Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy is many things: An epic sci-fi classic about the fall of the galaxy. A tale that spans 1,000 years and dozens of planets. A contemplation of mathematics and humanity’s ageless questions.
What Foundation is not, however, is easy to surmise.
Since the 1990s, New Line, Sony and HBO have all tried to develop film adaptations of the ultra-complex trilogy, but to no avail.
So when David S. Goyer met with Apple TV executives about making Foundation into a series, he was ready.
“Apple asked me if I could pitch it in one sentence,” Goyer told The Hollywood Reporter in a deep-dive career retrospective interview covering his past hits and future projects. “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 the queens.’”
So a bit like Game of Thrones in space – but over a much, much longer time span.
In adapting the seemingly unadaptable project, Goyer found there were a trio of problems others had faced along the way.
“There are three tricky aspects to Foundation that I think have tripped up all the other adaptations,” he said. “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 the books are kind of anthological. You’ll have couple of short stories in the first book with main character Salvor Hardin, then you’ll jump forward a hundred years and there’ll be a different character.”
He continued, “The third thing is that they’re not particularly emotional; they’re books about ideas, about concepts. 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. So without giving too much away, I figured out a way to have some of the characters extend their lifespans. About six characters will continue from season to season, from century to century. That way it becomes half anthological, half continuing story.”
Goyer has pitched the project as a potential 80-hour story spread across eight seasons. “No one knows if it will work, but I can say there’s definitely never been a show like it on TV before,” he said.
See Goyer’s complete in-depth interview discussing his work on The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, Blade, and his upcoming projects, including Netflix’s Sandman and horror thriller The Dark House.