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Foundation - Barbarians at the Gate - Review



With the recent news that Foundation has been renewed for a second series, fans can rest easy knowing that they’re one step closer to David Goyer’s vision of an 80 hour epic. Barbarians of the Gate however; for all the hard sci-fi politics and doom and gloom, kept things relatively centred on the small area of Terminus – complete with its mysteries of the null field of the vault that were used to brilliant effect here, and the stakes felt all the more real and believable. Leah Harvey’s Salvor is an excellent lead as the Warden who can – if you remember – get to the null field closer than anyone else – so uses that to throw off her captor, Pharra - who is the leader of a group of rogue Anacreons, whose world is a shadow of its former self after the Empire bombed it as retribution for the attack that cost millions of lives.

Questions remain frustratingly unanswered about why Raych killed Hari Seldon, and we don’t even know what happened to Gaal Dornick yet, these lack of answers will presumably be explained at one point – and we start to get hints of that with Gaal getting in her capsule at the end of the episode – because otherwise this show could have quite easily have started on Terminus with Salvor in the first place, and I’m pretty sure would have had the same effect – as Salvor has shown herself to be a brilliant lead protagonist so far, outmatching all the other leaders of Terminus who buy into Hari Seldon’s plan as devotees – she’s the only one who isn’t – but what if, rather than not being part of the plan – the only one brave enough to question why Terminus doesn’t have a defence, why Terminus doesn’t have trained military protection to the sufficient numbers that would repel a situation like this – she was? Especially as Salvor seems to be having visions, flashbacks of the Royal library, and the past – being led by a young boy to key locations that have dictated her future.

Whilst most of the action happens on Terminus that’s not to say Trantor doesn’t receive its fair share of attention. The latest incarnations of Brother Day, Dawn and Dusk are starting to come a bit unbalanced – Dawn becomes obsessed with Azura (Amy Tyger), and we learnt that Day has some kind of protective shield that prevents anyone from touching him – unless he lets them in. This Day and Dusk were the Dawn and Day from the first episode, thirty-five years earlier – it can be a lot to take in and a lot to keep track of, but this is not the same Lee Pace that you were first introduced with.

Day in particular is having an issue with Hari Seldon’s plan. The big picture politics kind of left me cold this week which is a bit of a shame as Lee Pace is a brilliant actor and loves scenery chewing in this role whenever he gets the chance – but the material isn’t there right now, there’s only so much political bickering that we can take when we don’t yet care about the characters and something far much more interesting is happening back on Terminus – and the Dynasty seem to be aware of this too.

We learnt a bit more about the motives of the Anacreons and their purpose on Terminus – Pharra claims they’re after a navigation module, but the Anacreons on the outside have brought material to drill underneath the shield that protects Terminus. It’s a fascinating countdown that really adds to the atmosphere, especially when Pharra, the Grand Huntress, is so easily able to manipulate the commanders of Terminus – to the point where they even seem willing to help her, were it not for the fact that the Dynasty would turn their heads on them and destroy them in turn. But when the Empire has still not arrived yet to their aid – decisions will have to be made.

Foundation has been a slow burn and I do wonder, as with Ted Lasso – whether opting for a weekly schedule was the right move. Whilst perhaps releasing the whole season at once would have been overwhelming as the series is a bit too dense, maybe multiple episodes per week would have given us a better idea – especially for those who haven’t read the book – where this thing is headed. For now, it seems content on paying off – but it’s a real shame that this appears to be it for Jared Harris right now, who bought a sense of elevated grace to the show – and his screen presence has been missing from the past few episodes. Hopefully we’ll get more of him in flashbacks in the future, as Foundation tends to jump a around a lot – and with Gaal about to come back into the picture it could be sooner rather than later.

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