Victors write histories, while visionaries shape the future. The renowned science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov’s magnum opus, the millennia-spanning cosmic epic that is known as the “Foundation Saga,” delineates this aspect by weaving an intricate tale that encompasses a world-building of galactic scale across several timelines, peppered with adventure, sociopolitical intrigue, and religious intrigue. Released as a volume in 1951, the scope and scale of Foundation were so grand that it later went on to inspire iconic space epics like Dune, Star Wars, and many others.
Apple TV+’s series adaptation of the same name as the original Foundation saga released its first season in 2021, which, with its minor alteration in storytelling by adapting significant real-world allusions, has garnered praise from audiences and critics alike. The epic scale of the source material has been duly respected in the series with its sprawling cosmic landscape, character designs, scores, and the ambitiousness of the script. With the series’ second season about to be released this week, let’s take a look back at the first season and discuss what we can expect from the upcoming one.
A Study Of Psychohistory
Set in the far future, Foundation revolves around a galactic empire governed by humans. The lore of Foundation, along with all its vast, intricate narrative structure, is hinged on a particular mathematician named Hari Seldon and his epoch-making theory using a certain stream of study known as Psychohistory. The in-universe fictional subject itself is a unique amalgamation of sociology, mathematics, history, and psychology, which Seldon used to predict the imminent collapse of the 12000-year-old galactic Empire. His calculations also predicted that the fall of the Empire would initiate the barbaric dark ages, which would prevail over 30000 years and, although they cannot be prevented, with adequate planning, can be cut down to a mere 1000 years of suffering.
As the state and religion have always feared the voice of reason throughout history, Seldon’s words are considered treasonous by the autocratic galactic regime, leading to his incarceration. However, after a bombing kills hundreds of millions of people in the Empire’s capital, Trantor, Seldon’s predictions seem to have proven truer than previously imagined. As a result, the deterrent method Seldon suggested to allow him to gather intellectuals and engineers to create an “Encyclopedia Galactica,” a definitive chronicle of humanity’s cumulative experience that will act as a guide to form a new empire, is taken into consideration by the Empire. Seldon is stationed on a remote, seemingly uninhabited planet called Terminus, where Hari will be allowed to carry on with his work and create the roadmap, i.e., the encyclopedia, with the assistance of the Foundation (the team), to build upon after the dark ages.
However, en route to Terminus with his trusted allies, Hari Seldon orchestrates his death at the hands of his adopted son Roych Foss, who sends his lover and Hari Seldon’s protégé Gaal Dornick on a route away from Terminus for reasons that are revealed later in the story.
The Galactic Empire
The all-powerful governing body, known as the Galactic Empire, is a 10th-generation genetic dynasty of emperor Cleon I, with clones of the mentioned prime ruler being chosen as the successors to the throne. At any given moment, three generations of clones are present to take the reins of governance: Brother Dawn, the youngest and most idealistic; Brother Day, the middle-aged and authoritative; and Brother Dusk, the eldest and most pragmatic; thereby creating an absolute and unquestionable dominance as generational autocrats. The previous Brother Day, Cleon XII, faked the majority of decisions for the Empire, be it to exile Hari Seldon to Terminus or to settle the ongoing conflict between two warring planets, Anacreon and Thespis. The current Brother Day, Cleon XIII, faces a different problem in the form of the rise of Luminism, a faith system that celebrates change and is a total antithesis to the emperor’s static methodology of governance, and in order to deal with it, he decides to undertake an arduous ritualistic pilgrimage. In time, he gets to know that the genetic make-up of the Cleons was altered previously in an anti-emperor conspiracy, which has resulted in characteristic differences between him and his predecessors from the original emperor, resulting in corruption in the genetic dynasty.
The first minister and prime overseer of the emperor, the last of the androids, Demerzel is another important character who has assisted the Empire since the very beginning and the prime overseer when it comes to the empire-related shenanigans of Foundation. Her allegiance lies with the autocratic government; however, despite being a coded mechanism, she has displayed the capabilities of believing, feelinh sorrow, and other complex emotions, which puts her in a constant state of conflict and keeps her true motives undisclosed.
Gaal Dornick And Salvor Hardin
Inhabitant of the planet Synnax, a planet on the brink of human-induced catastrophe where means of reason and science are shunned due to religious supremacy (awfully similar to our own), Gaal Dornick grew up to be an iconoclastic genius, and her brilliance in the field of mathematics drew the attention of Hari Seldon, who also came to know Gaal as the only individual capable of understanding his calculative methodology of psychohistory-related predictions. However, after the murder of Hari, Gaal is sent off course from Terminus, and after waking from cryosleep three decades later, she meets a holographic AI of Hari Seldon, who reveals his death was part of a bigger plan set in motion. Disenchanted by Hari’s deception, Gaal goes back to her home planet, Synnax, only to find the entire planet’s inhabitants exterminated in the catastrophe. However, she is able to rescue a person amidst the traumatic situation: Salvor Hardin, her own daughter.
During the time Gaal was in cryosleep, her and Raych’s biological child was transported to Terminus in embryonic form, found adoptive parents Mari and Abbas Hardin, and was named Salvor. After Hari’s Foundation reached Terminus, civilization slowly started to grow, and Salvor Hardin became the warden of Terminus. Later, she learnt of her parentage and went to Synnax, thereby reuniting with her mother. Both of these characters are deeply connected with the galaxy’s fate and the core of the Foundation itself, as showcased throughout the first season.
Aside from his AI holographic imagery that appeared in front of Gaal, another such digital manifestation of Hari reveals himself in the mysterious ‘Vault’ stationed at Terminus by the end of the first season. As the battle between Anacreon and Thespis reaches the Terminus as well, Hari’s digital self appears from the Vault and discloses his ulterior motive. The encyclopedia’s creation was a ruse to get away as far as possible from Trantor and from the Empire, and the Foundation in Terminus will be the prime civilization that will endure the dark ages and save the galaxy in the long run, and in order to do that, Anacreons, Thespis, and Termini need to join hands. The second season will directly address the conflict between the Foundation and the Empire, as suggested through the trailer, and possibly the emergence of a third party in the form of religious evangelists as well, who will seek to topple the empire as well.