had a reputation as being a cerebral series that deals with weighty themes across vast distances and timeframes. The scope was so wide that many considered the landmark novels to be “unfilmable.” Apple TV+ and David S. Goyer disagreed. With the first season of the TV series over and done, Goyer and his team have produced what may be the defining “killer show” for Apple’s growing service.
With five episodes having aired, the show has broached themes with significant relevance to our own time, including science denial, climate change, terrorism, and the danger of fanaticism.
Speaking with Winter is Coming, actor Alfred Enoch explained the importance of giving these points of reference.
I think it’s a long-established tradition in storytelling to enable us to see the wood for the trees. You distance the story, you set it in space, you set it in another country, you set it in the past, you do it, and you comment on the world around us, maybe with more freedom because people see things anew.
Enoch rejects the notion that Foundation has strayed away from the original source material, which kicked off with Asimov’s first novel in 1951. “[When] you make an adaptation of anything; you make something new. So, personally, I like that, I dig that… ‘If you’re going to do something, you’re going to tell a story, come at it with attitude.’ Have an angle; make a choice,” he said. “Any story we tell; however, we set it, is going to be saying something about ourselves at this moment…the more you can engage with issues of the day, the better.”
The themes are what attracted Enoch to the role in the first place, as he told The Stage earlier this year. “We tell stories to reach the audience. You want to be engaging with things that mean something to the people who are watching, that have resonances for them. So that was important to me and really gratifying.”
“Everyone will take something different.”
Asimov’s original work was noted for its multi-faceted themes and rejection of a simple moral framework. Alfred Enoch agrees that it’s challenging to pick one single message that underlies the show.
The thing I find fascinating about Foundation is that there are so many ideas, so many irons in the fire. Some things will resonate with certain people that don’t resonate with others, and so on. But for me, one of the things I find very compelling about it is the struggle of the individual in the context of legacy. In the context of the weight of history. In the context of the collective. In the context of duty and responsibility. All of these characters really are put in that dilemma.
Choices, consequences, and sacrifice have been prominent themes throughout the season, with Raych going on a character arc that took from him from devoted son to patricidal killer. However, last week’s episode “Upon Awakening” hinted that not all was as it seemed regarding Hari Seldon’s death.
“Raych is an example; he’s got his own personal needs and his desires, but how does he fulfill his responsibility? His duty to Hari, to future generations, whatever it is,” Enoch said. “How you navigate that concept and those tensions, that’s always a theme that I found interesting, and I think Foundation does it brilliantly. For me, it was a unifying strand…”It’s not for me to proscribe the overall [message of the show] as everyone will take something different.””
Foundation‘s sixth episode, “Death and the Maiden,” will air on Apple TV+ this coming Friday, October 22, with episodes running until the season finale on November 19.