Fogg, Passepartout and Fix’s journey in Around the World in 80 Days is complete. But with Series Two in production, and no sequel novel, where might their adventure take them next?
The BBC’s epic eight part adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days has come to an end. The family adventure drama, starring Doctor Who’s David Tennant, made major changes from the original 19th century novel. Most significantly, the character of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Fix was split into two distinct figures on screen. His role as a travelling companion for Fogg, who wrongly believes him to have robbed the Bank of England, is divided between Abigail Fix, a journalist travelling with Fogg to record his exploits, and Kneedling, who pursues Fogg around the world impersonating a policeman and trying to frame Fogg as a criminal.
This series represents an entirely new approach for Around the World in 80 Days. Verne was writing at a time when going around the world was a major feat, and making the journey in as little as 80 days a mere theoretical possibility. And so his book, despite various misadventures and obstacles, is often primarily concerned with the mechanics and difficulties of the journey itself, with his final reveal about the international date line a typical Vernian flourish.
But with global travel commonplace today, and Verne’s observations about the world’s transport networks just a little out of date, the new Around the World in 80 Days lends much more focus to the characters involved and how their experiences change them. And that’s never clearer than at the end. Not just in the scenes of Fogg rebelliously locking the Reform Club doors so that Fix (a woman) and Passepartout (a manservant) can sit with him in its leather cushioned luxury for a fine cigar and brandy. But also in them running headlong into their next adventure, laughing all the way.
They’ve travelled around the world in 80 days. Could our heroes be travelling 20,000 leagues under the sea next?
But what will that next adventure be? A sequel to Around the World in 80 Days has already been commissioned, even though Verne never wrote another book featuring Fogg and Passepartout. Yet those final moments in the Reform Club feature the trio reading about mysterious attacks on shipping. Some think it’s a narwhal, others a giant squid, while the French are convinced someone has built a powerful submarine (“Then that it is what it shall be!” declares Frenchman Passepartout.) It’s a clear reference to Verne’s other great classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
But, if 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is the basis for Series Two of Around the World in 80 Days, it suggests Fogg, Passepartout and Fix will be taking the place in the narrative of gentleman scientist Professor Arronax, his valet Conseil, and the whaler Ned Lund, who find themselves unwilling guests of Captain Nemo as he travels through the world’s oceans in his submarine Nautilus. It’s a substitution that should work relatively well, with Fogg’s newfound fame as an explorer compelling Nemo to keep him alive to impress him, while his loyal valet does everything he can to protect him, and the proactive Fix continuously seeks a way to escape Nautilus and tell their story.
In other ways, an eight episode series might be closest adaptation to the original yet. While movies of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea focus on the escape attempts, battles with giant squids, and attacks on ships on the surface, the novel has more elements of a travelogue. In a similar way to Around the World in 80 Days, Nemo visits different parts of the world, having encounters with the locals, and impacting their lives. Always siding against the forces of Empire, he lends support to Greeks fighting for independence from the Ottoman Empire and rescues Indian pearl drivers, giving them enough money to start a new life away from British rule.
However, swapping Fogg for Arronax may add to the tension between our heroes and Nemo. In Verne’s original manuscript, Nemo was a Pole with a vendetta against the Russian Empire that had killed his family. In the final published novel, both Nemo’s nationality and the identity of the Empire he hated were kept vague at the insistence of Verne’s publisher.
But in the sequel, The Mysterious Island, Verne firmly establishes Nemo as being an Indian looking for revenge against the British. Assuming the Nemo that David Tennant faces next year is also Indian, it creates a very different dynamic from the French Arronax.
Many of Jules Verne’s other novels would add a new science fiction element to Around the World in 80 Days
And where might our heroes go next if there are further series featuring Fogg, Fix, and Passepartout? Verne wrote over fifty novels and stories in all, many keeping to the structure of three allies (a gentleman, a servant, and one other) thrown into events. Could any one of those simply change the identities of their central trio?
Around the World in 80 Days and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea show fantastic foresight by Verne in imagining things that would later come to pass. But some of his other novels are more fantastical, or get key predictions wrong, so may prove harder to simply insert our heroes into.
Others, like 1895’s Propeller Island, are astonishingly accurate, with its electric cars, travellators, and “Phonotelephote” (a video screen allowing you to order your shopping delivered straight to your door) but perhaps a little obscure for a Sunday teatime audience.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth is rightly famous, but while its depiction of a hollow Earth may have been a fringe theory when Verne was writing, it hadn’t been completely disproved either. Our trio seems perfect to stand in for the three explorers descending into a dormant volcano to encounter the strange flora and fauna of a lost world. After all, when classic cartoon Around the World with Willy Fogg wanted to continue its story, it had a new Reform Club bet challenge its leonine version of Fogg to reach the centre of the Earth.
But would audiences accept the sudden shift from Tennant’s Fogg exploring a world somewhat like our own, to meeting dinosaurs and yeti? As it happens, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is already in production from the same team as Around the World in 80 Days, but seems to be its own distinct thing. Could some characters crossover between the two, establishing a kind of shared Verneverse?
Could Fogg and company even head from the Earth to the Moon?
Verne’s other most famous novels present some similar dilemmas. From the Earth to the Moon and its sequel Around the Moon deal with the Baltimore Gun Club and its attempts to travel to the Moon by means of a bullet-like capsule fired from a giant gun. Like Around the World in 80 Days, the mission is undertaken due to a massive bet between gentlemen about whether it can be done.
But while humankind has since walked on the Moon for real, the method described by Verne would have killed the astronauts on launch (something the author skates over by saying the characters have discovered a secret solution to the problem.) Could we see Tennant lead a version with a more science fictional way to survive the Space Gun? Or one in which the moon rocket is invented six decades early? With the story’s hero ultimately forced to join forces with his rival, having an uneasy partnership between Fogg and Bellamy would have great dramatic potential for the BBC series.
Perhaps the most obvious direction for a third series of Around the World in 80 Days would simply be to adapt The Mysterious Island. After all, it’s a direct sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and would again feature Captain Nemo. But, apart from the late discovery that they’re sharing the island with Nemo, the original novel is a standard castaway survival story, as they build shelters and find sources of clean water while they await rescue.
And not only has the BBC series already done an episode like that, but it’s a little dull. Most adaptations add in all kinds of extraordinary monsters on the island to liven the action up, though, so perhaps it would take the same route.
Other, less famous Verne tomes include Five Weeks in a Balloon (a gentleman inventor, his manservant, and their friend journey across Africa); Off on a Comet (a comet glances off the Earth, dragging a small chunk of the planet and its inhabitants with it); Purchase of the North Pole (the race to stop an incredible scheme to knock the entire planet off its axis with a gigantic explosion); and Robur the Conqueror / Master of the World (which repeat some of the themes of 20,000 Leagues but with the inventor of a huge flying machine instead of a submarine.)
These and others have potential to produce a worthy sequel to Around the World in 80 Days, but are a lot less likely to figure in the BBC’s plans.
One thing about Series Two is certain; adventure awaits Phileas Fogg, Passepartout, and Abigail Fix
There’s no word yet on when we can expect Around the World in 80 Days Series Two to arrive on our screens. We can’t even be sure if that’s what it will be called, or if it will collect together David Tennant’s Fogg, Ibrahim Koma’s Passepartout, and Leonie Benesch’s Fix under a new title. Will they travel 20,000 leagues under the sea? One thing is for certain, however – adventure awaits…
Which Jules Verne novels do you think could be adapted for Team Tennant? Do you have a usually-overlooked favourite that you think is long overdue an adaptation? Let us know!
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