One of the major changes utilized in AppleTV+’s Foundation, as compared to Isaac Asimov’s novel series of the same name, was the introduction of the genetic Cleon dynasty. In the far future, human beings have spread throughout the cosmos and have managed to establish a galactic empire. To avoid confusion and the possibilities of family feuds and infighting resulting from a claim to the throne, the last emperor, Cleon I, decided to initiate the ultimate form of autocracy by cloning himself through generations and forever being the only one to rule over trillions in succession.
To employ the concept of cloning even more brilliantly, at any given era, three clones of Cleon I at different stages of their lives were assigned as Emperors. Brother Dawn, the youngest, who learns about the intricacies of being a ruler and prepares himself for taking the reins in the future; Brother Day, who exercises absolute power and control; and Brother Dusk, the eldest, who imparts his wisdom to help his other two younger counterparts. However, even the neatly organized, characteristically consistent genetic dynasty is not foolproof, as was revealed through the first season, which results in the arrival of Queen Sareth I, and with her, the political intrigue of the Empire becomes even more interesting and convoluted. We will take a look at the purpose of her introduction in the narrative and how she and Dawn, Cleon XVIII’s progeny, can change the course of the Empire’s future.
Malignance in Genetic Dynasties: Who Is Sareth I?
In the first season, the chink in the armor of the Cleon dynasty was perceivable through the increasing redundant nature of and corruption introduced in the genetic clones. While progression can only be brought about through changes, the genetic dynasty is essentially stagnant. Hari Sheldon had warned that the perpetuity of the Empire would be the reason for its downfall, but his words were considered blasphemy by the then-Empire. However, eventually, Azura and the rest of the insurgency’s conspiracy will reveal the corruption of Principium—alteration on a genetic scale that resulted in imperfect clones—not only in the case of Cleon XIV but for every successive and even a few previous generations as well. The soulless clones had already entered the stage of rot by the end of the first season, and to break the cycle, Cleon XVII considered taking Hari’s advice of breaking the genetic cycle and having a legacy of the Empire’s own by marrying Queen Sareth of Cloud Dominion.
Sareth, the recently crowned princess of Cloud Dominion, is the acting ruler of her nation and the only surviving member of the royal clan, as her entire family was killed in a zeppelin accident. Following the demise of the successors to the throne, the youngest member of her family, Sareth, found herself helming a country, a responsibility that was thrust upon her inexperienced shoulders out of nowhere. To add to the confusion, the marriage proposal of the Imperium reaches her even before she has become accustomed to her position as ruler, and the coincidence leads her to believe that the Empire has orchestrated the killings of her family to eliminate the possibility of resistance.
Through the communion, the Empire—in this case, Cleon XVII—really wishes to mend the genetic clone defect and have progeny of his own, and Sareth learns about that after arriving at Trantor. However, coinciding with their arrival, an assassination attempt is made on Cleon XVII’s life, which leads him to consider the Dominion’s possible role as an orchestrator as well.
What Role Will Sareth and Cleon XVIII’s Progeny Play?
Assisted by Enjoiner Rue and her other associates from Dominion, Sareth becomes preoccupied with finding evidence against Day (Cleon XVII), whom she believes to be responsible for the death of her family, and even starts extracting information from Imperial guards and other sources to validate her suspicion. Knowing that Day’s decision to end genetic dynasty and enter communion was his own, Rue and Sareth try to systemically break the bond between the Cleon clone trio and turn them against each other. Due to their manipulation, Dawn and Dusk start investigating the history of genetic dynasties, but to no avail. Eventually, Sareth learns from the overseer, the Imperial android Eto Demerzel, that it was, in fact, she who killed her family under Day’s orders, and the realization of her helplessness leaves her devastated. Out of options from the beginning anyway, she has become a prisoner since arriving at Trantor and now has to bear the child of the person who ended her family.
However, coincidentally or otherwise, Sareth is given a last chance to improvise when she falls for Dawn herself, and the duo decides to have a child by reversing Dawn’s sterility. The genome match due to their being clones will ensure the secrecy of the event from Day 1, and the legacy of Cleon XVIII, Brother Dawn, will live on. Later, a chain of events leads to the death of Day during the battle between the Empire and the Foundation, whereas at Trantor, Dusk and Rue get killed by Demerzel after their investigation reveals her paramount control over the Empire. Demerzel succeeds in her plan to cancel the communion as she incriminates Sareth on suspicion of orchestrating the assassination of Day and ensures the continuation of the genetic dynasty, fulfilling her promise to Cleon I. However, Dawn manages to free Sareth, who is now pregnant with their child. The duo uses Sareth’s servants to pose as themselves in front of the people of Trantor using facial scramblers, then flee.
Dawn communicates with Demerzel to let her know about their escapade and, out of goodwill, wishes her the best for the future. Ultimately, Cleon XVIII became the one to incorporate true change in the equations of the Empire and break free from the cycle. And his natural-born heir, the first in the millennia-long history of the Imperium, will have a claim to the throne as well, despite whatever Demerzel states about decanting new clones to replace Dawn. Even if Dawn and Sareth’s child doesn’t aim for the rightful place in the Imperium, freedom of choice wins, which for so long the Empire and even Demerzel herself have not been able to exercise. The Galactic Empire was already doomed by the end of the first crisis, and now it’s galloping toward the end despite Demerzel’s last-ditch attempt to hold onto it due to a tragically programmed adherence. But perhaps before it all ends in one fell swoop of cosmic destiny, Sareth’s child will remain as the only surviving member of the dynasty. In the end, once again, Hari Seldon’s prediction comes true, and we are eager to see how the interaction between the fugitive royal couple and the Imperium takes shape.