"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Friday, November 19, 2021

Foundation Season 1 Finale: Right Up There

It's a little after 1am, Friday, 19 November 2021, a few miles north of New York City, as I write this.  I just saw the season 1 finale -- episode 1.10 -- of the Foundation series on Apple TV+.  It came on the screen at 12 midnight, as the day began.  Unlike Paramount Plus, which says a show (such as Star Trek Discovery) begins on a given day, but doesn't make it available on the East Coast until 3 in the morning of the stated day.  I just wanted to give a shout-out to Apple TV+ on that account.

And there are other, more profound accounts, when it comes to the Foundation series.  It says at the end of this episode that the series is based on the novels of Isaac Asimov (in the same size letters as the other major credits).  And that's why I started watching this series.  I had hopes, but I didn't expect all that much.  I saw on Reddit that there's a Soviet adaptation of Asimov's The End of Eternity, to this very day, still my favorite time travel novel, which I first read in the summer of 1959. I'll watch that, too.  It has English subtitles.  A series made in 1987, in the steep twilight of the Soviet Union.  I really doubt that I'll love it as much as the novel, but I'll watch it.

As I watched the first ten episodes of the Foundation series.  And it far exceeded my expectations.  I didn't enjoy them quite as much as I enjoyed the first novel in the Foundation trilogy, but then again, I loved and still treasure the second novel a lot more than the first.  And there were things that I loved in first season of this Foundation TV series, which bore vibrant, compelling fruit in the season finale.

[Spoilers follow ... ]

Like the triple Cleon clone story, a standalone masterpiece.   Day's willingness to bend and accept Dawn despite his differences; Demerzel killing Dawn anyway, in defiance of Day; and Day learning that his DNA was tampered with, possibly not likely even Dusk's, was brilliant drama.  And Demerzel, for whom killing seems to be all too easy, though she rips off her human face at the end, is a powerful piece of storytelling, even if it defies Asimov's laws of robotics (at least the first three laws, maybe not the zeroth law).  Given, however, that the clone story has almost nothing to do with Asimov's Foundation stories, I find that breach of Asimov permissible.  (Again, kudos to Lee Pace and Terrence Mann for their performances as Day and Dusk.)

Now as to the story that has much more to do with Asimov's writing:  I like that Gaal and Raych are Salvor's parents.  Makes sense, a nice way to tie Salvor to Hari, who is her grandfather.  And a nice way to set up the mentalism of the Second Foundation.   As to all the prior action that took place on Terminus and its environs, some of it was closer to Asimov, some of it was not, none of it was all that great, anyway, in my opinion.  But as I said before, Asimov's first novel was the least splendid in the original trilogy, so that's ok.

Making this first season of Asimov's masterwork, which I consider the best science fiction ever written, was difficult.   Making it as good as Asimov's masterwork was impossible.  The Foundation series first season succeeded in the first, and could never succeed in the second.  But it got up there, in that rarefied atmosphere, by offering an alternate history of Asimov's Foundation stories, and a story of the beginning of the dissolution of the clonal Emperor which is the best clone story I've ever read or seen.

So I'll take that, happily, and be back with reviews of the second season as soon as it begins, back on the screen at the stroke of midnight in New York, at the time of day it's supposed to be seen.

See also Foundation 1.1-2: Mathematician, Man of the People, and Cleon's Clones ... Foundation 1.3: Clonal Science Fiction, Hari Seldon as V. I. Lenin ... Foundation 1.4: Slow Hand, Long Half-Life, Flipped Coin ... Foundation 1.5: What We Learned in that Final Scene ... Foundation 1.6: Folded Variations ... Foundation 1.7: Alternate History/Future ... Foundation 1.8: Divergences and Convergences ... Foundation 1.9: Vindication and Questions

Coming Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 -- a conversation with Cora Buhlert, Joel McKinnon, and me about the first season of Foundation.  If you're not familiar with their work, here's where you can get to know them:

Cora Buhlert's reviews of the first season of Foundation ... Joel McKinnon's Seldon Crisis podcast ... Joel's What I Like about the Show on Reddit.

Note added 24 Nov 2021:  And here is the interview:



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