TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E08 – The Missing Piece

TL;DR – Brother Day journeys the Spiral in search for a soul.

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

The three threads in this episode revolve around the following:

  • Phara (Kubbra Sait) seeks to secure the Invictus while Salvor (Leah Harvey) tries to prevent this from happening.
  • Gaal (Lou Llobell) and an “electronic” Hari (Jared Harris) dissect Gaal’s ability for prescience.
  • Brother Day (Lee Pace) walks the Spiral to demonstrate he has a soul to the Luminist believers.

The first thread reveals that Hugo (Daniel MacPherson) has survived. Thank goodness because I would have been quite upset if he ended up floating off untethered in outer space and dying. He reaches a communications tower and calls for aid from his native planet, Thespis. Inside the Invictus, Salvor and Lewis Pirenne manage to separate themselves from Phara and secure the bridge only for the ship to make a jump.

The second thread results in Gaal and Hari coming at odds. Gaal wants to know what Hari’s plan is and why they are headed to Helicon (Hari’s homeworld). Hari views Gaal’s ability to see into the future as a risk to skewing psychohistory. This leads to Gaal wanting out of the Foundation and Hari’s plans because she is being kept in the dark. She forces Hari’s hand and goes back into the cryo-pod and programs it to take her back home to Synnax.

And while the above two threads continue to piece the puzzle together, it is the third thread that this episode mostly focuses on and is, by far, the most fascinating.

In Luminist religion, they believe in the goddess Surah who collided with the planet Dol and became three moons – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone. On Maiden, pilgrims journey along the Spiral, a 170km dessert trail, that ends in the Womb of the Mother (a salt pool). The journey must be taken without food or water. And in the case of Brother Day, he has to have his Imperial nanobots removed along with the protective aura bracelet that shields him from harm. Those who manage to survive the journey are said to receive a vision while in the Womb and this is then interpreted by the ring of Zephyrs (holy priestesses).

In addition, one of the central themes of Luminism is reincarnation and the idea that a soul is tied to one body. Thus, when Emperor Cleon the First succeeded in cloning himself into triple copies (Brother Dusk, Brother Dawn and Brother Day), these clones are viewed as soulless by many of the Luminist followers who have been swayed by Zephyr Halima (T’Nia Miller), who is seeking to be the next Proxima and if successful would look to secede from the Empire.

Thus, we watch Brother Day undertake the perilous journey along the Spiral to prove that he has a soul. It is the first time in the series that we see him truly vulnerable and a wonderful juxtaposition to the normally infallible Emperor and ruler.

What adds to the fascination of this episode is that Demerzel (Laura Birn), who is the aide and guardian of the Cleon clones and loyal to the empire, is also a devout Luminist.

And… she’s a robot. Throughout the entire series, the AI that is Demerzel appears to have achieved a level of consciousness that allows her to experience existentialism and emotions.

She instructs Brother Day of what to expect on the Spiral. And as we watch him undertake the journey beneath the unrelenting sun and slowly turn into a crisp burnt piece of flesh, you wonder whether his eyes are being opened for the first time onto something greater than himself.

Indeed, when Brother Day reaches the Womb and collapses into the salt pools, he recounts the vision he received to the ring of Zephyrs. He describes how the salt in the pool began to swirl and lifted from the floor of the cave. And it took the form of a stem with three large petals. The ring of Zephyrs proclaim that this represents the birthroot flower that births three petals from one seed. Just like the triple goddesses that came from Surah, and just like Day and his brothers. The Zephyrs declare that this is a holy vision and that Brother Day, indeed, has a soul that is not mired in stagnation.

Brother Day leaves triumphant with the three trillion Luminist followers still held within the Empire’s bosom. But not before two final acts are done.

The first is that Brother Day orders Demerzel to poison Zephyr Halima, making it look like she died of natural causes. Demerzel obeys but is distraught in having to perform the assassination. She pleads to Brother Day that he has won, so why does Halima need to be killed. But Brother Day does not provide her with an explanation.

The second is Demerzel, when not given an explanation for having Halima killed, makes a comment to Brother Day. She mentions that she has an ancient birthroot flower pressed and framed on her vanity. She obtained the flower when she underwent the journey around the Spiral centuries ago and she asks whether Brother Day had noticed it when he came to visit her in her room. He responds that he didn’t notice it.

A happy coincidence?

Demerzel then adds that though it was eons ago when she took the journey, the vision she received changed the way she looked at everything (impressive for a robot I might add). And she comments that she is “pleased” that Brother Day was graced by a vision as well.

For if he saw nothing then that would mean he is empty (of a soul). And thus, as we watch Brother Day prepare for the jump back to Trantor, we zoom in on his eyes and flashback to the Womb and salt pools. We watch as what really happened was he simply sat in the pools and nothing happened. No vision. No epiphany. Nothing but emptiness.

There can be nothing worse than having the missing piece inside you being your soul.

9.5 out of 10

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E07 – Mysteries and Martyrs

TL;DR – The Anacreons venture into the Anthor Belt in search of Invictus, a mysterious Imperial star ship, capable of destroying planets.

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

The Anacreons are on a revenge mission. Their target, I assume, will be Trantor; the heart of the empire and seat of Emperor Cleon. Their plan put in motion in previous episodes begins to finally come together in this one.

Led by Phara Keaen (Kubbra Sait), they have secured Hugo’s (Daniel MacPherson) ship and brought (kidnapped) together members of the Foundation with specific skill sets. This includes Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) the Warden of Terminus. Salvor is actually not required for Phara’s mission but the Anacreon leader is forced to bring her on board as Hugo gives control of his ship’s computer entirely to Salvor (i.e. the ship will not respond to anyone except Salvor, so she ends up being the pilot with Hugo guiding her).

Together they head to the Anthor Belt where we are greeted by the spectacular scene of an Imperial star ship that has entered into myth. Known as Invictus, the ship disappeared 700 years ago and has jump technology (i.e. it can fold time and space and traverse enormous distances in short spans of time). No one knows why it disappeared or what happened to its crew, but Phara and her Anacreons have been able to locate it and they desperately want to take control.

Unfortunately, the star ship has defence protocols in place that prevent anyone other than Imperial military from boarding. Two previous attempts by the Anacreons led to two ships becoming Swiss cheese. Thus Phara turned to Terminus, destroyed the communications buoy that allowed the Foundation to communicate to Trantor, and knowing that the Empire would send an Imperial ship to investigate. When subsequent Imperial ship is shot down, Phara captures the Commander and demonstrates in this episode that all Imperial military have nanobots flowing through their blood that both heals them from minor injuries and are encoded to allow access to any Imperial ship including Invictus.

Still, they have to physically get to an entryway to allow the Commander to have his hand scanned by the star ship’s computer. If Hugo’s ship gets too close it will go the way of the previous Anacreon attempts and be turned to Swiss cheese.

To get around this, the crew put on spacesuits and jump from Hugo’s ship, through a field of floating asteroid rocks and spaceship debris, and then magnetically land on the Invictus. Turns out, the ship’s defence systems will not shoot at anything as small as a human. Still, their timing has to be perfect and if they don’t flip themselves at the right time they don’t latch onto the star ship and instead will float off into outer space to die alone.

Everyone makes it except for Hugo, and understandably, Salvor is devastated. At this point, I should say I refuse to believe that Hugo is dead. I have a theory that he did not engage his thrusters on purpose to slow his momentum and has actually boarded another part of the gigantic ship in hopes of rescuing the Foundation crew from the Anacreons.

If Hugo is actually dead, I will be seriously bummed.

Back to the story at hand, after they get inside the star ship (thanks to the Commander who then receives his reward of an Anacreon laser blast to the head) the group explores the inside trying to locate the control centre. When Foundation Director, Lewis Pirenne (Elliot Cowan), notices the ships lights progressively turn on and off at reduced intervals, they figure out that it’s a countdown to when the ship will next jump. Phara reveals that the Invictus has been jumping to random coordinates for centuries to prevent its technology falling into the wrong hands. So, getting inside was one thing, now they are rushing to take control before they blink away again to god knows where (could be the heart of a sun, into a black hole, or marooned somewhere on the edge of the galaxy with no food or water).

As we watch this part of the story progress, we also get to see what Brother Day (Lee Pace) is doing on Maiden and how he will sway three trillion Luminist followers back into the Empire’s fold and away from Zephyr Halima’s influence.

In the last episode, it looked like Zephyr Halima had convinced the masses that to follow Emperor Cleon clones (of which Brother Day is one of them) is to follow a false leader, a soulless leader. So, Brother Day looks to prove her wrong.

On Maiden, there is the Spiral. A desert passage that pilgrims dare to journey to reach the womb of the Mother, which is said to grant a vision to those who are able to reach it. It is a sacred journey that many fail to complete.

Brother Day declares he will undertake the journey to let the triple goddesses (the Luminist gods) decide his fate. This would appear to indicate that if he survives then he must have a soul and this would bring the Luminists back under Imperial control.

Back on Trantor, things are getting hot and heavy between Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and Azura Odili (Amy Tyger). Azura attempts to convince Dawn to run away with her so he can live his own life rather than being trapped to serve the Cleon dynasty.

And the episode ends with Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) speaking with a digital consciousness of Hari Seldon aboard The Raven. Hari reveals that Gaal was never meant to be on the ship and instead it was meant to be Raych Foss (Alfred Enoch). Gaal finds out that Hari’s murder had to happen in order for the Foundation to succeed and he had Raych commit the deed. But Raych was meant to escape and would have escaped if not for Gaal bursting in on the scene.

The digital Hari questions Gaal as to what caused her to break her routine afternoon swim session and investigate Raych and go into Hari’s room. At the same time, The Raven enters a dangerous debris field. Gaal wants the digital Hari to change the course of the ship to prevent any breaches of the ship’s hull, but Hari is more focused on why Gaal broke her routine in the events leading up to his murder.

In a cool twist, Gaal grabs a screen and uses it as a shield against a piece of debris that penetrates the ship like a bullet. There is no way she should have been able to do that. No way her reflexes are quick enough to protect herself. The only way she could do this is if she could glimpse or feel the future.

And there lies the answer to what drove her to investigate Raych and Hari and break her normal swimming routine aboard the Deliverance. Seems like Gaal has a predilection for not just solving maths problems but could find a job also as a crystal ball.

A lot happening… everywhere.

9 out of 10

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E06 – Death and the Maiden

TL;DR – Brother Day looks to stabilise the Empire by consolidating the Luminist leadership. The Anacreons are on the move. And Brother Dawn begins to develop feelings for a servant.

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

Trantor is the city at the heart of the Galaxy; the heart of the Empire. On Gal Dornick’s (Lou Llobell) home world, Synnax, they believe the denizens of Trantor are sinners who follow a false prophet. That false prophet is Emperor Cleon and the endless line of clones that come forth, enabling Cleon immortality and eternal rule.

This is the opening narrative of episode six, and we watch as the current Cleon in power, Emperor Day (Lee Pace), is woken after performing the jump from Trantor to the Surah System. We learned in episode four that Proxima Opal, the leader of the Luminist religion which has three trillion followers, has passed. The succession is being contested between Zephyr Gilat (Julia Farino) and Zephyr Halima (T’Nia Miller).

Gilat is an obedient follower of the Empire while Halima wishes to separate from Imperial rule and return to the Primary Octavo (a doctrine that essentially states a person’s soul is tied to an individual, and thus cannot be tied to clones such as the Cleon line).

This causes Emperor Day to visit Maiden (an arid, habitable moon where Luminism originates) to meet Gilat and see her through to achieving the title as the next Proxima. It is one of the first signs that mathematical prophecies of Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) are coming true. For Emperor Day who, in all his lifetimes, has never known doubt, he is suddenly confronted by it thanks to Hari. And, uncharacteristically, has taken it upon himself to visit Maiden when no Brother Day has left Trantor since Cleon the First.

There’s a fascinating dialogue between Brother Day and Demerzel (Laura Birn) before they arrive at Maiden where we get a history lesson on Luminism and its faith. What makes it fascinating is that we learn Demerzel (a self-aware AI robot) is a believer of Luminism and is questioned by Brother Day as to why. She explains that Luminism is about seeking purpose, to which Brother Day counters saying she knows her purpose (to serve the Empire and to serve him). But she goes on to say that it is not just knowing your purpose but the process of seeking that enlightens.

The scene then expands beyond the spaceship carrying Day and Demerzel to the Maiden landscape; desert as far as the eye can see and buildings that appear a cross between Egyptian and Aztec. The political machinations then unfold as Brother Day seeks to shore up support for Zephyr Gilat by promising the Empire will build a first-class desalination plant that means the people of Maiden will always have access to fresh water.

However, this play falls short as Zephyr Halima comes on stage with a rousing speech that stirs the faith and causes Brother Day to realise he could potentially lose three trillion people as part of the Empire. Seeing every individual of Maiden lower themselves in service to their faith including Demerzel, who is clearly conflicted but also bows showing her belief overrides her service to the Empire, is an epic scene and leaves Brother Day standing amongst a giant crowd of worshippers who do not worship him.

Episode six also continues the storyline on Terminus. The Anacreons have succeeded in securing the Foundation town and set in motion a plan called Invictus, which involves securing a starship planet destroyer and having it operated by certain members of the Foundation.

Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), Hugo (Daniel MacPherson) and her father attempt to destroy the corvette ships that the Anacreons arrived on and do so but Salvor’s father sacrifices his life in the process.

We also witness Brother Dawn (Cassian Bilton) and gardener, Azura Odili (Amy Tyger) grow increasingly closer. Dawn’s actions have come under the watchful eye of Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann) who begins to suspect Dawn is diverging from previous Cleon ways.

The wheels have been set in motion, and we get a front row seat on the multiple fronts where the Empire looks likely to be attacked. The Anacreons are in full swing on their mission of revenge, and Zephyr Halima has the momentum to achieve a secession from the Empire.

But the greatest threat may very well be within as Brother Dawn looks more and more likely to choose a path for himself. A destiny of his own making that will have nothing to do with ruling the Empire.

Strap in and buckle up.

9.5 out of 10

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

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E04 – Barbarians at the Gate

TL;DR – Hari Seldon predicted that the Empire’s downfall would start on the edge of the galaxy. Right where it just so happens the Foundation has been exiled to and operating on the planet Terminus. When Anacreon forces (enemies of the Empire) land on Terminus, we see them set up the dominoes for the first to fall.

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

In episode four, we see Cleon the 14th (Cassian Bilton) aka Brother Dawn staring behind a thin curtain in his bedroom on the top floor of the palace, down to the gardens below. Gaal Dornick’s (Lou Llobell) voice narrates a story of a man who goes to see psychohistorian Hari Seldon asking Hari to tell him his fate. We then watch as Brother Dawn steps out onto the window ledge. The drop from the top floor of the palace to the ground below would surely mean death. As Brother Dawn willingly falls off the ledge, Gaal continues her story saying that Hari told the man that his predictive model only showed the future of the masses and that the fate and actions of one individual would always be a mystery.

The big splat that you would expect from Brother Dawn’s suicide does not occur. All Cleon emperors have protective shields that repel kinetic energy built around their bodies which prevent harm, so instead of a bloody mess we see Cleon floating inches above the ground, the technological nanites preventing his death. We also see a young female gardener, Azure Odili (Amy Tyger), witness the event and drop the pot plant she is carrying. She runs away, and you know she was not meant to see Cleon’s attempt at suicide.

The minute cracks in the Empire we saw in episode three begin to get larger in this episode. We learn that a leader of one of the planets under Empire control has died, and there is potential for the successor to look to break away from the Empire. This leads to an interesting dinner conversation between Brother Dawn, Brother Day (Lee Pace), and Brother Darkness (Terrence Mann). The Cleon clones are all meant to work in unison; actions are synchronised without thought. They are, after all, meant to be perfect copies of the first Cleon emperor. But what we see is Brother Dawn stand slightly after Day and Darkness stand, we see Dawn pick up his wine glass with his left hand while Day and Darkness pick it up with their right etc. These little differences show the cracks within.

We then jump to Terminus where we last saw Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey) being held at gun (and bow & arrow) point by Anacreon invaders. The Anacreons suffered terrible losses when their home planet was attacked by the Empire who believed the Anacreons were one of the groups responsible for bombing the Star Bridge. Salvor manages to subdue the Anacreon leader, Grand Huntress Phara Keaen (Kubbra Sait) by taking her to the Vault. Phara wants access to the Foundation tower and thinks Salvor is taking her to that location only to be confronted by the floating Vault and its null field which renders her unconscious.

Salvor then takes on her role as Warden of Terminus and taking the reigns to lead the Foundation group and marshal their defences. She attempts to interrogate Phara to understand why the Anacreons want to access the Foundation tower with little success. Meanwhile, Phara’s forces start to surround the Foundation’s town (the only thing preventing the army from swarming them is a protective fence of Imperial make).

The episode jumps between these two threads.

In one space, we see Brother Dawn commence interactions with Azura. Though suspicious initially, he begins to see that she has no ill intent toward him and gives him leaves of a medicinal plant that will help with pains he experiences from breathing in certain blossoms in the garden. Meanwhile, Brother Day breaks protocol and decides to go off world to take control of the succession of the planet that potentially may break away from the Empire. He has a confrontation with Brother Dusk who still stubbornly believes that with Hari Seldon dead, the prophecies and the Foundation have died with him, but Brother Day is not so sure. There’s a marvelous scene where Brother Day seeks an update from the Imperial mathematicians to prove without a doubt that Hari was a charlatan. Turns out three decades has the Imperial mathematicians none the wiser and in full denial (they believe Hari and psychohistory to be false but they can’t prove it). This leads to the head Imperial statistician having a heart attack under Brother Day’s rebuke.

In the other space, we see Salvor trying to maintain order with her people while Anacreons continue to mass. At one point, she enters a vision where she is in the Imperial Library on Trantor and confronts a boy with a blade. The vision quickly disappears and she is back on Terminus, not understanding what the vision means. She believes the image of the boy is actually the Vault trying to communicate to her but she can’t piece the puzzle together.

With Hugo Crast (Daniel MacPherson) supporting her, they survey the perimeter and watch as Anacreon soldiers assemble a laser cannon. It doesn’t make sense, however, because the cannon will not be able to penetrate the fence, so what are they planning to do with it?

The closing scene of episode four finally returns us to Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) in cryogenic sleep in an escape pod floating through space. And on the edge of the screen we see a spaceship enter. What will Gaal’s fate be? The ship clearly is going to pick her up, but what will she awaken to? We won’t know until the next episode.

I enjoyed this episode primarily because of Brother Dawn. He is clearly going to be different to the other Cleon emperors even though all the clones are meant to be identical. The reason for his attempted suicide is unclear and leaves questions as to what he is thinking. His initial interactions with Azure the gardener indicates a budding attraction. While Brother Day and Brother Dusk debate about Hari Seldon’s predictions and seeking to maintain control and order over the Empire, they appear to ignore (or are in denial) of the differences Brother Dawn is exhibiting.

The events on Terminus are slow building. The biggest revelation being that Salvor has an otherworldly ability to discern when someone is lying and sense who they are and what has happened to them in the past. Her interrogation scene of Phara was intriguing as she displayed the ability to predict the result of flipping a coin repeatedly with 100% accuracy. This act unnerves Phara and leads her to reveal more about herself than she intended.

Yet another engrossing episode requiring the viewer has patience.

8.5 out of 10

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E03 – The Mathematician’s Ghost

TL;DR – this episode sets the scene for what is to come. We learn about the cloning of Cleon emperors, the initial colonisation of Terminus by the Foundation, and the subsequent discovery of the Vault (a mysterious alien object that appears somewhat sentient…)

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

Episode three opens with a flashback of 400 years prior, when Cleon the First ruled the empire, and we see the android servant, Demerzel (Laura Birn) waltz in. She gives an update to the emperor that the programmers are progressing (referring to the project of cloning). Cleon, now in his twilight years, laments that he will not be around to see the completion of the Star Bridge. But Demerzel assures him that his continuity is assured and he will ride up the Star Bridge once construction is complete (referring to one of Cleon’s “clones”).

Fast forward 400 years and we see Demerzel speaking to Brother Darkness as they gaze out at the destroyed Star Bridge. He laments that the remaining debris of the Star Bridge could come crashing down on areas of the empire, but realises he doesn’t need to worry anymore because his time (as a Cleon) is coming to end. We see him get fitted with formal dress and is then sent off by the younger Cleon trinity into a pulsing laser furnace that turns him to ash. Thus, the cycle is shown of how Cleon succession continues in perpetuity. However, something is different this time round. Just before Brother Darkness enters the furnace, Brother Dawn (a newborn Cleon clone) starts crying. Brother Darkness turns and says something is wrong, something is different. But Demerzel reassures him that all is right and we see Brother Darkness get turned to ash.

Thus, this is the first hint that Hari Seldon’s predictions will come true. For we will see that Brother Dawn (i.e. Cleon the 14th, played by Cassian Bilton) is not quite like his predecessor clones. Seventeen years later, now a teenager, he is subtly different to the other Cleon clones (played by Lee Pace).

The scene then switches to Hari Seldon’s crew and their first steps on Terminus and the commencement of colonisation. There we see their first encounter with ‘the Vault’. A floating, mysterious black object that emanates a null field that causes anyone approaching it to fall unconscious. The only exception is Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey), Warden of Terminus, and the daughter of two of the original colonists. The mystery as to what the Vault is and contains is as mysterious as why Salvor is the only one that can approach it without being affected by the null field.

Fast forward again to now, and we watch Salvor perform her duties as warden, checking the shields around the colony and testing the Vault’s null field and discovering, to her concern, that the field is expanding. We are also introduced to Hugo Crast (Daniel MacPherson) who travels the galaxy as a trader and returns for brief periods to Terminus to see Salvor; the pair being in a relationship. After their latest reunion, Salvor wakes in the night with a strange feeling and goes out to scout the Vault. There she spies a small boy running near the Vault and into the now abandoned wreckage of the colonists’ original ship.

Chasing him down, she enters the ship and discovers a Bishop’s Claw (an alien beast, native to Terminus that is extremely deadly). She scares it away only to then notice Anacreon gunships have entered the atmosphere. Salvor and Hugo gather the council to discuss what should be done as attempts to hail the Anacreon gunships have failed. They attempt to get word to the Empire to send for backup, but the communications buoy is down.

With all signs pointing in the wrong direction (i.e. conflict), Salvor tries to muster what weapons they can for defence. Salvor’s mother, Mari (Sasha Behar), also reveals to her Hari Seldon’s prime radiant, the device that contains all of Seldon’s psychohistory explained as mathematical equations. Salvor attempts to interact with the prime radiant but fails.

The following evening, Salvor gets another premonition leading to her seeing the boy again and entering the shipwreck. There she finds the Bishop’s Claw again but this time it has an arrow stuck in it. She helps the beast by removing the arrow only to find herself surrounded by hostile Anacreons. Thus ends episode three.

After the climatic end to episode two, this episode was very much backstory; the building blocks laid down for what will come in future episodes. The fascination comes in learning about the Cleon cloning cycle, the subtle sense by Brother Darkness that the Empire is in peril, the mystery of the Vault that appears to be somehow sentient and warns Salvor, and the arrival of the Anacreons who have a significant bone to pick against the Empire because their planet was devastated by the Empire’s army after being accused of the terrorist attack on the Star Bridge.

A lot happens but nothing is revealed about Gaal Dornick’s (Lou Llobell) fate who we saw shoved into an escape pod and put in cryogenic stasis at the end of the previous episode. Instead, Gaal acts as narrator for this episode talking of how the living is surrounded by ghosts and those ghosts can both haunt and warn us of what is to come. Lots of questions are raised as to what will happen to the Foundation on Terminus as well as the fate of the Empire.

But the biggest questions I have are from episode two. Why was Hari Seldon murdered by his aide, Raych Foss, aboard the ship travelling to Terminus? And why did Raych send Gaal off in an escape pod?

So many questions, so few answers.

8 out of 10

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E02 – Preparing to Live

TL;DR – As Hari Seldon and his followers journey to Terminus to set up the second foundation, the Empire tries to find those responsible for bombing the Star Bridge. Emperor Cleon makes a drastic decision to stablise the Empire.

Review (warning: spoilers)

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

Episode two starts with the dwarf planet Aethra and zooming into a lab where we see bodies floating in liquid chambers. Intruders break into the lab in military garb and kill all the scientists, but not before one of them is able to erase a whole heap of data from the computer system. Demerzel (Laura Birn) then comes waltzing in full ballroom gown like something out of the Victorian era with Empire soldiers following her and confronts a scientist who has been shot but is still alive (barely). Turns out the lab is an illicit biohacking facility, and the Empire eliminates such places with extreme prejudice. But this particular lab was identified as the one responsible for creating the bombs that the terrorists used to destroy the Star Bridge seen in episode one. Demerzel questions the scientist asking who contracted them to make the bombs. The scientist though doesn’t give up the ones responsible.

Current emperor, Brother Day (Lee Pace), is displeased. He wonders whether it was a mistake to let Hari Seldon (Jared Harris), Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) and their followers be sent to Terminus. Part of him still suspects they were the ones behind the Star Bridge’s destruction. He is tempted to destroy them and report to the people of the Empire that it was Hari who was responsible for the attack. Demerzel suggests it is dangerous to turn dissidents into martyrs.

The scene then switches to the spaceship carrying Hari and company. We hear Gaal’s voice identifying prime numbers (she’s now up to 86,981,729) while she swims laps in a pool onboard the ship. The crew is still four years and four months out from reaching Terminus, but a significant chunk of time has passed that has resulted in Gaal now in a relationship with Hari’s right-hand man and adopted son, Raych Seldon (Alfred Enoch).

The rest of episode two primarily focuses on life aboard the ship and the training and preparations Hari and company undertake in order to colonise Terminus when they finally arrive. This includes Gaal going through various simulations such as mining with other crew in Terminus caves and being attacked by alien creatures such as a bishop’s claw, and her knowledge tested by Hari who asks questions on problems they are likely to face on Terminus.

Scenes flip back to the Empire where an Anacreon and Thespin delegation (that arrived in episode one) have been arrested because evidence has been found that of the two individuals who blew up the Star Bridge, one sang an Anacreon hunting song while the other spoke a Thespin prayer. While the evidence is somewhat damning, it doesn’t make much sense as Anacreon and Thespin have long hated each other and been at war, so the idea they would collaborate to bomb the Star Bridge and attack the Empire is a stretch. Still, they’re the only suspects Brother Day has.

The development of characters provides enough progression in this second episode to see it through. For example, Demerzel is revealed to be part of an android-like race that were destroyed by Cleon and his armies. She is supposedly the last of her kind and now serves the Cleon Trinity through endless cycles of Cleon clones. She does not seem to harbour ill will toward her masters, which makes me wonder if her role will evolve over time.

I felt the events on Hari’s spaceship and back at Cleon’s empire were setting the scene for what is to come. The calm before the storm. This is never more evident than the discussions between Hari and Gaal. The need to predict what is over the horizon so they can properly prepare weighs on Hari, and there is a scene where he works with the Prime Radiant (a device that stores all of Hari’s psychohistory equations) and appears frustrated, covering his face with both his hands as if not wanting to believe what he sees in the Prime Radiant.

But my expectation of episode two quietly transitioning into the next one was rudely altered. First, Brother Day shows no mercy and executes the Anacreon and Thespin delegations by hanging without proof and has armadas fire destructive lasers devastating the Anacreon and Thespin home planets. This against Brother Dusks’s advice to display a bit of grace.

That would have been enough of an ending for me to close out episode two. Instead, I found myself back on the ship watching Gaal doing her laps again of the pool and figuring out prime numbers. She’s now up to 86,981,827. But then she says 86,981,848… which I immediately recognise is not a prime number because it is even. And I know something has gone wrong.

Gaal realises that’s not right and senses something terrible. She rushes out of the pool to go find Raych only to discover him stabbing Hari to death. Racyh removes something from behind Hari’s ear and tells Gaal she shouldn’t be here. Gaal rushes to Hari’s side to try and stop the bleeding but it’s no use. Alarms start blaring indicating detection that Hari’s life functions have ceased. Raych grabs Gaal’s arm and takes her to an escape pod. He shoves her in there along with the knife he used to kill Hari and watches as the pod fills up with liquid which will put Gaal in a form of stasis. As the liquid rises, you can see Gaal’s confusion and disbelief as Raych reminds her to stay calm and keep counting primes. He confesses his love to her and then ejects the pod into outer space.

Thus ends episode two and I’m left picking up my jaw off the ground.

9 out of 10

TV Review: Foundation (2021) – S01E01 – The Emperor’s Peace

TL;DR – Advancements in film, technology and CGI bring Isaac Asimov’s quintessential sci-fi series to life. This is the new standard in sci-fi cinematic experience. Episode 1 introduces us to Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire, ruled by Emperor Cleon for four centuries through cloning himself.

Review (warning: spoilers)

Let me stress something from the start. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy was published from 1951 to 1953. He actually did the writing of this series in the 1940s. Apple bought the rights to produce the series in 2017 and filming commenced in 2020. It has taken over six decades for a production company to attempt adapting this story to film. Prior to this, Foundation was considered by most as ‘unfilmable’.

The fact that it has now come to our screens is not the point (though this accomplishment is in itself ground breaking). What I want to stress is Asimov is a sci-fi writing genius. Not only did it win the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series (a year where Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien was also nominated), but the complex ideas and concepts have stood the test of time and have translated remarkably well when adapted to film. My mind is blown when it thinks that Asimov imagined Foundation in the 1940s.

Star Trek was written in the mid-1960s and Star Wars was written in the late-1970s. Neither of those sci-fi undertakings are as intelligent and epic as Foundation.

And therein lies the rub.

If you come in expecting Apple+ TV’s offering of Foundation season one to have clear archetypes and a plot that revolves around good versus evil, you will be sorely disappointed.

Foundation revolves around two schools of thought. We have the established Galactic Empire that has been ruled for 400 years by Emperor Cleon XII (Lee Pace) who is known as ‘Brother Day’. The line of emperors began with Cleon the First who cloned himself thus securing his existence in perpetuity. While Brother Day is the established ruler, there is ‘Brother Dusk’ (Terrence Mann) and ‘Brother Dawn’ (Cooper Carter). Brother Dusk is the Cleon clone who is now in his twilight years and Brother Dawn is the Cleon clone that will ascend to be the next emperor. Thus, the cycle is maintained as Dawn grows to become Day, Day grows to become Dusk, and Dusk eventually grows to be ‘Brother Darkness’ (later in the series we see that once a Cleon clone becomes ‘Brother Darkness’ they are turned to ash in a blink of an eye by entering some sort of pulsing laser furnace). The ‘new’ Brother Day gets cloned to create a newborn Brother Dawn. Cleon’s school of thought is to maintain stability throughout the Galactic Empire and allow kingdoms under his rule to flourish. Arguably, the system has worked because we see Trantor (the planet that is the capital of the Galactic Empire) as a hub from which races from all other planetary kingdoms come to.

This system becomes challenged when mathematician and psychohistorian, Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) presents a picture that foretells the Galactic Empire’s destruction and he states that this destruction is a mathematical certainty. Psychohistory was developed by Seldon that incorporates history, statistics and sociology to predict future events of a large group of people. Seldon posits that you can’t foresee the actions of an individual, but future events can be predicted over a general population mass.

As you can imagine, the Cleon trinity are not impressed with Seldon’s prophecy.

Episode one sets this all up and introduces Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) who lives on Synnax (a world that shuns any pursuit of science). Turns out Gaal is a science prodigy and she is whisked away at the bequest of Emperor Cleon and brought to Trantor to debunk Seldon’s psychohistorical forecast.

Seldon’s inquisition by the Cleon trinity is a brilliant sequence of events culminating in Gaal’s honest proclamation that Seldon’s calculations are correct. This coincides with a spectacular scene where the Starbridge (a station that acts as a flight terminal and connects new arrivals to Trantor by a giant space elevator that exceeds the Tower of Babel; it takes 14 hours to get from the Starbridge terminal down to Trantor ground level) is destroyed by terrorists.

This leads to a conundrum for the Cleon trinity. It appears that the downfall of the Galactic Empire has begun, and Brother Dusk’s initial reaction is to execute Hari Seldon as he perceives the scientist as creating a movement against the Empire. However, Brother Day is not so brash and questions Seldon and Gaal further. Gaal manages to convince Brother Day that Seldon represents hope and if you destroy hope then you will accelerate the Empire’s destruction.

Brother Day then questions Seldon and asks him if the downfall can be accelerated then can it not also be slowed? Seldon answers in the affirmative and states it can be slowed by a few centuries if imperial cloning is stopped. He goes on to say that the dynastic line of Cleon offers nothing different, nothing new that all it offers is “a younger grape from the same vine destined for the same old bottle.” He then declares, “You can’t save yourselves, but you can save your legacy.”

After deliberation, the Cleon trinity decides to stay Seldon’s execution and instead allows him to proceed with building a second foundation (in the words of Seldon, he calls it an ‘encyclopedic galactica’) but that this will not occur on Trantor. Instead, Seldon and Gaal (along with Seldon’s followers) will establish this new foundation on Terminus (an uninhabited ice rock of a planet on the outer reaches of the galaxy). Essentially, they are being exiled.

The emperor’s strategy is thus, the galaxy will know that he has sent Seldon to fight the fall of the Empire and if it proves that psychohistory is fraudulent then the foundation will simply wither and die. If the foundation proves to be true then the emperor will be seen as co-opting in saving the Empire and bolster its regime. To Brother Day, it is a win-win.

All this in the first episode. Epic does not do justice to describe this jaw dropping opening act. Asimov, you would be proud. It is worth noting that Robyn Asimov (Isaac’s daughter) serves as executive producer. I wonder if Isaac used psychohistory to predict that one day his Foundation series would lift off the pages and shoot into the stratosphere and beyond.

9.5 out of 10