“Foundation” Review: Lee Pace Embodies Sexy Grandeur in the Apple TV+ Adaptation of Isaac Asimov Novels

Lee Pace in “Foundation.” Photo Courtesy: Apple TV+

Rating: 6/10

Had I only watched the first three episodes of Foundation, this would have been a much less favorable review. The new Apple TV+ show and adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction books premieres this Friday, September 24, with the first two episodes. The rest of the 10-episode first season will be released weekly, with one new episode every Friday. All 10 episodes of Foundation were available for review.

You have to be patient with Foundation. Even if you’re into high-concept adaptations of science-fiction properties. This is definitely more Westworld than The Mandalorian, and things don’t start paying off or making any sense until halfway through episode three. There’s no instant gratification in Foundation. Well, other than Lee Pace’s arms.

Pace (Pushing Daisies) plays the Day incarnation of a cloned galactic emperor who has a Dusk (Terrence Mann) older version and a Dawn (Cassian Bilton) younger one. Somehow the show manages to find excuses to feature the actor in various degrees of undress throughout the season. I wouldn’t normally object to it if it wasn’t because I felt Pace’s nakedness didn’t always feel organic and I thought/hoped prestige TV had moved on from the days of the objectifying gaze.

Let me bring you back to Foundation’s plot. The genetic dynasty of emperors led by Pace’s character is supposed to bring stability to the universe. But the mathematician Hari Seldon (Jared Harris) thinks otherwise, and he enlists math prodigy Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell) to help him prove civilization is doomed to collapse. Seldon wants to establish a foundation of scholars to preserve humanity’s knowledge when things come to an end.

That’s — very simply put — the premise of Foundation. The show, which is executive produced and run by David S. Goyer (Man of Steel), takes the overused nonlinear route and goes back and forth between several time periods and several characters and planets. There’s a whole lot of worldbuilding and mythology-explaining in the first episodes of Foundation, which only makes things more complicated to follow. This is not a series for the idle viewer who wants to fold laundry or check Instagram while casually watching.

The character of Gaal adds to the whole exposition element of Foundation with a prescient voiceover that says mostly intense things like “When a planet wants you dead, you die,” “Math is never just numbers” or “The most advanced math is like a sixth sense. The right calculation can allow us to see in the horizon.” But just when the show feels a bit too much like homework, things start adding up, and you get to spend time with Foundation’s true protagonist: the extremely charismatic Salvor Hardin (Leah Harvey).