The Fall Of The Cleon Dynasty In ‘Foundation’ Season 1, Explained


The great Genetic Dynasty was built on a dream. Cleon the First laid the foundation of the Empire’s most ambitious wonder, the Star Bridge. He wanted to see its completion with his own eyes. He even wanted to ride it so that he could look down upon the Empire he had built. But alas, he was mortal like the rest of mankind. His skin had wrinkled, and his stature had diminished while the Starbridge was still half-built. For some reason, Cleon the First never married or had heirs. Yet his most loyal courtier, Eto Demerzel, a sentinel robot, promised the Emperor that his continuity was assured. But how?

Inside the royal palace, we come across a standing glass casket preserving the body of Cleon I. The Principium stored his DNA, which would act as a genetic source for generations to come. The Galactic Empire had developed a revolutionary technology called Imperial Cloning to make perfect clones of the Emperor. At any given time, there were three breathing Cleons of three different ages, namely Dawn, Day, and Dusk, respectively. Brother Day, the most vigorous of them all, held the central chair, and his command was final. Brother Dawn, on the other hand, had the responsibility to learn and absorb the nitty-gritty of being an emperor, while Brother Dusk imparted advice on important matters using his vast experiences. Brother Dawn was also assigned the task of the working of the Mural of Souls that recorded the history of the Genetic Dynasty. And last but not the least, there was Demerzel whose task was to observe the clones and make sure they followed the continuity for which they were created. Demerzel had been programmed to be the Empire’s most loyal servant, following each and every order. She even managed the imperial cloning so as to fulfill her last promise to Cleon I.

The Empire took special pride in the Mural. They believed that the clones had maintained peace for 400 years, which would have been impossible in case of a normal succession. The natural heirs of the Emperor might have shown inconsistency in character. They could have killed their brothers or sisters to take over the throne, leading to battle and bloodshed. In the case of the Cleon Dynasty, the clones had to follow an already-ascertained path. Their ultimate goal was to maintain peace and be perfect copies of Cleon I, as they believed that he was the epitome of a great emperor. Under the reign of the clones, the kingdom prospered from above, and no one ever questioned their legitimacy. However, most of them failed to notice that it was getting shallow from within, as if the kingdom was slowly losing its soul. It followed such a rigorous pattern that the age of creativity was lost forever, and that’s why people got restless. Only a visionary like Hari Seldon could foresee the unrest among people who weren’t happy with a monotonous emperor. Cleons took pride in consistency, while Hari valued differences and according to him, the clones offered nothing new.

Cleon the First built his Empire following his visions and his clones destroyed it through their ignorance. He wanted to see the completion of the Star Bridge. Ironically, it was the first thing that the insurgents destroyed. It was a message to the Imperium that their leadership had completed its circle, and it was time to step down to make room for someone new. As nature states, everything should come to an end but the clones were too proud to give up. They didn’t know where to end because their task was to maintain continuity. Hari warned them to stop while they still had time, saying it would bless them with a legacy. But ignorance had blinded them already. They needed a push—an event of cosmic scale that destroyed the entire dream and showed the reality that no one could see except for Hari.

Hari had told the clones that they lacked a soul, because of which they failed to show empathy. It was the truth that the Cleons consistently denied. Brother Day even went to a planet named the Maiden and decided to walk the Great Spiral as a holy pilgrimage to prove to everyone that even clones have a soul. However, inside the sacred cave, he saw nothing. Upon his return, he fabricated a vision to make everyone believe that the Mother spoke to him, but Cleon knew that it was all a lie. He was troubled by the revelation. It planted the first seed of doubt that was going to haunt him forever.

As the first season of Foundation began, Cleon’s family broke the pattern from the very beginning. The clones were never meant to have doubts, yet Cleon XI made a visit to the seer, believing Hari’s predictions could be true. Moments before his cremation, Cleon XI heard Baby Dawn crying and believed that something was wrong. Brother Day went to the Maiden, even when he knew that the primary Cleon had never left Trantor in the history of the Genetic Dyantasy. He believed he was breaking the protocol for the betterment of the Empire, but in reality, he was breaking a pattern that he was too ignorant to foresee.  Finally coming to Cleon XIV, who was born with certain genetic defects, he was the most different clone, but he couldn’t understand how it was even possible when they were all perfect copies. He tried to conceal his defects for the time being until Brother Dusk finally found out. But how was it even possible?

Hari had predicted a homegrown insurgency on Trantor, and all the defects and vulnerabilities in the clones were the work of these rebels. At the end of Foundation Season 1, Shadow Master found out that the rebels had infected the Principium, i.e., the genetic source of the clones. Because of such adulteration, the clones were no longer pure copies of Cleon I, which was the reason why they had been showing so many variations in their actions. Most of them went out of their way to make decisions that the perfect clone would have never made, for example, exiling Hari instead of killing him. It was the first thing that surprised Hari because he believed he would be killed on Trantor and thus, had to stage his own death later for the success of the Foundation, as it was always meant to be this way, according per his calculations.

The question here is: will the Cleons be able to undo the adultery of the Principium? If not, then all the successors would be genetically flawed, like Cleon XIV. And will Demerzel kill them all if she finds out that the continuity has already been broken? Being an android, it is her task to follow the protocol, and as per the guidelines, she would eliminate all the threats that endanger the Empire. The revelation also suggests a possibility that there might be many time-jumps in the second season of Foundation, as we won’t be having new clones. Or maybe we can have more of them, but with each successor, the disabilities and defects are only going to amplify, leading to the downfall of the Imperium, as Hari Seldon had predicted. Whatever Season 2 has in store for us, we are certain of the fact that the first season has already marked the beginning of the end.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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