The Journey Begins
Episode 1 of Around The World In 80 Days begins with a clock. It’s a fitting image that serves as a reminder of the bet that’s about to take place. It also serves as the foundation for an exciting, globe-trotting adventure to ensue. Gentleman explorer Phileas Fogg is in the driving seat for this, and we begin with him receiving a letter. On the front is a picture of a clock, on the back is the word “Coward” scribbled in taunting black ink.
Fogg is not best pleased, especially when he rocks up at the Reform Club late. As he sits with the other stuffy gentleman, all of them (bar Fogg of course) scoff at the notion of being able to travel in 80 days. This is especially prevalent when the notion of a Frenchman being responsible for the advancement of technology is brought up.
As fate would have it, their butler happens to be a charismatic Frenchman by the name of Passepartout, and he “accidentally” spills sugar on Mr Fortescue.
Still, there’s no time to dwell on that as his daughter, Abigail, comes bounding in and confronts her father. The article she wrote for the Telegraph about traveling the world is penned under a male name. As things grow heated, she’s told to leave as she’s “scaring the other members.”
This article certainly piques the interest of Fogg, who has largely been quiet up to this point. As he sits with the others, he decides he’s going to put this into motion from 1pm this afternoon. If he can do it, Fogg will return with a £20,000 prize. And the returning date? Christmas Eve.
While Abigail works hard to try and get her name printed in the Telegraph (much to her father’s disdain), Passepartout winds up crossing paths with Phileas. He’s just as adventurous as Fogg and has the benefit of youth too, so he’s definitely up for the challenge.
The journey begins and the pair are joined by Abigail, who manages to convince her father to let her serve as a journalist on this trip and track Fogg’s every move.
First up is a train to Dover (which we don’t actually see) before hopping aboard a boat over the channel (which we do.)
Day 2 rolls round and the trio finally make it into Paris. Passepartout is right at home of course, given these are his people, but there is anarchy breaking out on the streets.
The government has crossed the Paris Commune and because of that, the people are out protesting in their numbers. The government are not popular here and they’ve made it clear what their thoughts are about the poorest in the community. In fact, they wanted to try and pass into motion the idea that the poorest can’t even vote!
In an interesting little twist, it turns out that Passepartout’s family are actually responsible for creating this Commune, off the back of their father’s wishes. Passepartout meets his brother Gerard, with Fix along for the ride and pointing out that she’s a journalist and also able to speak French. As we soon learn, the Commune’s plan involves assassinating the President.
While this is going on, Fogg finds himself in over his head, with all of his belongings taken by a bunch of kids in the street. He’s also taunted by a bunch of nuns who throw shade at him (and make him cough up more money)
Eventually Fogg shows up at the embassy, determined to speak to the President. As he does, across the road happens to be Gerard, Passepartout and Abigail. Abigail gains Fogg’s attention and as he steps out – wham! – he’s hit with the bullet meant for the President.
Gerard sacrifices himself as bullets rain down, shouting Freedom and allowing himself to be a martyr of sorts as he dies. Out in the streets, Phileas wakes up and marvels at his luck as the bullet in question penetrated the flask he had in his inside jacket pocket.
The trio realize they need to leave Paris, reconvening outside and running from the authorities. Eventually they make their way to a hot air balloon and convince Monsieur Lome (who owns the balloon) to let them fly. And fly they do.
As the episode closes out, the trio fly toward Italy, the next leg of their big journey.
The Episode Review
As with any adaptation like this, there will always be changes and updates for a modern audience. And that will undoubtedly annoy a lot of faithful readers of the source material. Now, Around the World in 80 Days is one of those stories that’s fondly remembered by large swathes of people and a serial adaptation makes sense, injecting a fun, vibrant adventure to start the new year (if you’re in the US) or end this current year (if you’re in the UK).
This first episode has tis fair share of ups and downs, with the most notable being Abigail’s inclusion along for the ride. She does add a nice dynamic to the trio but the way she apparently “scared the other members” in the Reform Club feels a little forced, which is a shame because this line really isn’t needed.
Phileas Fogg is also a pretty weak and uncharismatic character thus far, although that may be the intention, slowly building up to a more likable protagonist over time. We shall see whether that’s the case or not over the coming chapters.
With two episodes releasing every week, there’s plenty of time for this one to dive into different adventures, although the assassination of the President in France doesn’t quite hit the “family friendly” vibes of a family-friendly adventure. In fact, this is a very grim and serious take on the tale.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does come at odds with the source material, with this supposed to be a big, grand, dazzling adventure. So far this one is lacking the spark needed to really stand out.