TL;DR – This is a good foundation for a series that moves everything into place and hints at much more.
Disclosure – I paid for the Apple TV+ service that viewed this episode.
Foundation Review –
For a while now, I have been wondering just what would make me up and give Apple TV+ a go. Sure, I’ll probably watch Ted Lasso at some point and cry a lot, but I needed something to grab me. Well, I have made my position about Sci-Fi quite clear, and if you are going to hook me with something, adapting a series from one of the greats, well, that will do it. Isaac Asimov is up there with Arthur C Clarke, Ursula K Le Guin, Philip K Dick, Frank Herbert, Mary Shelly, and HG Wells and to see his masterwork brought to the screen, well count me in.
So to set the scene, we open in on the planet of Terminus, where on a promenade looking over the small colony is ‘the Vault’. It is a floating repository with a null field forcing you to turn away from it if you dare approach, as some local kids find out the hard way. 35-years earlier, we land on the planet of Synnax, a water world surrounded by rings. Here a young Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) is making a final trip from her planet. She is going to the centre of the galaxy, the home of Emperor Cleon (Lee Pace, Cassian Bilton & Terrence Mann), and where she will meet Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), the great man of mathematics and the founder of psychohistory. But little does Gaal know that the Empire’s peace is being tested and that she might just be arriving for her trial and execution. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.
This is an episode that is at its core all about, if you pardon the pun, laying a foundation for everything that comes next. You get all the leading players, the two different timelines established, a look into the many worlds and their people, and the hints over everything the characters will be fighting for. As far as that set-up goes, I think this nailed it. As it had a lot of exposition to get through and get through, they did in a generally engaging manner. However, there will always be that bit of handholding that the show has to go through, meaning that some things will be spelled out in a way that leaves those who have read the books a little frustrated and those who have not a little lost.
What will engage you first are the amount of work that has gone into the visuals in this show. Some moments take your breath away, like the boat ride on Synnax or how the jump ships appear like black holes before they spiral through the void. There are costumes, both weird and wonderful. There is the use of great locations, which in the opener was some nice shots of Iceland. There are also the sets, some were just redressed concrete boxes, but some still felt more realised, like the fishing village where Gaal is from. For me, the only issue was the sound mix felt a little unrefined, like it still needed a pass or two.
Then, of course, you have the performances, which will likely drive much of the series’ enjoyment as you see these grand thespians play off each other. I have never seen a production that the presence of Jared Harris has not improved. Watching him dance through these scenes is just a joy, and you need to be with his position entirely going forward, and Jared makes that an easy sell. Then, of course, you have Lee Pace, being part of a tri-clone-Emperor and being captivating in every moment of it and having such two strong personalities clashing made me wonder if they would suck up all the oxygen themselves. But Lou Llobell makes an instant impression, and that moment where she stands in the middle of two immovable objects and moves them might be the moment of this first episode.
In the end, do we recommend The Emperor’s Peace? Yes, yes, we would. This is an opening episode, and with that comes all the promise and also all the burden. So far, the promise won the day, and I will be interested to see if it continues to do so as we advance.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Foundation
Directed by – Rupert Sanders
Written by – David S. Goyer & Josh Friedman
Created by – David S. Goyer & Josh Friedman
Based on – Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Production/Distribution Companies – Skydance TV & Apple+
Starring – Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell, Leah Harvey, Laura Birn & Terrence Mann with Alfred Enoch, Jairaj Varsani, Buddy Skelton, Chloe Lea, Joni Morris, Cassian Bilton & Alexander Siddig