To say Apple TV+’s Foundation diverges from its source material would be a bit of an understatement.
An adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s classic science fiction novels, Foundation is less interested in following its source material to the letter than it is in creating a story within Asimov’s universe that would make good TV. The basic plot remains the same: mathematician Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) foretells the fall of the Galactic Empire thanks to his theory of psychohistory. Knowing the fall is inevitable, he establishes the Foundation in order to preserve knowledge and, hopefully, civilization in the years to come.
Foundation takes this story and tweaks it in some pretty big ways, which makes sense when considering the scale of Asimov’s work. The Foundation books are collections of interlocking stories and novellas whose events span hundreds of years, not to mention an entire galaxy. Characters who appear in one story may be long dead in the next, and so much happens in between stories that we never fully “see” on the page. These elements make creating a completely faithful TV show rather challenging, which explains several of showrunner David S. Goyer’s choices to deviate from the books.
Here are the biggest changes Foundation has made so far. The following contains massive spoilers for the show and the books, so consider yourselves warned!
Pulling from the prequels
The opening episode of Foundation sticks fairly closely to “The Psychohistorians,” the first story in Foundation, which recounts Hari’s trial and Gaal Dornick’s (Lou Llobell) journey to Trantor. However, the show incorporates some characters and elements from Asimov’s Foundation prequels into this story. Neither Hari’s adopted son Raych (Alfred Enoch), the Emperors’ minister Demerzel (Laura Birn), nor the Prime Radiant appear in “The Psychohistorians.” Their presence here helps expand Foundation‘s cast of characters, as the cast of “The Psychohistorians” is pretty sparse and varies greatly from other Foundation stories.
Speaking of not appearing in “The Psychohistorians,” let’s talk about one of the most blatant changes made to Foundation: the Emperors. Brother Dawn (Cooper Carter), Brother Day (Lee Pace), and Brother Dusk (Terrence Mann) are genetic clones of Emperor Cleon at three different stages in his life cycle. Emperor Cleon does show up in the prequels to Foundation (albeit not in “The Psychohistorians” or Foundation itself), but he does not clone himself. In fact, there is no cloning in the Foundation novels, so this is a massive departure. However, having a genetic dynasty allows for character continuity throughout the season, which is helpful when dealing with the scope of Foundation.
Gaal Dornick and Synnax
Gaal is one of many Foundation characters who has been gender-swapped for this series, with others including Demerzel and Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey). But perhaps the biggest change to her character is that she actually has a personality now. In “The Psychohistorians,” Gaal is essentially an audience surrogate used to present the reader to Trantor and Hari. All we know about him is that he’s a gifted mathematician from the faraway planet of Synnax.
In the show, Gaal is still a gifted mathematician, and she’s still from Synnax. However, she has a more defined backstory involving the tensions between religion and science on Synnax, which have made her a pariah. Asimov never discusses Synnax’s culture, so everything in the show about the Church of the Seer and the purges of scientists is entirely new. These changes lend more texture to Foundation‘s universe and make Gaal a more compelling character.
Trantor and the Starbridge
You know that whole sequence where terrorists from Anacreon and Thespis destroy Trantor’s Starbridge, causing it to crash into the planet in spectacular fashion? None of that happens in Foundation. In fact, the Starbridge doesn’t even exist in Foundation. Asimov’s novels were very light on big action sequences and planetary carnage, but their inclusion here helps visualize the problems the Galactic Empire is facing.
Anacreon and Thespis
Since the Starbridge incident is an invention for the show, the political fallout and subsequent bombing of Anacreon and Thespis are also departures from Asimov’s books. That being said, the planet of Anacreon figures heavily into the later stories of Foundation, specifically “The Encyclopedists” and “The Mayors.” Thespis, meanwhile, straight up does not exist. The name may be a reference to Asimov’s short story “Fair Exchange?” about a time traveler who tries to save the musical score of Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Thespis.
Journey to Terminus
The Foundation’s journey from Trantor to Terminus is not in the Foundation novels, so basically everything that happens in Gaal and Hari’s storyline is completely new. Gaal and Raych never meet in the books, much less start a romantic relationship. Hari does not make the journey to Terminus, nor does Raych kill him. (He does die in the books, but it isn’t shown.)
We’ll update this post as more episodes of Foundation stream on Apple TV+ and potentially deviate from Asimov’s novels even more.