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Gaal Dornick being able to count big primes can be considered extraordinary academic ability, but she and Salvor Hardin were also capable of being conscious during hyperspace jump. How could their brains comprehend folding space and time without any augmentation?

Other than that, Null Field (which could knock even insects unconscious on Terminus) had no effect on Salvor Hardin. Given Hari Seldon expected Gaal Dornick to open the vault, it's likely that Gaal Dornick could also survive the Null Field. Why did the Null Field have no effect on them?

Why does Gaal Dornick

And her daughter Salvor Hardin

appear to have superpowers?

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3 Answers 3

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In-universe we don’t know yet because “why” was never discussed (at least in season 1). The writers might never try to justify it in future seasons if it’s not relevant to their plots.

The Seldon AI on the ship seemed to be genuinely surprised about Gaal’s powers, not just that she had them but that they exist at all. So Gaals’s powers are likely a lucky accident rather than by design. That is, it’s very unlikely that Seldon knew about Gaal’s abilities in advance or that she was picked because of those abilities.

I disagree that Salvor’s (or likely Gaal’s) ability to resist the null field were part of The Plan. As I mentioned, Seldon’s AI on the ship appeared genuinely surprised to learn about Gaal’s powers. Also, the AI was not aghast to discover that Gaal was not at Terminus (which would have completely ruined The Plan if she had been key to opening the vault - Hari Seldon could not have planned for a second person with unusual mental powers to be born and present at Terminus). Finally the Vault Seldon was not shocked to find out that the vault had been opened anyway even though “Gaal didn’t make it”. Although I suppose that these incompatible reactions might merely be script holes.

There is another point. Depending on how closely the series will follow the books from now on, the very last thing that Seldon would have wanted on Terminus would have been an individual with “superpowers” like those of Gaal. Then again, the TV show already deviates significantly from the books, so who knows. In fact, in the books the “third” last thing Seldon would have wanted anywhere near Terminus would have been a Prime Radiant (the “second” last thing would have been a psycohistorian except one with sworn orders not to teach it to anybody else). This is because the books quickly establish that for psychohistory predictions to be accurate at all the individuals must act on their own free will without any knowledge of what those predictions are. The notion of having Gaal on Terminus, with a Prime Radiant, with a tickle for working out the rest of The Plan, and without Raych to steer her and/or an explicit directive to keep it low would have been ludicrous under the book’s plot line.

Now, the show has oh so many, many bewildering deviations from the source material that it’s hard to be sure, but I can tell you that if you have read the original stories it’s easy to make very reasonable guesses about where Gaal’s and Salvor’s powers will lead. Basically:

WARNING: Mayor spoilers for the Foundation novels, including the later novels:

In the novels, the Second Foundation is eventually revealed to be composed of a group of full-fledged psycohistorians with mental abilities: specifically emotion reading and altering (which can be finessed into quasi mind-reading and idea-inducing). This is very different from the future-predicting (maybe even altering) abilities of the show’s Gaal and Salvor, but the “mental power” connection cannot be a coincidence. There is also The Mule, a later major character with the same type of mental abilities. Finally later novels introduce Gaia, a planet full of not just similarly powered human but an entire biosphere of mentally linked beings.

In the books, Gaal and Salvor are completely unrelated to any those things, but it’s not hard to conclude that in the TV show Gaal and Salvor will be linked to one or more of them.

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  • Disagree with few of the premises: depending on what is supposed to be in the Vault (which in books is open 24/7, because most important bits in it were the clock and the contents), but saying Seldon could not have planned for second person with those abilities is reaching - Seldon dealt in probabilities... And since series doesn't say where people of Foundation came from, we can assume it is as in books: scientists working on Encyclopedia, with families, so there's fair chance that among 100k people there will be one with such powers.
    – AcePL
    Nov 23, 2021 at 10:49
  • 2/2 Also, Dornick was ONLY other psychohistorian on Terminus, but he had very important role to play as such, which show skips completely, seriously deviating from books and making mess with few key premises of the story almost at the start, literally rendering it unintelligible. It's like there were no creative consultants on the payroll...
    – AcePL
    Nov 23, 2021 at 10:55
  • @AcePL With so many changes we have to lean heavily on what is shown on screen. Terminus is shown as starting with just a few hundred members. The Vault is completely different. Seldon AI is shown as completely surprised by the existence of those abilities, way too late to be part of the initial Foundation I. As for the books, Dornick is a one-off character in “The Psycohistorians”; the one psycohistorian on Terminus was Alurin who picked and groomed Seldon to boot The Plan: important, but not Dornick. Seldon wanting a “loose wire” mentalist like Gaal on Terminus would be reckless. Nov 23, 2021 at 15:21
  • No, Dornick was very important. He was one to write about psychohistory without any math, which is much harder than it sounds. But as a character, I agree - his appearance was rather short. The point is Dornick is now main character in the show, with so many things about him/her (don't mind him being a woman one bit, though) literally missing... Regardless, there is a difference between wanting and planning. My point here is Seldon WOULD plan for such incidence. That he didn't is a plot hole of size of Africa. And from now on, divergence between book and show will be wilder still...
    – AcePL
    Nov 23, 2021 at 15:31
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It is not explained (yet?) in the show why Hari Seldon thought Gaal Dornick would be able to withstand the Null Field. Perhaps he tuned the Null Field specifically to not affect her, based on the same mental abnormality that had made her able to withstand being conscious during hyperspace travel.

In S01E09, we see that

Salvor Hardin is Gaal Dornick’s daughter, and has presumably inherited this mental abnormality.

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  • Did Hari Seldon know that Gaal Dornick could remain conscious during hyperspace jump?
    – user931
    Nov 22, 2021 at 15:49
  • @CrazyFrog I don’t recall an on-screen conversation, but it seems like a logical topic for them to have discussed while the Foundation was preparing to leave for Terminus. Or maybe he predicted it with psychohistory.
    – StephenS
    Nov 22, 2021 at 15:56
  • Psychohistory can't work on individuals.
    – user931
    Nov 22, 2021 at 15:57
  • @CrazyFrog That’s what Hari said, but he also used it to predict Gaal Dornick’s arrival and actions on Trantor, so he (or a screenwriter) is playing fast and loose with the rules.
    – StephenS
    Nov 22, 2021 at 16:43
  • Hari in the show and Hari in the books, much more so Gaal Dornick in either, say somewhat different things... But in books, he said (paraphrasing and simplifying) that, for psychohistory the bigger the crowd, the better. Individuals can be predicted, but with too big of an error to be useful. I don't think we should use books to predict what show will show... It's already crappy for introducing cloning and androids and otherwise insulting people with poor writing... For now, this tv show for me rates same as 1984 Dune: title, characters, some plot same, but overall incomprehensible s***t.
    – AcePL
    Nov 23, 2021 at 10:39
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Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin aren't related afaik. They weren't related in the books and they were men (I assume white) and fairly minor characters. In the present TV version, the writers use artistic license to remake the characters as women of color, something which is long overdue imho, given that women of color are 40% of the worlds population, as opposed to white males, who are 4%-5%. I suspect this caused by the broadcaster's desire to be a global player, not just a local channel for the Midwest.

They are still not related. That Salvor Hardin can withstand the Null-Field is something which will be, no doubt, more fully explained later.

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    A lot of the Foundation stories are not really character driven, but I would absolutely say that Salvor Hardin is a major character. He's basically the main character of the first book. I agree that Gaal Dornick is a minor character though.
    – Erik
    Nov 22, 2021 at 13:07
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    In S01E09, the relationship between Gaal Dornick and Salvor Hardin were disclosed.
    – user931
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:03
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    Your feelings about representation in modern TV production are irrelevant to the question asked
    – Valorum
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:41
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    This also doesn't really answer the question, except to say it potentially will be answered in a later episode
    – fez
    Nov 22, 2021 at 14:55

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