Re: Asimov's Foundation novels

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So I am a bit more than halfway through my re-read of the 7-book Foundation series. Last night I finished Foundation's Edge, the first sequel to the original trilogy. It strongly reinforced my perception of the sequels and prequels being better than the original books. About the first book and a half of the original trilogy are a real slog to get through, not only because they are dated and there is essentially no character development (other than how somebody puffs a cigar), but also because Asimov simply wasn't as good a writer then. Contrast that with Foundation's Edge, which to me is a real page-turner. It's one that given enough time (ie, not restricted to about an hour in the evening), I could read cover to cover. And it's much thicker than any of the earlier books (though some of that is due to larger print). There is character development (even if sometimes stereotypical, e.g, the old professor constantly calling his companion "dear chap" and so forth), and in spite of the book still being 99% people talking, it moves along.

That said, I was surprised by one thing rereading Foundation's Edge this time: the rather sexist treatment of the female characters. The female speaker from the Second Foundation and the Mayor of Terminus are presented essentially as villains, and Bliss, the native of Gaia introduced near the end, is presented to be viewed as a sex object by the male characters. The old professor is clearly smitten by her, though ironically, she is essentially a topic of derision for his Lothario companion. This guy derides her for being female and young. At the end, he explains why he reacts to her that way instead of bedding her (let's just say he thinks she isn't human), but it doesn't erase the impression of rudeness from his earlier behavior. I suppose this is probably about the fourth time I've read Foundation's Edge, but I don't recall ever picking up on that before. I don't recall that this behavior continues in Foundation and Earth (which I hope to begin again tonight), so it can be shrugged off and doesn't, at least for me, detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel.

I wonder how the TV series will handle the later books. I hope they don't constantly have clone emperors popping up in the midst of the story. That would be a detour from the author's story worse than Elves showing up at Helm's Deep.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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I am wondering how Trantor will be depicted visually in the Apple show. The second trailer showed a couple of shots that are presumably it, but which just looked like a big city, not even necessarily that futuristic. Asimov's description of it in the books is a bit vague early on: planet-encircling city, soaring towers to exchange heat with the atmosphere. In the later books, Trantor is no longer a major player and is "off-screen." The prequels return to Trantor and in Prelude to Foundation, Asimov descries the planet in fair detail. Though it is still one enormous city, it is clear that it was separate cities that grew together, and each is covered by a dome, such that the surface appears as a vast collection of domes. Moreover, windblown soil has partially covered the domes, such that the valleys between them support limited plant life, even trees in some instances. This is, I'd say, definitely at variance with even the vague descriptions from the early books.

I don't suppose it matters, because the show will make it look like whatever they think it should look like. But it seems to me that since Asimov went to some pains to describe it, they should at least somewhat follow that, especially as it would help prevent comparisons to that other Imperial planet totally inspired by Trantor: Coruscant.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Honestly, I think the skeleton of Asimov's story is very evident in the trailers. It's just that they have hung considerable meat on those bones that may not look like what old-time Asimov readers are expecting. They have definitely made some changes, like the clone emperors, but some of what you're seeing that doesn't look familiar may be because I think they are incorporating elements of the prequels, or at least of the second prequel, Forward the Foundation, into the story. For example, the young black man whom Hari embraces is, I am pretty sure, supposed to be Raych, his adopted son from the prequels. Also, IIRC in the second prequel there is considerable unrest on Trantor leading up the the departure of the group going to settle Terminus. I think they are also following the school of trailer production that says, put a lot of big flashy things on screen to draw in the Great Unwashed, and count on the Faithful to show up anyway.

I also saw a video where David Goyer talks more about the production over scenes from the new trailer. He does admit that they have not stuck absolutely strictly to the books but one of their goals was to make the story more intimate and emotional, which let's face it, the earlier books were not. He also said they very much wanted to steer away from the look and feel of the main pillars of sci fi movies that most people are familiar with, which are primarily Star Wars and Star Trek, with maybe a smidgen of Alien worked in. He said they challenged their visual artists to come up with a fresh look. That's an area where, at least basted on the trailers, I think they have succeeded in spades, however good or bad the show ends up being. Some of these planetary scenes in the trailers look like science fiction made incarnate, or at least my perception of it. Example, the ringed planet, which is the homeworld of Gaal Dornick. Stunning. He also said they shot on real locations, and for effects with miniatures instead of CGI, as much as possible, to make it feel real. As an adaptation, it may end up bleh, but it's going to look epic, IMHO.

All that said, we were never going to get a 100% faithful, literal adaptation of the Foundation books. I think if we have the mindset that this is a fantasia on Foundation, in the musical sense of improvising on a melody, and stay open to it, we will be entertained. He didn't say this in so many words, but I caught a strong echo of Peter Jackson from 20 years ago, saying that job #1 was to tell a good story and job #2 was fidelity. Most of us were reasonably pleased by the results of that approach to LOTR, and I am certainly willing to give Foundation a chance. If nothing else, remember that at one point not that may years ago, ROLAND EMMERICH was going to be making Foundation, and ponder how good a movie that would have been. I imagine it would have been along the lines of the dismal Starship Troopers movie, at best.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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https://youtu.be/gp7i4IA1niM

Tbis you tuber is basically saying a lot of the things that I was trying to convey. When all is said a d done, I think each person that has read the books and then watches the series is going to have to decide for themselves whether it deserves the name Foundation. I’m also thinking about a friend of mine who says about the Last Jedi, that it was a good movie, but maybe just not a good Star Wars movie.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Olorin wrote: Fri Aug 20, 2021 8:34 am https://youtu.be/gp7i4IA1niM

Tbis you tuber is basically saying a lot of the things that I was trying to convey. When all is said a d done, I think each person that has read the books and then watches the series is going to have to decide for themselves whether it deserves the name Foundation. I’m also thinking about a friend of mine who says about the Last Jedi, that it was a good movie, but maybe just not a good Star Wars movie.
Which is pretty much along the lines of "a movie loosely based on the Foundation stories and characters created by Isaac Asimov."


"Unless you're prepared to surrender everything, don't surrender anything."

When seconds matter, it's reassuring to know that the police are only minutes away.

"Only the paranoid survive."

Re: Asimov's Foundation novels

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The first two episodes are now available. I have not watched yet; I'm waiting to get the shipping notice for my new iPhone, which should also include a link for a free year of Apple TV+. But I have skimmed a few reviews, in both video and written form, so if you don't want spoilers even of the "is this good, bad, or indifferent" variety, stop reading now.

The two strongest impressions I've gotten are that 1) if you want absolute faithfulness to Asimov, you'll be disappointed, but we knew going in they were not going to stick strictly to the books, for all the previously discussed reason, and 2) if you have not read the books and are not good at keeping up with time jumps, you'll be confused. Not only does every show want to be the next Game of Thrones, but this one apparently wants to be Westworld. That is a show I really enjoy, but it has a lot of time jumps in it, and in the first season they were so subtle I didn't realize they were there. It wasn't until the end, when it was revealed the old guy and the young guy were the same person, that I realized that it was two time periods running concurrently. Anyway, Foundation jumps around quite a bit apparently.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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I’ve seen both episodes multiple times and I’m very much in the camp of loving it. It’s a brilliantly cast show, Lee Pace is incredible in his role - he has been likened to Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator - I love Jared Harris as Harri Seldon and I love Lou Llobel as Gaal Dornick.

Costumes and production design are incredible - this may top Star Wars for me. Actually, it has topped Star Wars. It’s far more beautiful, visually speaking.

Having read about half of the first book I recognise the major events but there’s definitely a lot of embellishment. A word for word adaption of Foundation just wouldn’t have worked. As long as the ideas translate I think it has potential. Critical reception is a little mixed but still fairly positive and from what I’ve heard it’s already been given a second season. Oh and also the opening title sequence is very beautiful. I can’t wait for the rest of the episodes.

I didn’t realise that the Foundation saga quietly tied in with I,robot though- which I also didn’t realise was an Asimov story. For those who have read it, how different is the I,robot movie to the book?
"All those moments will be lost, in time... like tears, in the rain..."

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Lindir, putting the Foundation series per se aside for the moment, I must say, you ought to consider writing movie reviews as a career.
I don't know if you still do photography, but if you do, think about doing the reviews as a side gig.
You really are very good at comprehensive analysis of movies/dramatizations.


"Unless you're prepared to surrender everything, don't surrender anything."

When seconds matter, it's reassuring to know that the police are only minutes away.

"Only the paranoid survive."

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I, Robot, the Isaac Asimov novel, is really just a collection of short stories originally published separately, much like Foundation in that regard, but with a framing device added later to weave them together for publication in one volume. The movie, on the other hand, utilizes none of those stories but take some of the characters and the basic ideas that Asimov used in his various robot stories to make an original story for the movie. As there was no chance Hollywood was ever going to green light a movie based literally on the book, where it’s a bunch of separate stories strung loosely together, I thought that what they came up with for the movie was very good. I really enjoyed it. So again, if somebody’s demanding absolute fidelity to Asimov, they wouldn’t like the movie, but if they could accept a story using the ideas, and set aside their preconceptions, they should enjoy it.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Thanks Deimos, but tbh I’ve never really considered it. Writing is not something I feel I’m particularly good at and always worry people think what I write is an incoherent mess haha

Though I’m glad you enjoyed my short review of Foundation. I’m sure I’ll add to it as the season continues. I feel very invested in this show already and there’s a lot to digest and also a lot to appreciate about it straight from the outset.

I’m interested in hearing what you both think when you both get round to it, it’ll be interesting to compare my thoughts with people who have read the entire series and know where things are going. Like I said, I only read the first half of the first book so I have little to go haha
"All those moments will be lost, in time... like tears, in the rain..."

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Lindir wrote: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:11 am ...

I’m interested in hearing what you both think when you both get round to it, it’ll be interesting to compare my thoughts with people who have read the entire series and know where things are going. Like I said, I only read the first half of the first book so I have little to go haha
Uhhh... Lindir, don't hold your breath. I will never watch the series for 2 reasons: 1) I don't get streamed stuff (by choice). Zip. Nada. None.

2)Even if I did I still wouldn't watch it. Far too many reviews have voiced the same objections to it that I have stated: to wit, it isn't Asimov's Foundation stories. It's a series that has the same name and some characters that loosely resemble the characters in the stories.
I can't justify taking the time to watch it, not at my age. :rolleye: I probably have less than 20 good years left (more likely 15) and I don't want to spend a minute of them watching something I know I will dislike.

Sorry to disappoint your hope of hearing from someone who has read the stories.
But Olorin can provide that perspective, as can Kit. Can't recall who else on the forum has read the stories ... Val maybe.


"Unless you're prepared to surrender everything, don't surrender anything."

When seconds matter, it's reassuring to know that the police are only minutes away.

"Only the paranoid survive."

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I will be watching it, despite whatever concerns I may have, but I have to wait until the new phone arrives (in about a week) to get the free subscription link. However, if you want to check out what some YouTubers think, there are two that have read the books and (thus far) seem thoughtful and level-headed to me. They are Quinn's Ideas and Foundation Era. Quinn is mainly a Dune guy (and is beside himself with anticipation for that), while Foundation Era (Luigi) is mainly about...well, the channel name says it. They've both posted reviews of the first few episodes. I only skimmed them, as I was worried about them being spoilery, so I don't remember if they are spoilery. So be warned.

More later. In the meantime, breakfast and then work....
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Since I haven't watched it yet, I am not yet in a position to say it isn't Foundation, or it is Foundation, but it raises a question, or questions. Is there a certain level of fidelity to the source that is necessary for an adaptation to "be" what it bears the name of? And what is that level?

Ian McKellen said, prior to the debut of FOTR, that PJ's LOTR movies were perhaps the most faithful adaptation ever made of a long work. Setting aside our sometimes-raison-d'etre of cataloging PJ's trilogy's digressions from the source, most of us would agree that it was very faithful in macro-scale and reasonable faithful at a finer scale. Yet it was "not" LOTR for me. As much as I loved it, it exists in a different place from the books. Only the book, as I see it in my minds' eye as I read it, "is" LOTR, for me. I have absolutely no doubt that the same will be true of Foundation, and for that matter, Dune. My requirements for success, defined in terms of my personal liking of it, are that it not disrespect the source by negating or upending essential facets of the source for frivolous or inscrutable reasons. I did skim the Quinn's Ideas video review of the first two episodes and while he said it greatly expanded upon the story, it did not disrespect it. Of course, 2 episodes into a planned 80-episode adaptation is a tiny bit too early to make a final judgment, but I think for me that approach is good. It can be more than Foundation as long as it does not make choices that make it less than Foundation.

I'll also probably look at it in terms of how it compares to other Asimov adaptations, which admittedly is setting the bar pretty low. The I, Robot adaptation bore no resemblance to the book in that it was not an adaptation of it, but rather used robots, Asimov concepts, and a few Asimov characters to tell an original story. Because I knew going into it that it was going to do this, I judged it on its own terms and really liked it. At the other end of the scale was the dreaded 1988 adaptation of "Nightfall," one of Asimov's best-known short stories. It was not good, oh no Precious, not good at all. Asimov didn't even know they did it until after it was out. He'd sold the rights long ago and the producers never told him they were doing it. Friends of his told him to be glad he never saw it. Those were good friends. Anyway, my expectations for Foundation are that it will be incredibly better than Nightfall by any measure, and much more faithful than I, Robot in that it will include the basic story, no matter how much it expands upon it. My biggest concern, honestly, is that their Tarantino (non-linear) approach to story telling will make it too confusing for many people to follow, perhaps even their own screen-writers. They've said that some things are being set up in the first season that won't be paid off till later seasons (hence review comments about plot points that went nowhere) and that some story arcs will run concurrently. I hope they don't consider themselves so clever as to think they can improve upon Asimov by paralleling the Mule's search for the Second Foundation with Golan Trevise's search for Earth, for example. (BTW, I don't consider those references to be spoilers...they are implicit or explicit in book or chapter titles.)
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Season 2 is official now! https://www.apple.com/tv-pr/news/2021/1 ... nd-season/

I find that it gets better and better with each episode, I’m really enjoying it. The wait between episodes is agonising though.


Olorin, in the four episodes so far there’s been a little timeline jumping here and there but it’s not confusing to me, and it’s no where near as non linear as something like Westworld is.

Also, haven’t read the books, but I am aware of The Mule. Slight spoiler - he’s mentioned in the introduction of the first episode. I know that he’s a villain but nothing much beyond that so tbh I’m excited to see who he is and how he factors in to the story later on.

Have to say, production and weaponry design feels on par with Weta’s work on LOTR. Sometimes you find fantasy or sci-fi movies that have whacky looking weapons that you can tell have been designed to look cool, but end up looking ugly or generic, but in LOTR and in The Hobbit, Weta managed to design weapons that felt real and beautiful and made “sense”. It’s hard to fully articulate what I mean.

But I feel like Foundation is doing that too. The firearm design, while being sci-fi inspired, feel real, the clothing, the armour, the worlds. It feels like everything just makes sense, there’s beauty and there’s ugliness but it all adds to the overall realistic feeling of the universe they’ve created. It feels very cohesive.

I can feel the passion oozing from every pixel on screen, and I stand by my statement that the cast are incredible. I really love Salvor Hardin.
"All those moments will be lost, in time... like tears, in the rain..."

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Lindir, I’m really glad that you’re enjoying it, and I’m looking forward to starting it soon myself. I received my new iPhone yesterday and so my link for my free subscription to Apple TV+ is now available. I think I will probably start watching tonight. I’m always torn when there’s a streaming series available, whether to watch each episode each week, or wait until it has all played and then binge at all at once. I guess I’m going to split that baby in two with Foundation, and be able to binge not quite the first half of the series, and then just wait for the rest of it to play out over the next month.

I also saw that it’s already been renewed for a second season, which pleases me. It would’ve been disappointing that they invested so much in putting together a first season, only to have it go no farther than that. Also, now that they know they’re going to be having a second season, they can make any course corrections necessary based on viewer or critic reactions to the first season, if they’re humble enough to do that. I think that a good showrunner will be able to figure out what needs to be changed based on reaction, versus staying the course. I think Peter Jackson showed a pretty deft hand in revising the Lord of the rings as he was making it, based on fan feedback to rumors that were getting out.

Regarding the Mule, I am most intrigued to see who they end up casting to play him. Based on how he’s described in the books, the absolute perfect actor to play him would be Doug Jones, who plays Saru on Star Trek discovery and who has played various creatures for Guillermo Del Toro. In addition to being a really great actor, his physicality is nearly a precise match for the description in the books. All they need to do is give him a bigger nose, and that’s a very easy make up job. Unfortunately, I think that he will be too tied up with star trek to be on Foundation. And who knows, maybe they have somebody in mind that will be just as good. But when I reread Foundation recently and was poring over the description of the guy, it occurred to me, hey, thats Doug Jones, and I’ve been incapable of thinking of anyone else to play that part since then.

Without giving away anything about the character, the Mule is a very pivotal character in the story of Foundation. He’s the focus of the second half of the second book and the first half of the third book. In the latter, he’s not really on screen all that much, so to speak, but he’s still the whole focus of the story, and in the later books, the characters still look back to the time of the Mule and what he meant for the development of the Foundation and the Second Empire. Since the show is changing the character of Gaal Dornick a bit having her being an ongoing character as opposed to just a one off appearing in only one chapter, and using her as a narrative device, looking back on the whole history of it all, it’s very appropriate that she would mention the Mule. And very exciting for fans of the books to hear that name, too!
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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Oh, about the weapons. I don’t think anywhere in the books does it describe what the weapons look like. In fact, in the books, it rarely describes what anything looks like. However, the way the blasters function, as described in one of the sequels, I think they have gotten that exactly right for the show. There’s a clip on YouTube of the emperor talking to the old guy who maintains the mural in the palace, and he ends up being executed. The way the weapon works on him is exactly as described in one of the later sequels when somebody shoots a wild dog with that type of weapon.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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So last night I fired up my 3-month free subscription and watched the first four episodes of Foundation.

Regarding the first episode, wow. Despite all the embellishments, all the gender swaps, and so forth, the episode managed to hit all the main story beats of The Psychohistorians, the first section of the first book. Everybody has seen the trailers, so I don't need to tell you how spectacular this show looks. So I was very impressed by the first episode and felt that the show was going to be a relatively faithful reimagining of Foundation despite itself. Then the second episode did something that ran off the rails so badly that it makes you wonder, did the screenwriters never read the books, or did they just decide to use them for toilet paper? And yet, so many other factoids are peppered into the show (the age of the Empire, or the crappy job of working in the heat sinks of Trantor, for example) that it's clear that they did read the books. I suspect that this event was a red herring. At least I hope it was! After that, the story moves back more toward its expected, if embellished, course, seemingly immediately forgetting about what it just did. But this major divergence really pulled me out of the story and made the following episodes feel more like an alternate universe version of Foundation than they otherwise would have. Now I'm wondering if it's going to take the rest of the season to address my question...or if it ever does.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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I have my theories on what is going on there. It’s my least favourite episode of the episodes aired so far. Aside from the events on Trantor, it feels like mostly filler. If you’ve seen episode 4 there’s a tiny tease at the end and I’d expect that in episode 5 we may get some sort of explanation or maybe episode 6.

All I can say, because I don’t want to be so off base with my theory that I seem like an idiot or potentially spoil it for anyone who intends to watch it but who hasn’t done so yet, is that there’s a little bts feature they did and there are more scenes with that particular character in that we haven’t seen yet.

David S Goyer did say he had found a way to keep several characters present throughout the whole story.

Aside from that Olorin, how’re you finding the rest? I get the feeling that that particular plot has thrown your perception of the series a bit but hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy the rest :)
"All those moments will be lost, in time... like tears, in the rain..."

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Yes, that has thrown me for a loop but I'm reasonably confident there's a method to their madness. I have theories, but for the same reasons as yours, I won't divulge them.

Other than that, I am enjoying it a great deal. Anytime they throw in some obscure fact from the books (like the age of the Empire, as mentioned before), they score points with me, as it shows they've read the material. The purist in me chafes a bit at some of the changes, like the genetic dynasty. Cleon I was considered by Foundation historians to be the last strong, and good, emperor. I guess if you're going to clone someone for a genetic dynasty, he'd be the one. But he did not live 400 years before the time of Seldon. He was emperor when Seldon first arrived on Trantor. But I can see the attraction of going with the character and backdating him to establish his record of peace. At the same time, he was generally not brutal, but again, at the time of the events of the first episode (and for a number of years prior), Cleon was no longer around. After his rule, there was a succession of other ruling bodies that were somewhat ruthless. So in that sense, the genetic dynasty, though cloned from Cleon, is standing in for the authoritarians where were in charge at this time in the books. So, it works.

I was very surprised that only two episodes in, they revealed the true nature of one of the characters, and not only that, that it was not a secret. In Prelude to Foundation, this was part of a big 1-2 reveal at the end of the book. But at least this erases my fear that the show was going to skip or change that part of the character's story. But it does make me wonder if they are going to tell any of the story of the prequels, other than just incorporating characters and factoids. Actually in the second episode when they delved into Raych's backstory, I thought we were going to get a flashback to the prequels. But what the presented in the show was very different from the book.

Which reminds me, apparently the show has been so vague on Raych and Hari's relationship that some reviewers are referring to them as best friends. In the book, Hari is Ray's adoptive father. But from all you can tell from the show, they might be lovers.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."

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I wasn’t aware people thought Raych and Hari were lovers. Their relationship on screen felt paternal to me, and also it would have been more disturbing considering Hari talks about meeting him as a young boy. It’s all cleared up now in the most current episode at least.

I do feel like it gets better and better each week. I’m sad that we’re halfway through now though but also wish to see the rest of the season ASAP.

On The Mule, David S Goyer has stated he wants the show to earn The Mule and so he won’t appear in this first season. I wonder if he may appear in the latter part of season 2? Or maybe we’ll have to wait for season 3. Doug Jones is a great character actor and I’d love him to be in it.
"All those moments will be lost, in time... like tears, in the rain..."

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Clarifying, I am not actual aware of anyone thinking that Hari and Raych were lovers. I was just making the point that thus far the show had presented so little on the nature of their relationship, other than that they were close, that one could be forgiven for jumping to conclusions. And yeah, it might be a little squicky to raise someone and then take them as a lover, but it happens.

As to the Mule, I would think/hope he would not show up before late second season at the earliest. It's hard to say, though. When I heard they were planning 80 episodes, I was assuming 11-12 episodes per book, or whatever the math works out to. However, one review I had read from someone who has seen the entire season said that their sense of it was that the first season covered only about 20% of the first book of the OT, Foundation. If that were the case and held true across the series, it would take them 5 seasons just to cover the first book and 2.5 more beyond that to get to the Mule. Considering those early books were slim affairs, that would be a whole lot of unwarranted story invention and a whole lot of the 1980s/1990s books not gotten to, which would be most unfortunate. I do find it interesting, incidentally, that you are apparently quite intrigued by the Mule without knowing anything about him. It will be interesting to see what you make of the character once his story has been presented.

I've been very pleased with the performances. I knew that Jared Harris and Lee Pace would totally bring it, but the other cast have been great, too, especially Lou Llobel and Leah Harvey. Doug Jones would certainly be a worthy addition but I doubt they can get him. Nonetheless, based on the quality of the people they've gotten so far, I have no doubt that whoever portrays the Mule will do him justice. And if he's an unknown, that allows him to disappear into the role all that much more. If it were Doug Jones, I would continually be aware of him as Doug Jones, since his role on Discovery has made such an impression on me.

Finally, a day or two ago, I was thinking, is Friday ever going to get here? Normally, I think that because I am ready for the weekend, but now it's because I want to see the next episode of Foundation. Normally I'd be mowing the lawn right after work on Friday but today it's raining. So instead, I'm going to take a nice soak in a tub of hot water (we've had a wet, chilly week), then through together some supper, and then collapse onto the couch and watch it.
"Olorin I was in the West that is forgotten...."
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