The first episodes of Foundation saw the Empire threatened like never before – but was Hari Seldon really the orchestrator of chaos?
Hari Seldon may well have organized the start of the fall of the Empire in Foundation season 1. Inspired by the famous novels of Isaac Asimov, Apple TV + Foundation the series turned them into a powerful drama in which a man fights to save the future of all civilization. Asimov’s books and short stories are relatively concept-oriented, but showrunner David Goyer has adapted them heavily to the television format. he is transformed Foundation in a game of chess between two grandmasters.
On one side of the board, there is Emperor Cleon. The ClÃ©on established what Goyer called “genetic dynasty,“where there is only one emperor, cloned and brought up by his predecessors. The emperor embodies the imperial philosophy that this will last forever, as he considers himself constant and unchanging, and he will do everything possible to maintain his reign. The other player is Hari Seldon, who has mastered a mathematical science called psychohistory that allows him to predict the future. Seldon has realized that even Empire cannot last, and he will eventually fall to be followed of a dark galactic age. He has dedicated himself to adjusting events so that the dark ages that run through the galaxy lasts only a thousand years, and he is willing to sacrifice even his own life for the cause of this pursuit.
And so the stage is set for Foundation, a conflict of wills between an Emperor who resists change and a mathematician who seeks to control it. The first two episodes basically show some of the opening games, but they hide as much as they reveal. And they raise the fascinating possibility that Hari Seldon himself was the architect of the fall of the Empire.
Hari Seldon’s psychohistory changed the empire
The psychohistory of Hari Seldon is such an advanced science that until now it has only been understood by two characters from Foundation. It is a model of unimaginably complex that was built on the basis of past events and has been tested against those of today in order to validate it. Apparently Seldon found it convincing, for – with the tests completed – he waited through the millennia to predict the fall of empires. Its prophecies are surprisingly specific – from conflict on the galactic edge, to religious movements philosophically opposing the Cleons, to uprisings over the galactic capital of Trantor itself. But rather than just sit back and watch the future unfold, Hari put together a carefully crafted plan to hasten the Empire’s downfall in order to restore it and end the Dark Galactic Ages faster.
The first step seems to have been to build up an audience by making his predictions known to the public. At first glance, this seems to have been mostly focused on gaining enough followers to make her Foundation possible, but she has another – much darker – goal. Seldon introduced a new idea to the Empire – the concept of impermanence, the fear that even the Empire might fall. For the Cleons, this manifests as a growing fear that events might get out of their control, and when there is a terrorist attack on Trantor, their fear and insecurity causes them to overstep – creating exactly the kind of instability on the galactic edge that Seldon predicts. Meanwhile, the citizens of the Empire have now heard of a scientist who predicted fate and seemed to be feared by the Emperor himself, and for the first time ever, they have doubts about the Empire. Over the years, Hari’s dire prophecies will exert a philosophical force as irresistible as the gravitational pull of a black hole; whenever something happens people will assume it matches Hari’s psychohistoric predictions, even if it doesn’t. Hari made the Empire psychologically vulnerable.
Hari may have rarely even orchestrated the Star-Bridge collapse.
All of this raises the troubling question; How far has Hari Seldon gone to shape the future? The first two episodes of the Apple TV + show see Trantor rocked by suicide bombers who literally kill millions of people and whose actions appear to be linked to warlike planets on the galactic edge. The timing of these terrorist attacks seems perfectly synchronized for Hari Seldon, as suddenly his psychohistory feels much more real to the Emperor and to the citizens of Trantor, as they all feel a sudden surge in vulnerability. It is no exaggeration to say that the attacks provided the impetus for the creation of the Foundation itself, although ironically Hari had expected him to be executed rather than be part of the mission to Terminus.
But, although the Empire launches fierce retaliation on the worlds the Emperor blames for the suicide bombings, they are unable to identify a clear silver trail. It’s possible that Hari Seldon himself engineered the attacks, which took place exactly when he needed them, until they happened right after Gaal Dornick – whom he knew he needed. – has arrived on Trantor. Also, while talking to Gaal, the psychohistorian gave him a paper from the library, telling him it didn’t matter because everything would burn there soon. Again, this was a remarkably specific prophecy, fulfilled as the Sky Bridge crashed into Trantor. It really feels like Hari knew exactly what was to come, and even if he designed it.
If this theory is correct, then Hari Seldon’s opening moves in his big match against the Emperor were more subtle and effective than you think – and, worryingly, they took heavy losses in human lives. Without a doubt, Hari would justify his actions by pointing out everything he is trying to accomplish; he truly believes that the fall of the Empire is inevitable, and his goal is to control its descent into the dark ages in order to ensure the return of civilization faster than it would otherwise. Such a philosophy “the end justifies the means” is indeed bleak, at the cost of millions of lives, and it positions the two actors in Foundation as sinister forces in their own right.
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