In the Foundation TV show, based on Isaac Asimov’s books, starships travel through hyper-space. Here’s how it compares to Star Wars and Star Trek.
The Foundation TV series introduces viewers to the Jump Drive, Isaac Asimov’s way of traveling across the galaxy – and here’s how it compares to Star Trek and Star Wars. One of the biggest problems with science-fiction is the simple question of how to get from A to B. As Douglas Adams famously wrote, “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemists, but that’s just peanuts to space.“
The problem is particularly heightened in stories where there are galactic governments. As Star Trek: Discovery season 3 demonstrated, it’s impossible for there to be galactic powers if there aren’t methods of traveling between the stars at speed – even the Federation fell when it lost that. In the real world, faster-than-light travel is only theoretically possible, so it’s up to the writers and creators of science-fiction to come up with their own solutions. Step forward Isaac Asimov, one of the founding fathers of science-fiction, and his Jump Drive.
The basic concept behind Foundation‘s Jump Drive is simple; that it is possible to move almost instantaneously across space by accessing a higher dimension Asimov called hyper-space. In his books, Asimov describes the Jump Drive like this:
“The Jump remained, and would probably remain for ever, the only practical method of traveling between the stars. Travel through ordinary space could proceed at no rate more rapid than that of ordinary light (a bit of scientific knowledge that belonged among the few items known since the forgotten dawn of human history), and that would have meant years of travel between the nearest of inhabited systems. Through hyper-space, that unimaginable region that was neither space nor time, matter nor energy, something nor nothing, one could traverse the length of the Galaxy in the intervals between two neighboring instants of time.”
The idea will seem very familiar to modern readers and viewers, because Asimov’s core concept has become one of the most common science-fiction tropes. Foundation was a major influence on Star Wars – viewers will note the similar ideas of a Galactic Empire, as well as stormtrooper-like armor – and it certainly seems to have inspired George Lucas’ version of hyperspace. There, ships jump to hyperspace by traveling faster than light, building up sufficient momentum to break through to a higher dimension. The key difference is that, in Star Wars, different classes of hyperdrive allow ships to travel through hyperspace at different speeds, whereas Asimov’s hyperspace jumps are instantaneous. Both franchises seem to take the view that hyperspace is disrupted by gravity masses in the real world; in Star Wars this leads to the existence of hyperspace lanes (a major concept in the current Star Wars: The High Republic transmedia initiative), while Asimov imagines a spaceship making multiple (near-instant) Jumps in order to navigate. Interestingly, Foundation also reveals a ship has to deactivate its artificial gravity before Jumping to hyper-space.
Of course, Star Trek‘s Warp Drive takes a very different approach. In Star Trek, a matter/antimatter collision – controlled by the mineral dilithium – generates a phenomenal amount of power, allowing a starship to move faster than light. Even Gene Roddenberry was still influenced by Asimov, though, as can be seen in the fact he originally called the warp drive the “hyperdrive” in the pilot. All science fiction roads really do lead back Isaac Asimov and the Foundation.
More: Foundation: All Major Changes The Show Makes To Isaac Asimov’s Books
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