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foundation (Foundation, 3)

Foundation (Foundation, #1) - Isaac Asimov Cast:The Rt Hon. Jim Hacker, Lord Hacker of Islington KG PC BSc(Minister, Ministry for Administrative Affairs)Sir Humphrey Appleby GCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon)(Permanent Secretary to the Minister, Ministry of Administrative Affairs)Sir Arnold Robinson GCMG(Cabinet Secretary, retired)THIS NIGHT'S EPISODE: "The Fall of the Galactic Empire"SCENE I.Setting: Minister Jim Hacker's officeJim Hacker is reading the morning newspaper, concerned. Sir Humphrey Appleby (HA) enters, with an officous air.HA: Good Morning. How are you doing today, Sir?JH: Terrible. Have you seen this morning's Guardian?HA: (chuckles) The Galactic Emperor playing darts?JH: (brushing aside motion with his hand) Not that. (points to paper)Here, on page 12. The Orkney System. Have you heard of it? It's a tiny planet on the edge of the galaxy. They've descended into complete chaos.HA: (droll) Soccer hooligans?JH: No, Man! Planetwide socioeconomic collapse! It's quite concerning, Humphrey. This is the third planet to fall to barbarism since I took office.HA: Yes, you're a bit behind. Your predecessor had let five slip, by this point in his tenure.JH: This is no joking matter, Humphrey! The Galactic Empire is collapsing before our eyes!HA: (murmuring) Yes, well... (shrug and wave of hands) these little planets on the edge... what can one do?JH: (shaking finger) I'll tell you what I'm going to do! (turns pages of the newspaper, and points to the relevent part) This fellow Hari Seldon has got some ideas. He's a psychohistorian. He sees an impending Dark Ages... says it could last 30,000 years if something isn't done about it. He's got a plan to shorten it to a mere 1000 years. (hands Sir Humphrey the paper)HA: (reads for a minute) Mmmmmm... well... (dismissively) I really don't see what this has to do with the Ministry for Administrative Affairs.JH: (dumbfounded) Don't see...!!!! It's the collective fate of mankind throughout the galaxy!!! It's got everything to do with us!HA: (disdainful) Yes, well... this Seldon is an academic, is he not? And he wants to write an encyclopedia? This really sounds like it's all within the purview of the Ministry of Education.JH: Education!? If you left everything to them, we'd still be in the Stone Age. (thinks)No, I'm making it my business! The voters put me in office to advocate for their interests, and from now on, I'm making the preservation of our civilization a top priority! I want a draft proposal on my desk this time tomorrow, detailing how we can bring this Seldon fellow on board, and start putting his plan into action.HA: (sullen) Yes, Minister.Scene II.Setting: lounge of a gentlemans' dining club. Sir Humphrey and Sir Arnold Robinson (SA) are sitting in comfortable-looking chairs and sipping drinks.SA: You seem a bit on edge this evening, Humphrey. Has your Minister got you jumping through hoops again?HA: (exasperated) Oh! It's absurd! He's got this grand scheme to bring a bunch of encyclopedia writers to Trantor. We've got no allocation for it in the budget, and the whole project looks to be a logistical nightmere! SA: (amused) Encyclopedia? [The Ministry of] Education will take over that show, if there's any good press to be had.HA: (nodding, pointing at Sir Arnold in agreement) Exactly so! It's a lot of work with no hope of credit whatsoever!SA: (leans back) You have to nip this in the bud, Humpy. If you let your Minister save the universe, there'll be no stopping him. Who knows what projects he'll dream up for you to do?HA: I know, I know... but how?SA: Well, you can't very well fight him head-on. Naturally, everybody wants to preserve civilization and order. (offhand) It's a worthy goal, provided it's done in a way that's harmonious with the Emperor's broader agenda, and it is in allignment with the strategic aims of your department.... (turns to Humphry with a sly look)HA: (slight smile) I think I see what you're getting at, Sir Arnold. Rather than crushing the idea outright, perhaps there's a way of letting this thing "die on the vine", so to speak?SA: There you go. Make him see that there's very little payoff to him personally, for a 1000 year plan. And naturally costs to consider... call his proposal "courageous". That'll put the fear of God into him!Scene III.Setting: Jim Hacker's officeJH: (entering the office from outside, waving a newspaper, delighted) Did you see it? Did you see my interview in the Guardian? They've picked up the story! They're calling it "Anarchy in Orkney"... that's got a ring to it, eh? (removes overcoat and hangs it up, walks behind his desk) ... And I'm the man who's going to fix it! I'm up in the polls already!(turning to Humphrey) Now then, have you got my proposal ready?HA: (smiling) Here you go, Sir. I'm quite sure this will meet with your approval. (hands Jim a folder)(Jim sits at his desk and starts reading)JH: Well! This is... quite... quite... expensive.HA: Naturally, Sir. Moving a whole staff of encyclopedia writers and their families from all over the galaxy.... setting them up in temporary housing while we construct a permanent residence... building, stocking and staffing a library system... funding travel and research... hosting symposia and so forth... But then, we don't want to spare any expenses, when we're talking about the fate of the Galactic Empire, do we?JH: (pausing, looking back down at the folder) No. I suppose not. (reads further) Some of this construction is likely to be distruptive... HA: I'm sure 1000 years from now, when all the distruption has been vindicated, they may well erect a statue of you in the public garden. JH: (unenthusiastic) Mmmmm. Maybe. (reads on) This will be quite a printing job for the Bureau of Printing and Engraving... I hadn't thought of that.HA: With your craft for Statesmanship, I'm sure you will be able to persuade voters that the necessary tax increases will pay off handsomely, in the next millenium.JH: (sitting up) Tax increases! HA: Well, these encyclopedias don't write themselves Minister!JH: (conflicted) No...HA: Let me just say, Minister: I admire your political courage! Why, I heard on the radio just this morning that barbarians are poised at the gates of the Glasgow System. That's a very Labour [Party]-leaning planet. With elections coming up, a Minister with less far-reaching vision might be reluctant to save a bastion of support for his opponent... hypothetically speaking, of course.JH: (closing the folder) You know, Humphrey... I wonder if we might be rushing a bit too hastily into this thing.HA: Oh?JH: As stewards of the taxpayers' money, it would be irresponsible to fund a massive project, without having first ascertained that the undertaking was likely to be successful.HA: Perhaps a feasibility study should be considered, before pressing ahead? Take the idea to committee, maybe?JH: (lightly patting the desktop in agreement) Yes. Yes, quite prudent.Then... if it looks practicable...HA: (importantly) ...and that is a big "if", Minister...JH: ...yes...(holding up a finger) only then, with proper support of other agencies and institutions....HA: ...in the fullness of time....JH: ...at the appropriate juncture... maybe then we could see about bringing Mr Seldon to Trantor. Perhaps it might do to start off more modestly.HA: A study grant, perhaps.JH: Yes! And we needn't bring him to Trantor straight off. Perhaps we can find an office for him someplace less distracting. I hear real estate is quite reasonably-priced on Terminus.HA: Yes, Minister.FIN