'Foundation': How Apple TV+'s New Show Adapted an Unfilmable Book Series

Like Dune, Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy was seen as "unfilmable" because it has a vastly complicated plot that spans centuries and is centered on a large group of characters across several universes.

Despite the claims it wasn't possible to adapt it for the silver screen, David S. Goyer was determined to do so and he created a 10-part first season for Apple TV+, the first two episodes of which were released on September 24.

Foundation follows revolutionary scientist Dr. Hari Seldon, who predicts the fall of the Empire and decides to establish The Foundation to help save civilization, an act that incurs the wrath of the ruling emperor clones, known as Cleons.

It stars Jared Harris as Seldon, Lee Pace as clone emperor Brother Dawn, and Lou Llobell as Gaal Dornick and Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin.

Here is how Goyer adapted the books.

How Did the Project Begin?

Goyer first learned the rights for Foundation were available while working on Terminator: Dark Fate with James Cameron in 2017.

Speaking to BBC Culture about it, Goyer said Cameron warned him it would be "hard" to adapt, but he wanted to because his late father had a deep love for the books and gave him the trilogy on his 13th birthday.

Goyer decided the best way to tackle the vastness of Asimov's creation was to make it into a long-form television series.

He said: "I did pitch eight seasons to Apple. I know the end point, I know what we're writing towards. I know the fate of all of the characters.

"In season one there are some story threads that we are laying that will hopefully be answered in future seasons. I'm in it for the long haul. I hope we get there."

How Does the Adaptation Differ From Its Source Material?

Goyer has made some changes from the books, giving it a modern twist since the originals were written in the 1950s.

One of the biggest changes he made was gender-swapping several characters so there were more female heroes; Dornick, played by Llobell, and Harvey's Hardin are both male in the books, for example.

Goyer also decided the Empire should be ruled by three differently aged clones of the same man, played by Pace, Terrence Mann and Cassian Bilton, respectively.

As well as making character changes, the showrunner wanted to focus on current topics like Brexit, MeToo and climate change, because Asimov did a similar thing at the time he wrote the novels.

In his conversation with BBC Culture, Goyer explained: "He wasn't writing about the distant future. He was writing a post-World War Two environment. He was talking about Nazi Germany."

Goyer added: "The first thing I said to the Asimov Estate is that Asimov crafted Foundation to be a mirror so I need to write about what's happening now."

The first two episodes of Foundation are available on Apple TV+ now, with episodes airing weekly on Fridays.

Leah Harvey in Foundation
Lee Pace in Foundation
Foundation press still
Leah Harvey, Lee Pace, Lou Llobell and Jared Harris in "Foundation"