EPISODE NOTES 208 – “The Last Empress”
With this episode we start to unpack some of the Easter eggs we sprinkled throughout the show. The first being Demerzel’s tool chest and the question of whether or not Foundation takes place in the same galaxy as Earth.
Here’s a snippet from the script, which gives you an idea of how specific our direction can be in terms of props and set decoration:
Virtually no one spotted our solar system on Demerzel’s chest in S1 (although we had a shot or two that featured it). But a few people have taken screen grabs this season and correctly deduced that Demerzel is, in some way, connected to Earth’s distant past. For show mythology, we are saying that the events in the show are happening about 25,000 years after the present.
Here’s Eric Carrasco, one of our writer-producers, inspecting an early application on the Mural of Souls.
Last season we managed to contrive a plot point that revolved around the art of the mural itself (Dawn not being able to correctly identify the number of raptors due to his color blindness). This season, I wanted to see if we could do something similar – and we came up with the specific image of the kneeling robot (which we foreshadowed with Dusk and Rue’s walk in 204). Astute viewers might notice the slash of green along the robot’s neck, which is remarkably similar to the slash of green depicted on the representation of Emperor Algren in 205:
We will loop back around to that plot-point in 210.
From the mural we return to the veranda for Poly and Constant’s “televised” execution. This was an enormous sequence that was filmed over the course of four days at the Auditorio de Tenerife, designed by Santiago Calatrava.
For a sequence like this, we will tend to do a full rehearsal a few days before we actually shoot. In this case, two rehearsals – one for the drama and one for the stunts.
The day of shooting we then do a read-through of the scene, before we get into any of the scene blocking. That’s Roxann Dawson, our director for 208 and 209, in the ball cap with her back to us.
The opera house is on the ocean. Everything to the left, right, and in front of the opera house (i.e. Trantor and the rings in the sky above) was added in via digital matte paintings.
We don’t do much green or blue screen on our show – but occasionally there’s a good enough reason to. For this moment where Day is trapped on the edge of seeming 1,000 meter drop by Beki, we put a green cloth on the ground below Lee Pace (in reality about 20 feet down).
Every time Beki was on screen we had to have a puppeteer stand in for the Bishop’s Claw, just to give a sense of the size of the creature (and to allow the actors and camera operators to have something to focus on).
After the aborted execution on Trantor we return to Terminus for a number of scenes with Sermak, one of Constant’s two fathers. The scene at the Vault, where Sermak talks to Seldon was a favorite of ours and very deliberately meant to evoke some of the Old Testament events like Abraham talking to God, etc.
The art department build in a terrific amount of detail in an amongst the prayer mounds – little Vault-shaped icons and the like. The mounds themselves were inspired by the prayer cairns I encountered on a trek to Tibet some 20 years ago.
Here’s Oliver Chris, who plays Sermak, rehearsing the scene a few days before with Roxann Dawson.
From Terminus we move to Ignis and reveal not only what happened to Salvor, but also, Tellem’s true intentions towards Gaal. We decided to reveal that Tellem was a villain fairly early on in the season – but we held back just how villainous she was until this episode. With Tellem, we are suggesting yet another way certain characters can exist beyond their natural lifespan.
FYI, the different formations of sand on the “tuning” plates were inspired by cymatics, a way to visualize audio frequencies. Google it. There are some cool videos on Youtube. Some of these images were achieved in-camera, without visual effects.
This episode also reveals how Dr. Seldon knew to ask for Hober Mallow. Turns out it wasn’t psychohistory that gave him the name, but rather, a “passing ghost” – a.k.a. Salvor.
For the benefit of spelling things out; the Gaal/Salvor storyline takes place about two weeks prior to the other storylines. So the moment Salvor communicates with Dr. Seldon in 208 actually syncs up with the moment the Vault incinerated Warden Fount in 202. Hope that made sense!