Gaal Dornick wakes up on a ship she doesn’t know, at what time she doesn’t know, and where she doesn’t know. She has no idea that decades have passed for the Foundation on Terminus, due both to her cryostasis and their no longer traveling at the same speed.
She does have plenty of time to go over her past decisions that brought out this far, however. Gaal comes from an ocean planet, Synnax, where the inhabitants not only worship nature, but outlaw scientific progress, including studies in mathematics. A mentor of Gaal’s, her former professor and one of the last math teachers on the planet gets caught studying some forbidden textbooks, and the local officials execute him by drowning. His execution, however, inspires Gaal to enter the math contest and catch the eye of Hari Seldon.
The religion of Gaal’s home planet represents the weird mixture of science and an unwillingness to understand it. They have declared “all analytical learning” to be heretical, and yet the cataclysmic flooding cycle slowly destroying their settlement comes as a result of human innovation. They trust that a planetary spirit called “the Sleeper” will restart the algae that they eat. In many ways, it’s an example of what the Foundation could become if left managed improperly, since though they claim to be a community of scientists, none of them understand the logic behind the Seldon plan, and they follow as if it were scripture, even though they do not seem to understand it beyond “wait it out on Terminus.”
Gaal has no admin privileges on the ship, but realizes it must be on the way to somewhere. She can’t steer and she can’t leave, but eventually she wakes up something that looks an awful lot like Hari Seldon, right as the episode cuts out.
On Terminus, though, the Imperial troops manage to show up just in time to rumble with the Anacreon barbarians camped outside the Foundation’s boundaries. Salvor Hardin suspects the barbarians want to fight with the empire, but no one listens to her yet again, and the battle starts anyway. The Foundation inhabitants, who we’ve been told aren’t really fighters, somehow manage to land heroic punches and strategic shots in at every cut. Meanwhile, the barbarians work really hard to get a force field down, but easily knock out the imperial starship with a flak gun. The Anacreonians pretty much overrun the Foundation, with the twisted logic that Hari Seldon’s predictions somehow set off the destruction of the Star Bridge back in episode one.
The ripple effect of the destruction of the Star Bridge perfectly shows why the Seldon plan might work. It gives a structure to the story so that it keeps unfolding in unexpected ways that make perfect sense so that everything is connected.
Synnax has been the most memorable world shown in the series for similar reasons. The set design and costumes from Synnax in this episode are another example and really thoughtful filmmaking – loads of waterproof robes would be just the thing to wear on a cold, watery world where the temperature wouldn’t change very much. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of that kind of planning and worldbuilding in episode 6.