Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy Heads For TV

Asimov's Foundation (book)

by James White |
Published on

The attempt to turn Isaac Asimov's sprawling and hugely influential Foundation sci-fi book trilogy is one that has frustrated filmmakers and studios for decades. It's been mooted as a big screen project several times, but television – particularly the prestige channels that have cropped up on cable and via the streaming services – might be its natural home. Now Skydance has David Goyer and Josh Friedman taking a fresh crack at the idea on the small screen.

Foundation is partly the story of a mathematician called Hari Seldon, who has invented a science called "psychohistory" which can predict the future for large-scale human concerns (so not whether you'll meet a mysterious stranger, but definitely whether civilisation will survive the next millennium). Sheldon sees that the Galactic Empire in which he lives is going to collapse, and that there will be a period of barbarism lasting 30,000 years, but he also predicts that, with the help of psychohistory and a planet called Foundation filled with experts in sciences and philosophy from all over the Empire, that barbaric age can be reduced to 1,000 years. The first book, Foundation, tells the story of that planet. Follow-ups reveal that another planet, Second Foundation, was set up to hold the psychohistorians themselves in isolation, while further adventures revolve around the development of the plan.

This one has bounced between creative folk and companies in its time, landing at different points with such various names as Roland Emmerich and Westworld's Jonah Nolan, who was working up a version for HBO, but switched to focus on the Crichton adaptation instead. The big problems with making Foundation work on screen are manifold, but mostly because of its huge nature (it has been compared to Game Of Thrones in terms of scale), the lack of any sort of protagonist or standard narrative structure, and the fact that so much of it has been mined by movies and TV series that came after (hello, Star Wars), so it'll be tough to avoid looking like you're ripping them off.

Still, Goyer has a lot of genre experience with the likes of the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and more, and Friedman has written and produced a variety of projects – he's part of James Cameron's Avatar sequels team and is overseeing the TV version of Snowpiercer.

But maybe we'll finally see Asimov's work taken off that "unfilmmable" shelf, and whether it can truly work on screen...

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