Review: The future is doomed in Apple TV+ sci-fi series 'Foundation'

Series is based on Isaac Asimov's series of novels.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

In “Foundation” science says civilization is doomed but the world’s leaders don’t want to talk about it.

Sound familiar?

Isaac Asimov may have written his first Foundation novel in 1951 but his work’s essence still resonates today. And while it may occasionally be pompous and ponderous, the new series adaptation “Foundation” on Apple TV+ keeps Asimov at its core while spinning off in all sorts of new directions.

Leah Harvey in "Foundation."

Welcome to yet another galactic empire, this one ruled by three clones of an original emperor, each a different age. The elder is Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann), the prime adult is Brother Day (Lee Pace) and there’s always a child, Brother Dawn, who will eventually grow through the other two roles. Clones come and go, but the emperors remain the same.

Everything’s going fine until a mathematician named Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), who studies psycho-history, declares he has proof that civilization is doomed to failure. Not in the next few weeks, but too soon for comfort. And then it will take 30,000 years for things to settle down. But Hari has a suggestion: he wants to aggregate all human knowledge so society will have, yes, a foundation on which to rebuild more quickly.

Nice setup, Isaac. But since this is modern-day science fiction, there’s also violence and special effects up the wazoo. Ray gun battles and brutal executions, breathtaking disasters and exotic humanoids, mysterious monoliths and spaceships galore. There’s also a world about to drown where folks have turned against science; how’d they come up with that?

“Foundation” jumps back and forth in time and from one world to another as it breaks into myriad storylines. It does initially seem a bit too enthralled with bloated world-building but things pick up as they splinter. It all makes you wonder: Is Hari Seldon right? And is anybody around here working on a foundation? 

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

'Foundation'

GRADE: B-

Apple TV+