'Star Trek' Stole From 'Foundation' (So It Stole Right Back From It)
Isaac Asimov's Foundation series might technically be science fiction, but it's built on a solid … uh, foundation of truths and realistic themes. Basically, it's the story about the fall of the Roman Empire … in SPAAAAAACE and about math making people very angry. It all starts with Hari Seldon, a mathematician … in SPAAAAAACE, who invents a new branch of science called psychohistory that can more or less predict the behavior of large groups of people. And since the futuristic Galactic Empire, where the story takes place, spans the Milky Way, Seldon has enough data to predict that the Empire will eventually fall, how the Empire will eventually fall, how many people will die once the Empire falls, and how long it'll take humanity to reinvent cheeseburgers after the Empire falls.
Once news of this reaches the Galactic Emperor, the monarch cleverly deduces that Seldon is suggesting that the Empire will eventually fall, and he's not super happy about it. This kicks off the entire saga, and if you want to know more about it, either read the Foundation series, watch the Apple TV+ show based on it …
… or check out a 1997 episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which tells basically the same story.
In "Statistical Probabilities," a Federation Starfleet station … in (deep) SPAAAAAACE (last one, I swear) is visited by genetically enhanced humans with superior intelligence who develop a statistical model that predicts where the ongoing war between the Federation and the Dominion (an interstellar superpower) is heading. And the short answer is: into darkness. Wait, sorry, that should have read Into Darkness, which is just my personal way of saying "deep crap." If you've seen the movie, you know why.
The augments predict that the Federation will lose the war, which will kill billions of people. But if they give up now, then after a few hundred years, a resistance will form and overthrow the Dominion, saving countless lives. In the end, though, the lesson is that while math can predict the behavior of masses, history can be changed by the actions of one individual whose behavior can never be reduced to mere numbers. That is the core theme of both the episode and the Foundation series.
Just so we're clear: I plan to have "Deep Space Nine Was Best Star Trek" engraved on my tombstone, so no one is dragging Star Trek here. And if you're planning to, you better sleep with one eye open, buddy/buddette/budde. Asimov is one of the most influential writers in sci-fi history, so it's totally fine for Star Trek to take inspiration from him… Even if calling the leaders of the Dominion "The Founders" was a bit too on the nose. But fair is fair. Since Star Trek borrowed from Foundation, the Apple series borrowed right back from it.
The new show makes some significant changes to the original books, chief among them being the Galactic Emperors, who in the TV version have all been clones of one guy for the last 400 years, played by Lee Pace. In the books, there were imperial dynasties, etc., but every Emperor was ultimately his own man. In the show, it's four centuries of just Lee Pace, which some might consider paradise, but which the producers of the show probably considered a cool method of saving money on guest stars, since the story of Foundation spans many centuries.
Interestingly, there is one famous piece of sci-fi that also dealt with a succession of clones all serving in the same capacity in order to create stability and efficiency: Deep Space Nine, which featured the Vorta, a species serving The Founders as administrators dealing with everyday tasks of running a galaxy-spanning empire. They came in a variety of "models" like Weyoun (played by Jeffrey Combs), and when one died, he was immediately replaced by his clone. That's why Weyoun was the absolute worst person to lend money to. "Oh, the money? Yeah … you're probably thinking of my predecessor. He was Weyoun 5. I'm #6. Sorry! *Under breath* suuuuuucker."
Did the Foundation show take inspiration from the same series that once took inspiration from it? No one can say for sure. It's not like Star Trek invented clones in science-fiction. But, as mentioned before, the new TV show makes a lot of changes to the books. Some reviews have actually said it rips off Star Wars more than it does Star Trek (while Battlestar Galactica looks inside through frost-covered windows, wondering why so few people forget that it too is technically part of the "Star" sci-fi club.)
And the thing is, it's 100% fine for Foundation to take cues from famous cinematic sci-fi. Books and movies/shows are two different beasts, and in visual media, there are no sci-fi franchises bigger than SW and ST, so the idea of the clone Emperors could very well have come from Deep Space Nine. And if so, GREAT, because DS9 is still the best Star Trek series ever, so if you can incorporate a piece of that into one of the best sci-fi book series ever, it's like perfecting pizza-flavored beer … in SPAAAAAACE. Yeah, sorry, that promise from earlier was made by Cezary #3, who died while writing this article (suuuuuuckers …)
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Top Image: Apple Inc.