This article was originally published on 9/23/21.

The long-awaited, heavily hyped adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series premieres Friday, September 24th on Apple TV+ and I couldn’t be more excited. Asimov’s award-winning books have been influencing modern science fiction since they were first published as short stories in Astounding Magazine beginning in 1942. The stories were then published as three books: Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation all of which I have read way too many times to count. After these books, came many more. There are ten in all including two prequels.

Since Asimov’s original works were first published almost 80 years ago, there are bound to be many changes in the new Apple TV+ adaptation. This is apparent in the breathtaking trailers we’ve seen so far. So, what should you know before watching the new epic science fiction series? We put together a list of what we think you should know about Asimov’s Foundation series and what changes we will probably see in Apple TV+’s adaptation.

The first season will be 10 episodes. David Goyer is serving as showrunner and executive producer. Also serving as executive producers are the late author’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, plus Josh Friedman, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

What is Foundation?

The Foundation series is expansive and takes place over 1000 years. It begins tens of thousands of years in the future. Humans inhabit planets all through the galaxy and are ruled by the Galactic Empire.

Apple TV+’s description says, a band of exiles who discover that the only way to save the Galactic Empire from destruction is to defy it. To explain this further, in the books, the Galactic Empire’s power is waning yet they do not realize it. A mathematician and psychohistorian named Hari Seldon predicts that the fall of the Empire is nigh and there is no way to stop it.

According to Seldon’s calculations, when the Empire falls, there will be a 30,000-year Dark Age. This is outrageous and blasphemous to the Empire so he becomes Enemy #1. He begins plotting and ventures out to create a way to record all of humanity’s accomplishments so that the 30,000 years of barbarism can be shortened to 1000 years. And, that’s the best he can do — shorten it to 1000 years. There’s no way to avoid it. That’s where the story begins.

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Time Periods

As stated above, the books take place over a thousand years. It’s still not clear if they will do the entire first book for the first season’s ten episodes. From what I saw in the trailers, they may be only doing a portion of Foundation which would make sense because, as I said, it’s super expansive. There’s plenty of source material if Apple TV+ wants to do multiple seasons.

There were definitely different time periods in the trailers. I think. This could play out in a few ways. Goyer may have adapted the storylines to happen in the same time period, but that really wouldn’t make sense. The other two options would be to show the stories chronologically throughout the season as they happened in the book or, to show the stories concurrently a la Westworld or Witcher.

Book Fans Should Expect Major Changes

Look, I love the Foundation series. These were the books that turned me on to science fiction literature. Asimov influenced generations of writers and readers. But they were written 80 years ago. Here are three changes to expect.

Technology

This is a given. The book’s plot depends quite a bit on atomic energy and gadgets that use such energy. The books also employ things like coins and actual newspapers. Then there’s what is considered futuristic technology. That futuristic technology is stuff we’ve had since 1990. So expect Goyer and his team to do some major changes in this area. This is actually quite exciting.

Sexism

I love these books but, quite simply, outside of the ideas, they are dated and sexist. There are no female lead characters. And most of the female characters they do have are either annoying stereotypes or women that need their men to succeed. There are actually sections in the books that talk about how women will be upset if they can’t have their atomic home appliances like washing machines or how women are only concerned about “frippery.” Yeah, it’s a word.

The casting for the Apple TV+ series is incredibly diverse in gender and race. Many of the book’s main characters are no longer just white males. I’m looking forward to a diverse and gender-fluid cast.

New Characters

There will be new characters in the Apple TV+ series and also reimagined characters. The Emporer falls into the latter category. In the book by Asimov, it is a dynastic empire. In the series, it is a genetic empire. The emperors are clones of each other. I love this twist. It opens up a lot of territory for the writers to mine.

Show Don’t Tell

The wonderful thing about Asimov’s books is the ideas. His books reflect tangible, timeless problems that we’ve seen throughout humanity’s existence. He often has characters talking about these issues. And then they talk some more. And some more and so on. There is a lot of talking. 

In doing rereads of the book to get pumped up for the series, this fact really stuck out to me. There’s so much dialogue and to be honest, it drones on in some places. This won’t work on a television screen. I’m really excited to see how the writers of the series will portray these big ideas through world-building, character development and action. The trailers have been stunning.

Planets

There are many planets in the books. But the following are ones that I noticed in the trailers.

Trantor

Trantor is the seat of power in the Galaxy. The entire planet is a city dedicated to running the Galaxy. Think Coruscant from Star Wars. On Trantor though, most have never seen the sky. This is where we will meet Hari Seldon. 

Terminus

Terminus is on the edge of the Galaxy. This planet is part of Hari Seldon’s scheme to shorten the Dark Ages to 1000 years. He creates the Foundation and brings his psychohistorians there to create Encyclopedia Galactica which holds all the knowledge and history of the Empire. Think of Terminus as a University planet. There’s also a mysterious floating Vault on Terminus. Goyer told EW that no one on Terminus knows where it came from. Book readers know the answer to that, but that’s spoiler territory.

Synnax

There is a planet in the trailer where we see Gaal Dornick on a boat. It’s her home planet. While this planet is not visited in the book, only mentioned, I do think that it is the one we see in the trailer.

thumbnail of apple tv plus foundation teaser

Characters

Below are some of the main characters from the books. I’ve only listed ones that were seen in the trailers. There are new characters that are not covered below.

Hari Seldon

jared harris as Hari Seldon in Foundation

Without Seldon, there would be no Foundation. He is a scientist who predicts the end of the Empire through his theory of “psychohistory.” However, his predictions do not sit well with the Empire and they are out to destroy him. He recruits folks and sets out to create an Encyclopedia Galactica in hopes that it will help shorten the dark ages that will befall the galaxy after the Galactic Empire crumbles. He uses two planets on opposite sides of the galaxy to do this but the story is focused on the planet Terminus. Seldon has an ulterior motive here as well but that would be, I believe, too much of a spoiler to write about for those who haven’t read the books. 

Although all events in Foundation take place because of Seldon’s actions, he’s only in the book for a very short period. We’ll have to see if they are going to do the same thing in the new television series. I’d love to see more of him, however. For one, it’s a rich storyline. The whole Empire vs. Seldon aspect begs to be portrayed. Second, Seldon is being played by powerhouse actor Jared Harris. That’s gold!

Gaal Dornick

Dornick is played by Lou Llobell. Dornick is a young psychohistorian and mathematician who is recruited to join Seldon’s project on the capital planet of Trantor. As soon as Dornick arrives, she is swept into Seldon’s scheme and this has the Empire putting a target on her back.

Brother Dusk, Brother Dawn, Brother Day

brother dawn brother day brother dusk in Apple TV's Foundation

As mentioned above, this is a HUGE change from the books. The Emperor really isn’t seen in the book. Mostly, he’s heard about but that has completely changed for the Apple TV+ series. Now there are three men in the ruling family, and they are clones. The Cleon Genetic Dynasty has ruled the Galactic Empire for 400 years. There are three members of the ruling dynasty: Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton), Brother Day (Lee Pace) and Brother Dusk (Terrance Mann). Brother Day definitely wants Seldon disappeared.

Demerzel

Demerzel is played by Laura Birn. In Asimov’s series, Demerzal is the right hand of the Emperor who manipulates matters behind the scenes. In the trailers, however, it seems as if she is that and also the guardian of the future clone(s) of the Empire.

Salvor Hardin

Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin in Foundation

Hardin is played by Leah Harvey. Hardin is the mayor of Terminus. Hardin’s timeline takes place long after Hari Seldon’s death. In the book, Hardin is a man who loves cigars, is macho and super smart. He’s also very anti-violence often using the Seldon phrase, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” In the trailer, Hardin has a gun and looks super badass so I’m sure there’s some internal conflict with Hardin’s philosophy there, that is if she knows about Hardin’s machinations at all. Hardin is also the first to deal with a Seldon Crisis which is a fork in the road, if you will, that could lead to a longer Dark Age period. She’s got a lot on her plate.

Those are the big players in the books. There are also characters created by the Apple TV+ series and played by incredible actors that I’m really looking forward to such as Halima (T’Nia Miller), Hugo (Daniel MacPherson) and a role played by Clarke Peters.

I hope you’re excited as I am for this new science fiction series. The first two episodes of Foundation drop on Friday, September 24 then Apple TV will release one episode each Friday.

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Audrey Kearns