Apple TV+ commissioned 'Foundation' after a one-sentence pitch

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited September 9
Isaac Asimov's epic "Foundation" novels are famously impossible to reduce to a film or series, but Apple TV+ asked for a one-sentence summary -- and got it.

Foundation


Initially a trilogy, Isaac Asimov's "Foundation," coming to Apple TV+ in September, was considered unfilmable even before he added a further four novels to the series. That's chiefly because Asimov was more interested in ideas than characters, and discards all of them in order to have his "future history" story span a thousand years.

"Apple asked me if I could pitch it in one sentence," producer David S. Goyer told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview about his filmmaking career. "They sort of asked it laughingly."

"I said: 'It's a 1,000-year chess game between Hari Seldon and the Empire, and all the characters in between are the pawns, but some of the pawns over the course of this saga end up becoming kings and queens.'"

"Foundation" began as a series of short stories in the 1940s, which were then collected into novels in the 1950s. Since the three novels were published, many attempts have been made to film the story, but Apple TV+ and David S. Goyer's version is the only one to make it to the screen.

"There are three tricky aspects to Foundation that I think have tripped up all the other adaptations," said Goyer. "The first is that the story is supposed to span 1,000 years with all these massive time jumps -- that's hard to tell. It's certainly hard to capsulize in a two- or three-hour film."

"The second aspect is... [you] have a couple of short stories in the first book with main character Salvor Hardin," he continued, "then you'll jump forward a hundred years and there'll be a different character."

"The third thing is that they're not particularly emotional; they're books about ideas, about concepts," says Goyer. "So a lot of the action happens off-screen. In the books, the Empire, which is on 10,000 worlds, literally falls off-screen -- like, it happens in between chapters."

"Obviously, that wasn't going to work for a television show," he continued. "So without giving too much away, I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans."

Apple TV+ has ordered a 10-episode adaptation of "Foundation," but Goyer hints that more may be coming.

"About six characters will continue from season to season, from century to century," he said. "That way it becomes half anthological, half continuing story."

"Foundation" was previously dramatised for BBC Radio in the 1970s, and Isaac Asimov wrote sequel novels in the 1980s. Now almost eight decades after the first short story was published, the series is set to become the biggest television production filmed in Ireland.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    Asimov himself explicitly tied together the Foundation universe with the Robots universe near the end, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if one of the "extended lifespan" characters is R. Daneel Olivaw.  The others might turn out to be robots as well.
    StrangeDayssphericBeatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 11
    AlgerAlger Posts: 29member
    "I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans."

    In other words, a completely different story.  

    I'm a huge sci-fi fan and finally forced myself to finish Foundation (the first book) because of this impeding TV series' release.   I had tried few times before and always had put it down out of sheer boredom, but figured I just wasn't sophisticated enough as a teenager.  In ripe middle age now, I find Foundation's "ideas" are elementary and never investigated at their core ("psychohistory" is never even explained except by begging the question); the characters all one-dimensional, boring as cardboard (and all the women are even less than one-dimensional, except physically) yet pompous & verbose; the plot is fundamentally about power-grabs and militarism – not exactly groundbreaking "ideas" – about at philosophically imaginative as a James Bond novel, minus any sex appeal.  
    edited July 23 williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 11
    CarmBCarmB Posts: 46member
    At the end of the day this production will be judged as any production is, on its merits or lack thereof. 

    When a filmmaker conjures up something, regardless of the source material, it’s that filmmaker’s work that matters not the source. It would be absurd for one to worry so much about being true to the source if doing so compromised the quality of the resulting film, series, whatever. 

    So it’s going to be down to Foundation the TV production being judged as a viewing experience. My guess is that most of the audience will not and probably never will read Asimov’s original compositions and it is essential that the Foundation TV production be made with that in mind. If its compelling television great, if not, so be it. Apple TV+ is not going to be ruined if the project fails but would certainly get a boost from having Foundation hit the mark. In other words, this production is pretty much like any other production, the difference being that this is such a famous franchise that there will be plenty of attention on it when it launches. 
    StrangeDaysFileMakerFellerradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 11
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 553member
    Asimov himself explicitly tied together the Foundation universe with the Robots universe near the end, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if one of the "extended lifespan" characters is R. Daneel Olivaw.  The others might turn out to be robots as well.
    In the trailer, they're clearly using some kind of cloning to have multiple copies of the emperor (Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk are all clones at different ages). Rather like Duncan Idaho in the Dune series.

    The new Battlestar Galactica already did the "A bunch of these characters ... are robots!" thing. It would seem derivative. I could see it with one or two beyond Olivaw (which would give them opportunities to explore different interpretations of the Laws), but not more.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 11
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,583member
    Alger said:
    "I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans."

    In other words, a completely different story. 
    No, an adaptation. Screen adaptations modify novels all the time - often cutting characters or merging multiple characters into one. The Foundation stories have so many different actors doing things to continue the plot…it can still be true to the narrative if some of them are the same persona, clones, wake from cryosleep, whatever.

    If you believe a screen adaptation is going to be identical to books, prepare to be disappointed.  
    edited July 23 williamlondonradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 11
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,583member
    CarmB said:
    At the end of the day this production will be judged as any production is, on its merits or lack thereof. 

    When a filmmaker conjures up something, regardless of the source material, it’s that filmmaker’s work that matters not the source. It would be absurd for one to worry so much about being true to the source if doing so compromised the quality of the resulting film, series, whatever. 

    So it’s going to be down to Foundation the TV production being judged as a viewing experience. My guess is that most of the audience will not and probably never will read Asimov’s original compositions and it is essential that the Foundation TV production be made with that in mind. If its compelling television great, if not, so be it. Apple TV+ is not going to be ruined if the project fails but would certainly get a boost from having Foundation hit the mark. In other words, this production is pretty much like any other production, the difference being that this is such a famous franchise that there will be plenty of attention on it when it launches. 
    Nailed it. I loved the HBO series True Blood, but it was different than the books too. One of those creative decisions was certainly for the better — the book author killed off a character after B1, who in the show became one of the best characters. It is its own work. 
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 11
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 830member
    Alger said:
    "I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans."

    In other words, a completely different story.  

    I'm a huge sci-fi fan and finally forced myself to finish Foundation (the first book) because of this impeding TV series' release.   I had tried few times before and always had put it down out of sheer boredom, but figured I just wasn't sophisticated enough as a teenager.  In ripe middle age now, I find Foundation's "ideas" are elementary and never investigated at their core ("psychohistory" is never even explained except by begging the question); the characters all one-dimensional, boring as cardboard (and all the women are even less than one-dimensional, except physically) yet pompous & verbose; the plot is fundamentally about power-grabs and militarism – not exactly groundbreaking "ideas" – about at philosophically imaginative as a James Bond novel, minus any sex appeal.  
    Don't forget how long ago these books were written - before James Bond, have you read Moonraker?

    This was the early days of "modern" science fiction. This is the ground that was broken!
    williamlondonradarthekatwatto_cobraspheric
  • Reply 9 of 11
    zimmie said:
    In the trailer, they're clearly using some kind of cloning to have multiple copies of the emperor (Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk are all clones at different ages). Rather like Duncan Idaho in the Dune series.
    Dude! Spoilers! :P
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 11
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,395moderator
    CarmB said:
    At the end of the day this production will be judged as any production is, on its merits or lack thereof. 

    When a filmmaker conjures up something, regardless of the source material, it’s that filmmaker’s work that matters not the source. It would be absurd for one to worry so much about being true to the source if doing so compromised the quality of the resulting film, series, whatever. 

    So it’s going to be down to Foundation the TV production being judged as a viewing experience. My guess is that most of the audience will not and probably never will read Asimov’s original compositions and it is essential that the Foundation TV production be made with that in mind. If its compelling television great, if not, so be it. Apple TV+ is not going to be ruined if the project fails but would certainly get a boost from having Foundation hit the mark. In other words, this production is pretty much like any other production, the difference being that this is such a famous franchise that there will be plenty of attention on it when it launches. 
    There will be purists, as there were with Dune, a failure in front of any audience.  I was a teen when I read the foundation trilogy, some 45 years ago.  I hardly remember any of it, so will see the series with fresh eyes.  And I’m very much looking forward to it.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 11
    zimmie said:
    Asimov himself explicitly tied together the Foundation universe with the Robots universe near the end, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if one of the "extended lifespan" characters is R. Daneel Olivaw.  The others might turn out to be robots as well.
    In the trailer, they're clearly using some kind of cloning to have multiple copies of the emperor (Brother Dawn, Brother Day, and Brother Dusk are all clones at different ages). Rather like Duncan Idaho in the Dune series.

    The new Battlestar Galactica already did the "A bunch of these characters ... are robots!" thing. It would seem derivative. I could see it with one or two beyond Olivaw (which would give them opportunities to explore different interpretations of the Laws), but not more.
    Unless they're completely changing how cloning works, such as somehow transferring the "soul" of the older clone into the younger clone, or having them somehow be mentally linked, I would not automatically associate "cloning" with "a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans."

    But, I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.  Science Fiction has room for all kinds of things, even if some of them involve a certain amount of hand wavium.
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