Jan 25, 2015

Not Holding My Breath

June 1942 Astounding
Five or six years ago rumors circulated that Isaac Asimov's Foundation saga might be put through the Hollywood meat grinder. Given the rather cerebral nature of Asimov's science fiction, I am not surprised that a Foundation movie never emerged from the land of shoot and go boom. Recently, rumors have been floated that 1) Asimov's Foundation, 2) Clarke's 3001 and 3) his Childhood's End as well as 4) a reboot of the X-Files might all find their way into production as new television shows. As a fan of Asimov, Clarke and The X-Files, I'm intrigued and fearful of what might develop from these projects.

The rumor is that HBO intends to tell stories that are based on Asimov's original Foundation Trilogy. Asimov's original Foundation tales were published in Astounding magazine over 60 years ago.....will those old stories mesh with modern sensibilities? Another important consideration is that Asimov later "re-imagined" the Foundation saga, linking the Foundation stories with his positronic robot stories. My advice to HBO and Jonathan Nolan is that they make R. Daneel Olivaw a major star of their Foundation television show and give plenty of screen time to a female robotic character, possibly a "reincarnated" Dors.

August 1944 Astounding
I've previously mentioned my enthusiasm for the way that Asimov inserted Daneel into the Foundation saga. In Forward the Foundation, published the year after Asimov's death, Asimov depicted Daneel as the mastermind behind Hari Seldon. In Foundation and Earth, Asimov showed the end game for the Foundation, a future in which Daneel's Galaxia project might be completed. In the final analysis, "Seldon's Foundation Project" was just Daneel's way to develop the last bits of technology that were needed to make Galaxia possible.

With Foundation and Earth and Forward the Foundation, Asimov showed how to knit together the saga of Hari Seldon and the Foundations with the 20,000 year long effort of Daneel to satisfy the Zeroth Law. This "knitting" was an act of literary genius, Asimov's last great gift to the science fiction genre.

Time Vault
holographic recording of Hari Seldon
The first episode of any Foundation television show should be an hour-long rush to depict the fledgling Foundation on Terminus, mired in its first Seldon Crisis and then culminating with a dramatic appearance by Seldon in the Time Vault. A Second Foundation agent, the daughter of Wanda should be shown at work on Terminus.

".....the Second Foundation is directing the historical course of the Galaxy....." - Pelleas Anthor

Time Travel
April 1945 Astounding
Psychohistory is the key pseudoscientific myth that supports the Cult of Seldon. Daneel makes use of religion as the glue that holds together the forming Foundation. The key miracles of the early Foundation Era are the recordings of Seldon that are timed to play exactly when the growing Foundation faces its greatest challenges.

The End of Eternity
A Foundation television show should show time travel technology being used to make possible the ability of the psychohistorians to seemingly predict the future. The Prime Radiant is a kind of mind-control device that allows the psychohistorians to "view the future" and encode their visions in a mathematical format while preventing them from being consciously aware of the role that time travel technology plays in their work. The role of time travel (and who wields the time travel technology) should be the big reveal in the second episode of a Foundation television series.

In The End of Eternity, the Eternals constantly worked to keep Humanity safe by "editing out of Time" inventions like nuclear bombs and the mass duplicator. Daneel faced the inverse challenge: creating the conditions under which human ingenuity could discover the one last innovation required to complete Galaxia. The dynamic tension between the First and Second Foundations concealed a carefully orchestrated effort to allow research into mentalics and advanced hyperspatial drive technology.....exactly what was needed to complete the Galaxia supermind.

November 1945 Astounding
I'm not convinced that anyone in Hollywood has ever figured out how to depict telepathic communication and the type of non-linguistic  "mentalic" control of emotions depicted by Asimov in the Foundation saga. A Foundation television show needs to flawlessly show "mentalic mind control" and telepathic communication between Second Foundationers and positronic robots like Daneel.

Asimov knew that there was no way to mathematically predict the future and in the decades following the 1940s, concepts such as the "butterfly effect" have entered into the common consciousness. Asimov clearly illustrated that human progress cannot be predicted when he wrote the Mule into the Foundation saga. The Mule was portrayed as a dramatic random factor that could break the magical spell of Seldon's infallibility, a spell that had given the people of the early First Foundation their confidence. After The Mule's rise to power, the First Foundation had to face the fact that a Second Foundation, a cadre of genetic mutants with "mentalic" powers, was secretly at work in the galaxy. I'd rush to show the Mule crushing the First Foundation by the end of the third episode of a Foundation Television series. Bayta should be shown as the key First Foundationer resiting the Mule.

January 1948 Astounding
The central tension of a Foundation television show needs to be based on the audience's ability to identify with the First Foundationers and their struggle to not be puppets of the Second Foundationers. At the same time, viewers must be shown how Daneel is secretly working to use the Foundations for his own purpose (creating Galaxia). And lurking behind Daneel must be the mystery of who it is that has access to time travel technology and who "gave" telepathic powers to the positronic robots.

After the defeat of the Mule, the First Foundationers must be returned to their state of ignorant bliss, convinced that the Second Foundation has been destroyed.

November 1949 Astounding
I'd make Arkady the main character of episode 4, but it needs to be shown how Lady Callia uses her mentalic power to control Arkady. Once the struggle between the First and Second Foundation is established, then a Foundation television series can loop back and do all of Asimov's original Foundation stories in a more leisurely fashion. The fate of Arkady can be left hanging and remain to be resolved at the very end of the series.

Don't Hold Your Breath
I'd love to see something good come out of HBO's ownership of the rights to develop a video version of Asimov's Foundation trilogy, but I'm not holding my breath.

2017 update: Goyer and Friedman/Foundation rumor
Imagined magazine covers

End of March Update: Fox confirmed that several new episodes of The X-Files will enter production during summer 2015.
Update 2016: The X-Files Season 10
Reality TV: New Miss Universe Contest

No comments:

Post a Comment