David Goyer and Josh Friedman adapting Isaac Asimov's Foundation for TV

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Jun 28, 2017

A science fiction milestone is getting another chance at making it to television.

Deadline reports that Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation series could be headed to home screens thanks to Skydance Television, the TV arm of the same production company that has backed films like the recent Star Trek entries and World War Z. Skydance is reportedly close to finalizing a deal with the Asimov estate for the rights to the late sci-fi legend's sprawling saga, although no networks or streaming services are involved yet.

Screenwriter/showrunner David S. Goyer (the Dark Knight films and the upcoming Krypton TV series) will work with Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) to attempt to wrangle Foundation into something filmable -- a task at which a number of others have failed.

Asimov's three main books -- Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation -- tell the story of mathematician Hari Seldon, who has developed a new science called psychohistory, which predicts the imminent collapse of the Galactic Empire that rules over humanity throughout the Milky Way.

The collapse will herald a a galactic Dark Ages lasting 30,000 years, according to Seldon's calculations. But at the far end of the galaxy, Seldon sets up a community of engineers, artisans and thinkers -- a "foundation" that will end humanity's suffering after just 1,000 years and bring about a new and greater empire.

Asimov’s original stories were published by Astounding magazine between 1942 and 1950, and were then collected into the three initial books in the early '50s. The trilogy stood on its own for nearly 30 years, until Asimov returned to the series with 1982's Foundation's Edge, ultimately producing one more sequel (Foundation and Earth) and two prequels (Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation). More books in the series were authorized by Asimov's estate after his death, with noted sci-fi authors Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin penning Foundation's Fear, Foundation and Chaos and Foundation's Triumph, respectively.

There's plenty of mind-blowing material in the first three books alone to create something extraordinary, and don't think Hollywood hasn't tried: proposed feature film versions at Fox, Warner Bros. and Sony -- the latter under the supervision of Independence Day director Roland Emmerich -- have all stalled. And as recently as 2014, Emmerich and Jonathan Nolan (Westworld) tried to make it work at HBO, with no results.

Could Goyer and Friedman succeed where all the others have failed? We'd love to see it happen. The biggest problem is that the Foundation books are cerebral and idea-driven, with less emphasis on strong plotting and little in the way of characterization. If the writers can find a way to beef up those aspects while giving the show enough action and visual pizzazz for modern audiences ... well, then they've got a vast future history to potentially play in for years.