TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E05 – Upon Awakening

TL;DR – Gaal Dornick finally awakens aboard a ship that has a ton of secrets. Lots of questions for Gaal but few answers. The biggest one being, where is the ship taking her?

Review (warning: spoilers)

Please go to my TV reviews page to read reviews of previous episodes.

Finally, we return to Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and see what is happening with her. With events of the past couple of episodes focused on the actions surrounding the Cleon emperors on Trantor and the foundation team on Terminus, there was fear that Gaal had fallen by the wayside. The last we saw of her was she was being ushered into an escape pod, put into hibernation and jettisoned off from the main ship, Deliverance, that was travelling to Terminus. This after we see psychohistorian Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) murdered by his adopted son, Raych Seldon (Alfred Enoch) in cold blood. Add to that heinous act that Raych and Gaal were in a loving relationship and you can understand Gaal’s horror and confusion as she falls into stasis, floating off into space leaving many questions unanswered.

At the end of the last episode, Terminus is being invaded by the Anacreons but just before the credits roll we see Gaal’s escape pod being picked up by an unknown spaceship. Thus, this episode sees her awaken inside an unmanned mysterious ship travelling to an unknown destination with an AI that has protocols in place preventing Gaal to piece together where she is and what is going on.

It is a great episode as we get a mix of flashbacks of Gaal living on her home planet (and the trials and tribulations she experienced in a village that shunned science) and her current dilemma trying to unlock the secrets of the ship that has saved her with only her smarts and a bloodied knife (the same knife used to kill Hari, which Raych threw into the pod with her for reasons unclear).

Was it to get rid of the evidence? Was it to frame her as the murderer? The answer to these questions is revealed partially as we discover that the knife, which has Raych’s DNA on it, is used to activate the ship and a voice comes over the comms stating, “Uploading cryo-session data. Initiating Raych Foss arrival protocol.”

Gaal eventually finds herself in the command hub of the ship and discovers she has been in cyro-sleep for 34 years and 223 days. It dawns on her that the Deliverance would have landed on Terminus ages ago and colonisation of the planet would have commenced.

The flashbacks shows Gaal’s internal turmoil as she is surrounded by a people who believe faith and science do not mix and knowledge is considered heretical. Her home world is being flooded by ever rising sea levels and her tribal village believes it is because they have offended the Sleeper (some unseen God that has taken exception to them reading from books and studying at a university). So those of the faith have condemned such knowledge gathering in order to appease the Sleeper and hopefully prevent the seas from destroying their world. Heretics are bound in ropes and weighed down by the very books they wish to learn from and thrown into the sea as a sacrifice to the Sleeper. Still the waters continue to rise…

The events on Terminus are also shown as the Anacreons plan for the arrival of an Imperial ship sent from the Empire after communication is lost with Terminus while also pinning down the Foundation town. The Anacreons have a clear vendetta against the Empire (who attacked their home planet) but their motives for invading Terminus are unclear. What we do know is Hari Seldon’s predictions stated that the downfall of the Empire would commence on the outer reaches of space and Terminus is one such planet.

The CGI of the Imperial ships and the subsequent attack on them by the Anacreons is visually stunning. The lack of understanding of the Anacreons’ motives leads to the Imperial ship being destroyed and the energy fence protecting the Foundation town going down.

But for me, it was all eyes on Gaal and the use of her intellect to piece together her situation. She manages to bypass the authorisation restrictions on the ship by outsmarting the AI and accessing public information, star charts, making calculations, and venturing outside the ship in a spacesuit to view stars using infrared wavelengths to finally figure out where her mystery ship is taking her.

And that destination is Helicon; Hari Seldon’s home world. Gaal attempts to order the ship to change course as Helicon is of the belief that Gaal was an accomplice in Hari’s murder. The final minutes of this episode has Gaal confronting what appears to be a holographic image of a dying Hari Seldon on the floor of the ship. What it means and what is going on is left for the next episode. Captivating and multi-threaded, I’m eager to find out what will happen.

9 out of 10

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