Gentleman explorer Phileas Fogg is on a race around the world in the fantastical new BBC adaptation of Around The World In 80 Days, and in the next leg of the journey, Abigail ‘Fix’ Fortescue lives up to her name when she saves the day.
As we make our first tentative steps into the new year, many of us are dreaming about the day when we can resume our long-delayed travel plans. But while we might be staying put for the time being, the new globe-trotting BBC adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1872 novel Around The World In 80 Days has presented TV fans with an opportunity to live vicariously through a series of epic adventures.
If you missed the first instalment, allow us to refresh your memory. Foolhardy British gentleman and Reform Club patron Phileas Fogg (David Tennant) has embarked upon a journey around the world in eighty days after entering a wager with a dastardly patron, Nyle Bellamy (Peter Sullivan). Joining him along the way are charismatic French valet Passepartout (Ibrahim Koma) and determined young journalist Abigail ‘Fix’ Fortescue (Leonie Benesch), who is documenting Fogg’s adventures for The Daily Telegraph.
So far, the trio have made it to Paris, where Fogg has inadvertently saved the French president from assassination, and made a grand escape from the authorities in a hot air balloon. On the next leg of the journey through Italy, Fogg proved that he wasn’t completely hopeless after commandeering a steam train over a broken bridge and helping to save a young boy’s life. At the end of the second episode, we also find out that an unknown businessman has been offered £500 to stop Fogg on his journey.
And so to episode three, where we dive into a completely new adventure and set of challenges. We find our unlikely trio on day sixteen on the west coast of Yemen, where Fogg is optimistic about reaching India. “Nothing can stop us now!” he declares, only to find out in the next moment that the voyage is delayed by several days. Fogg is worried about missing the connection to Bombay; but Fix is certain that they’ll be able to make alternative arrangements. As they drink coffee that afternoon, Fix spots a familiar face: an Englishwoman, Jane Digby (Lindsay Duncan), who has an intriguing reputation for being “the most immoral and despised Englishwoman in the world”.
That evening, an opportunity to continue the journey presents itself when a local man visits Fogg’s accommodation and offers to take them through the desert to Aden in two days. Passepartout is immediately suspicious; but Fogg, desperate to get back on track, accepts the offer and agrees to leave at dawn. However, he also tells Passepartout that Fix must stay in India because he doesn’t want to endanger her life any further.
The next morning, Passepartout and Fogg sneak off at dawn leaving Fix behind with a note. When she wakes, she frantically tries to secure a camel ride to Aden so she can resume the journey. Overwhelmed by local men clamouring to win her money, she begs experienced traveller Jane Digby to help her, who coldly tells her to go home. Digby’s husband, however, says that he see something of Fix in Digby, and she reconsiders.
Meanwhile, Passepartout and Fogg travel through the desert in the scorching midday heat. When they disembark their camels for a bathroom break, their cunning guide abandons them, stealing Fogg’s valuables in the process. Now alone and growing dehydrated, Fogg valiantly declares that he’ll lead them to an oasis.
Elsewhere, Fix sets off with Digby and her husband in pursuit of Fogg and Passepartout. They soon find camel tracks, but Digby’s husband deduces that they’ve been deserted. While Digby disdainfully berates Passepartout and Fogg for abandoning Fix, the two lost men talk about all the things that miss about their travel companion. Fogg says that he misses Fix’s laugh and wit; Passepartout ventures that she’s pretty.
The following day, trouble is brewing. Fogg and Passepartout are still staggering through the desert, now delirious from dehydration. Suddenly they see shadows on the horizon and assume they’re saved. But they soon realise that a gigantic sandstorm is heading towards them. In the thick of the clouds, they lose hold of each other; but by the time it subsides, Fogg has been rescued and carried away on horseback. When he wakes, he reunites with Passepartout, meets Digby – and faces the wrath of Fix.
Fogg and Fix ask Digby to take them to Aden, who flatly refuses because it’s far too dangerous. Things only get more heated when Digby discovers that Fix’s father is the editor of The Daily Telegraph, and informs Fix that contrary to her understanding, her father rose to prominence by stealing other journalists’ work. Digby also reveals that Bernard Fortescue had once asked her to run away with him. When she refused, he published false stories about her in the newspaper, ruining her reputation and relationship with her children. Fix is furious and calls her a liar, but Digby’s husband confirms her version of events.
Fogg and Fix then have a heart-to-heart conversation, in which Fogg solemnly apologises for underestimating the journalist, who saved his life. Fix is devastated by the revelations about her father, and tells Fogg that there can be no forgiveness. When Digby asks Fix why she undertook the journey, Fix explains that she sought her father’s approval. Digby then gives Fix a rousing speech about the importance of paving her own path; and in a sudden reversal of fortunes, offers to take her through the Empty Quarter to Aden.
That evening, the party begin to cross the perilous Empty Quarter. They’re soon ambushed, and in the middle of the crossfire, Passepartout shoots a man dead. Just when they’re are about to run out of ammunition, Fogg discovers a patch of oil and sets it alight, creating a blazing fire which illuminates their enemy’s whereabouts and allows them to escape. They reach Aden safely, although Passepartout is traumatised by the killing, and begins to grow disillusioned with the quest.
Digby asks Fix if she would tell her children the truth about why she ran away when the party return to London. Fix promises to keep her word, and sends a telegram to London with the message that Digby is a marvel and her father is a liar. Meanwhile, Passepartout meets with Bellamy’s associate, Thomas Kneedling (Anthony Flanagan) who tells him that he has a friend in London who is very keen that Fogg doesn’t make it to back to London on Christmas eve. He offers Passepartout a significant sum of money to sabotage the journey. Passepartout asks him what he has to do.
On day 28, the trio reach a remote Indian village. Fogg is eager to swiftly move onto the next leg of the journey, but their host informs them that a wedding is taking place, and that the whole village will be in attendance – with no exceptions.
A grumpy Fogg is then shown to his accommodation, where Passepartout debates whether to slip the drugs into Fogg’s tea as a result of his master’s condescending attitude. He decides against it, but explodes in rage at Fogg and questions once again why he’s on the voyage.
Later on, with the wedding celebrations underway, Fogg, Passepartout and Fix immerse themselves in the festivities. But the happy occasion doesn’t last long, as the army storms the village and arrests the groom, Arjan, for desertion of the Indian army. The mother of the bride then tells Fogg that if he wants to be guided onto the next leg of the journey, that he must talk to the lieutenant and persuade him to release the groom. Afterwards, Passepartout argues with Fogg about his intention to desert the villagers in their hour of need. Fogg belligerently maintains that he’s on the journey purely to win the wager. Infuriated by Fogg’s self-centred behaviour, Passepartout slips the drugs into his tea.
That evening, when the army lieutenant comes to Fogg’s room for dinner, the drugs start to kick in. Passepartout begins to realise the error of his ways, but it’s too late: Fogg starts laughing hysterically and pulling faces. Worse still, he offends the lieutenant by laughing at a photo of his fiance. When Fogg eventually asks the lieutenant to release the groom, he refuses, and storms from the room.
Fogg, now fully under the influence of the drugs, punches Passepartout and runs off. Passepartout and Fix find Fogg deliriously talking to a cow, and plead with the groom’s fiancé to fetch her mother. By the time the groom’s mother arrives at Fogg’s room, he’s started to have convulsions. Passepartout confesses to her that he took a bribe to slow Fogg down on his journey, and after evaluating the drugs, she tells him that they’ll be lucky if Fogg ever wakes up.
While Fogg is hallucinating, he mistakes Fix, who is at his bedside, for a woman named Estella. Visibly emotional, he tells her that she was right to leave him because he wasn’t good enough.
Just in time, the groom’s mother arrives with medicine. While Fogg is asleep, Fix tells Passepartout that the real reason Fogg undertook the voyage isn’t for a bet, but because a woman broke his heart. The next morning, Fogg awakes in perfect health, with no recollection of his behaviour the day before. He runs to the army court martial where the groom’s hearing is underway.
At the hearing, the groom pleads guilty to desertion, but claims that he did so because he is in love, and asks for mercy in his sentencing. Just at that moment, Fogg storms the hearing, and the groom asks if Fogg may speak on his behalf. Fix tells Fogg to speak from his own experience of being in love; and when the lieutenant calls the groom a coward, Fogg erupts, claiming that love is the best possible reason to desert.
“When you have found love – real love – life without it has no purpose,” Fogg declares. “So you will fight with every shred of strength you possess. You will ignore orders and the people that give them. You will disregard common sense, and the done thing, and the words of your friends. You will do whatever it takes to hold onto it, and if you do not; then, you’re a coward.”
Fogg’s speech does the trick, and the lieutenant dishonourably discharges the groom with immediate effect. The assembled officers cheer and Fogg’s companions congratulate him. Back at the village, the wedding celebrations resume, and Fogg, Fix and Passepartout continue their journey onward. Yet there’s further jeopardy on the horizon, as a telegram to Bellamy from Kneedling ominously states that Fogg will not leave Hong Kong.
The first four episodes of Around The World In 80 Days are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.