Gavin Scott | Jules Verne Episode Commentary
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25 Jan Jules Verne Episode Commentary

Commentary

By GAVIN SCOTT
CREATOR, THE SECRET ADVENTURES OF JULES VERNE

Welcome to the world of Jules Verne: or at least, our might-have-been version of it. The idea for this show came to me when I read that Jules Verne had written an original version of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” that was significantly different from the one we know.
It was about a Polish nobleman whose family had been massacred by the Russians during the suppression of an uprising, and who built a submarine to take revenge. Jules’ publisher, Hetzel, knew he had a potential bestseller on his hands, but he also knew the book could get them both thrown in jail. Why?

Because the French emperor, Napoleon III, had just signed a treaty with the Tsar of Russia, and wouldn’t tolerate any criticism of his new friend. In the 1860’s France was a tightly controlled dictatorship, and anybody breaking the rules was in for serious trouble. Would Jules make some changes?

You bet: Jules was a man hungry for success after many years of failure. The Poles disappeared, the hero became a man without a country, the ships he attacked, originally flying the Russian standard, became “the ships that fly no flag”.
When I read this story I had a flash of inspiration. What if there was a lot more truth behind Jules Verne’s stories than anyone had believed? What if, in fact, he had actually experienced them as a young man, and then disguised names and dates to avoid offending powerful people?

Once I had this idea it wouldn’t leave me alone: had the young Jules Verne actually met a character like Phileas Fogg? Had Fogg helped him travel the world gathering material? What about Napoleon III? Had Jules ever come across him? Had he spent more time in America than his official biography admits? Had he ever reached the Wild West – and if so, what had he done there?

Once my imagination began to work, there was no stopping it – but it was many years before I was able to persuade someone – or several someones – to invest the large sums of money needed to actually put these ideas onscreen.

In the end we managed to rise enough to rent a huge old engine repair shed in Montreal, with the railway tracks still running through it, and there we built an entire Paris street, the sewers of Paris, a castle, dungeons, a cave – and best of all the Aurora: the incredible flying ship in which Jules and Phileas Fogg travel around the world.

We shot digitally, on HDTV, and sent the signal straight to a bank of computers and a host of computer special effects wizards tucked away up in the roof of our cavernous building. There they transformed the pretty amazing images we were capturing down by the railway tracks into even more astounding images, which I hope will live up to any expectations you may have when you start watching the series.

All I can say is, I think it looks like nothing else on television; I HOPE that if Jules Verne saw it he’d say “Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted to see” and I’m keeping my fingers crossed YOU say “That’s pretty cool – give us more”.

“Queen Victoria and the Giant Mole”
An introduction by series creator Gavin Scott

Three great forces zoom towards each other and collide in this episode: Queen Victoria, representing the might of the British Empire. The Giant Mole, a terrifying underground tunneling device funded by the aristocratic conspiracy known as the League of Darkness. And the young Jules Verne – the visionary who invented the twentieth century. The battleground – Paris in the 1860’s. The jokers in the pack – a cynical gambler named Phileas Fogg, his language-mangling manservant Passepartout – and Fogg’s leather-clad cousin Rebecca Fogg, the world’s first female secret agent.

When we first meet Jules he’s just watching someone tear down the poster for his latest unsuccessful play. Yes – Jules Verne the playwright. The truth is that long before Jules invented science fiction he thought his destiny was to write and produce plays. He came to Paris (from Nantes) as a law student, but instead of practicing law he holed up in the traditional artist’s garret and turned out verse dramas, historical dramas, romantic dramas. All of which either never got produced or when they were produced – flopped.

He was like one of the characters in “La Boheme” – the classic starving artist. The great writer Alexander Dumas took pity on him and got one of his plays onstage, but the truth was Jules wasn’t a playwright. He had to invent the job that was waiting for him – the world’s first real science fiction writer. In reality that didn’t happen until he published a mock-documentary account of an ariel trip across Africa in the book known as “5 Weeks in a Balloon”.

Our series finds young Jules when he was still starving and still floundering. Living in his garret, partying with his Bohemian artist friends – and making notes about geography, metallurgy, topography, meteorology, mathematics: things that fascinated him but which he didn’t know what to do with. Plus, of course, sketches of amazing devices – like the giant Mole – which organisations like the League of Darkness could find and turn into real machines.

This is what first brings him and Phileas Fogg together. Fogg is the son of the former head of the British Secret Service, and though he has turned against the Service, he still works for it on occasion. On this occasion it’s to save the life of Queen Victoria. She’s come to Paris to conclude a peace treaty with the Emperor Napoleon III and the League of Darkness has got hold of the plans for all the security arrangements.

The League of Darkness, an aristocratic organisation devoted to retaining power in the hands of the rich and nobly born, doesn’t want peace in Europe – because peace will encourage the growth of democracy and war will promote the rule of the strong. They plan to use the Giant Mole to kidnap Queen Victoria and sabotage the treaty.

But back to Phileas Fogg. He has a sketch of the Giant Mole and tracks it back to the man who drew it – Jules Verne. He naturally assumes that Verne is part of the conspiracy, and intends to beat the truth out of him, while his sister Rebecca, clad in her famous leather fighting kit, goes down into the sewers of Paris to actually find the Mole – and nearly gets eviscerated in the process. Unlike Phileas, Rebecca actually works for the British Secret Service. She was brought up by Fogg’s father when her own parents were killed and in some ways she’s stepping into the role Phileas would have played if he hadn’t become disillusioned and quit. She’s always trying to push him away from his cynical, detached view of the world and get him involved with the adventures in which she finds herself. Once Jules Verne comes aboard it gets easier.

And of course Jules does come aboard – because it’s not long before Fogg concludes not only that he’s not part of the League of Darkness, but that he’s the only person in Paris with the scientific genius to invent a method of detecting the Mole before it strikes. And Passepartout, Fogg’s valet (made famous in Verne’s later book “Around the World in 80 Days”) is just the man to turn Verne’s ideas into reality in his lab-cum-workshop on the top deck of the Aurora.

The Aurora! Yes! That extraordinary flying ship won by Fogg in a game of blackjack in Monte Carlo. Ever seen inside one of those gentlemen’s clubs in London’s Pall Mall? It’s just like one of them – all deep armchairs and leather-bound books and brass fittings – except that it can fly. And it’s jam-packed with hidden devices that only Victorian steam-punk could create. The Aurora is our “Starship Enterprise” – the gas-powered monster that will introduce Jules Verne to the world of wonders he’ll later transform into his great novels.

Step aboard: join Jules, Rebecca and Phileas as they launch themselves into history – and some of the most amazing adventures the nineteenth century ever saw.

Gavin’s Intro to
CRUSADER IN THE CRYPT

This is where we get a good look at where Phileas Fogg came from and where Rebecca Fogg (after being orphaned) grew up. The delightful village of Shillingworth Magna, complete with benign vicar, loyal Scottish butler, forelock-tugging yokels, thick woods and mysterious things in the church crypt. A pretty pleasant spot to spend one’s childhood – but also the place in which the conflicts between Phileas and his super-achieving father first began to emerge. It was here that Phileas explored the woods with his beloved brother Erasmus, later to die so tragically in the cause of the British Secret Service. It was here that Rebecca began to learn how to hunt, fight, shoot and track, inspired by the larger-than-life models provided by the two brothers and their father.

But all along, unknown to them, something was brooding in the dark chamber beneath the church. Something that had been brought there by Shillingworth Magna’s first Lord of the Manor, the crusader Sir Hugh Maskelyne.

(A question – is there any link between the crusader Maskelyne and the family of magicians who became renowned in England in the nineteenth century? It’s a question that bears examining closely)

Anyway, Sir Hugh brought something back from the Crusades: the bones of a saint known as Saint Bartholemew – and they are what’s supposed to have been down in the crypt all this time. What has suddenly drawn attention to them? The disappearance of Fogg’s father’s body from its last resting place.
What is the link between the ancient bones and the modern ones? Why is the Prussian Secret Service skulking around? And what was it came down in the deserts of Syria a thousand years ago?

Only a close perusal of “Crusader in the Crypt” will reveal the answers to these unsettling questions …
The Cardinal’s Design
An introduction by series creator Gavin Scott

This is the episode where we get to see Jules interacting with his mentor Alexander Dumas. When I was researching Verne’s life I was fascinated to discover that the author of “The Man in the Iron Mask” and “The Three Musketeers” had been involved with the visionary who wrote “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “From the Earth to the Moon”. They seemed to come from different eras, different worlds. But the fact is they did interact.

Jules probably met Dumas through his son, also called Alexander and known as “Dumas fils”. What drew them together was the theater – because Alexander Dumas loved the theatre and even owned his own playhouse – on the infamous boulevard du Temple, also known as the rue du Crime.

(If you’ve ever seen that great wartime French movie, by Marcel Carne, “Les Enfants du Paradis”, you’ll have an idea what this area was like: in a word – wild.)

Young Jules and young Alexander would sit in the garden of Dumas mansion and try to lick Jules’ plays into shape while Alexander senior cooked omelettes and whipped up mayonnaises. (He loved food – and you you tell it by looking at him) Here’s a thing – the house had been built on the profits from Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” and was called “Monte Cristo”. So we have Jules Verne inside the house of the Count of Monte Cristo. Isn’t that a blast?

If I wanted to tell a really wild tale I’d go for the life of Alexander Dumas. His grandmother had been an African slave on the island of Santa Domingo, for a start. His father was one of Napoleon’s Generals, and as strong as a horse. Indeed, one of his tricks was to LIFT a horse. He’s sit astride it, grip it with his legs, grab a branch and lift them both off the ground! He once hurled a mutinous soldier over a wall. Not only was he a brilliant general – he hated the guillotine and once had it taken down and used as a bonfire to warm his men! Did this get him into trouble with the revolutionaries? You bet: but he thrived on it.

So did his son. He came to Paris as a struggling young writer (just like Jules Verne, but a generation earlier), got rich overnight at 27 with a hit play called “Henry III” and plunged into every exciting event history offered. He was in the thick of the Revolution of 1830 (think the final scenes of “Les Miserables”) He had mistresses galore, a factory for writing novels, scandals, business triumphs, business disasters. In 1860 he set sail in his luxury yacht for Sicily and joined Garibaldi in the campaign to create modern Italy: the two men entered Naples in triumph together. How many authors can say they were part of a revolution?

He was the ideal inspiration for Jules Verne: think big, work hard, produce on a HUGE scale. Why did Jules aspire to write a total of One Hundred novels? I think it was the example of Alexander Dumas. Two giants of French literature.

Watch the fireworks fly when the two of them come together in “The Cardinal’s Design”.
The Cardinal’s Revenge
An introduction by series creator Gavin Scott

What’s the best way to run a society? The answer is simple. You have enough well-disciplined clergymen to pray for it; you have enough well-trained nobles defend it, you have plenty of hard-working common people to obey the nobles – and you have a king who’s there by Divine Right to keep everyone in order. That, at any rate was the political philosophy of Armand Jean du Plessis, later to become Cardinal Richelieu of France – and one of the most ruthless and effective politicians who ever lived. “If you give me six lines written
by the most honest man in France, I will find something in them to hang him.” Remarked the Cardinal in one of his lighter moments. And he meant it. How could Alexander Dumas not have picked him for the chief villain of “The Three Musketeers”? He was made for the part.

He was born in Paris in 1585 into an impoverished family of minor nobility who had a bishopric in their possession and needed one of the sons to become a clergyman so they could hang on to it. By the age of 21 young Armand was wearing the episcopal miter.

But power in the church wasn’t enough for him; his family had always had political power too and he wasn’t going to let that part of his inheritance go either. He allied himself to the king’s mother and by the time he was 32 had snagged the job of Secretary of State for foreign affairs; eight years later he was Prime Minister. The reason? He was simply more intelligent and more ruthless than anyone else in France. He was the person the phrase “the ends justify the means” was created for. The Protestant Huguenots stood in the King’s way? They had to be crushed. The nobles not toeing the line: terrify them. The best way to maintain law and order? Ferocious punishments for minor infractions. And as for the power of the king? It should be absolute. How else do you dominate the rest of Europe? Well, spies, intrigue, deception and assassination come into it as well: but the Cardinal was as good at them as he was at saying masses. By the time his career was over the King was dominant over France and France was dominant over Europe.
Is this someone a young writer from the middle of the nineteenth century is ready to take on?
Watch the show and find out!

An introduction to Rockets of the Dead
By Series Creator Gavin Scott

At last – a play by Jules Verne gets a West End premiere! All his dramatic works flopped in Paris – but the British … well the British are getting to see them courtesy of the British Secret Service.

What? Why would the British Secret Service start putting on plays by Jules Verne?

Well – turns out they are mighty suspicious of a certain Count Rimini, an international arms dealer who may or may not be behind the theft of the formula for the most powerful rocket propellant known to man. And Count Rimini is a theater-lover.

More than that, he’s one of the great philanthropists of the theatre, putting money into beautiful playhouses all over Europe. Indeed, so grateful are they that a metal sculpture of the Count is embedded in the wall of every one of these theatres, as a mark of respect.

Keep those metal busts of Rimini in mind as the plot unfolds …

But back to Jules’ play. The reason for putting it on is to give a starring role to none other than … Rebecca Fogg. Because … the Count has a thing about the leading ladies in his plays.

He always seduces them.

And if he and Rebecca get, shall we say, close, the British Secret Service believes Rebecca will be in the ideal position to discover whether Count Rimini stole the rocket propellant formula.

And what he plans to do with it.

The man who came up with this highly off-colored plan is Sir Jonathon Chatsworth, the scheming, unscrupulous, second-rate Head of the British Secret Service. He doesn’t care what danger he puts Rebecca in – the truth is he’s jealous of her. She has more courage in her little finger than he has in his entire body. If Count Rimini manages to spirit her away – well, she was expendable.

This is not the view of Phileas Fogg. Rebecca is his cousin. Distant cousin. Distant enough for him to feel – well, a little tendresse for her. And if the idea of her prancing around on the stage disgusts him – the idea of her going off with Rimini appalls him.

When Rimini eludes the British Secret Service (not hard to do) and Rebecca disappears with him – Phileas – and Jules and Passepartout, of course, go after them.

To Transylvania. Where they discover that Rebecca is in MUCH more trouble than any of them dreamt of.

And that Rimini’s plans for the rocket fuel could end up changing the very nature of the human race itself.

Okay, I’d better stop there. (That’s where those metal busts come in – but you probably already guessed that)

Some amazing stuff happens – especially to Rebecca. Remember bobby, from Dallas? He’s in this too. Watch his dental work.
Have fun!

Lord of Air and Darkness
A introduction by series creator Gavin Scott

I was inspired to write this episode by the true story of a French parish priest named Berenger Sauniere, who became the cure of a tiny, impoverished southern hilltop village called Rennes le Chateau in 1885, for which he was paid the princely sum of about twenty dollars a year. In 1891 he borrowed money to restore the village church, and found, inside a pillar dating from the fall of the Roman Empire, four parchments in a wooden tube. When they were decoded one of them apparently spoke of a treasure belonging to a Visigoth king named Dagobert II. Sauniere promptly set off for Paris where, despite the fact that he was an obscure parish priest, history records that he suddenly began mixing with the leading figures of the time, from opera singers to writers like Maeterlinck and composers like Debussy. He spent considerable time in the Louvre and bought reproductions of three paintings, including one by Nicholas Poussin, “The Shepherds of Arcady”, which depicted a mysterious tomb in unknown countryside. Sauniere then returned to Rennes le chateau and apparently used the clue he had gathered in Paris to find the Visigoth treasure. And here’s the eerie part: The Visigoths had sacked Rome; the Romans had sacked Jerusalam: and some believed that what Sauniere discovered in the mysterious tomb were artifacts dating all the way back to the time of Solomon.

No one knows for certain, of course. A veil of secrecy descended over the village. The inhabitants found themselves well looked after, the church was lavishly restored, and the rich and famous came to visit Sauniere until the end of his life. But he never revealed what he had found or where exactly he had found it, and the full story of Rennes le Chateau remains a mystery to this day.

If you want to know more, I’d recommend a terrific book by Henry Lincoln called “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail”, which has theories about what was really going on that are nearly as fantastic as my ideas about the involvement of Count Gregory in the whole affair. Count Gregory? Ah, you have yet to meet Count Gregory. This time, perhaps, I would recommend hiding behind the sofa.

Though I have to warn you, it might not be enough.

Southern Comfort
An introduction by series creator Gavin Scott

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.” Remember those immortal lines from “A Scandal in Bohemia”, the first story in the first collection of Holmes’ exploits, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”? “She”, of course, was Irene Adler, an American opera singer “with the face of the most beautiful of women and the mind of the most resolute of men”. And she managed to outwit both the “hereditary king of Bohemia and Holmes himself. Just as Irene Adler burned herself on Sherlock Holmes’ steely psychic carapace, so did Saratoga Browne imprint herself on the psyche of Phileas Fogg. For him, she would always be the woman.

Why? I think it was a combination of her kindness, her courage in adversity (trying to run a plantation in the middle of the Civil War, her husband dead at the battlefront) and her vulnerability. Perhaps her vulnerability above all. Normally Phileas finds himself up against strong women, more than a match for him. The constant presence of his cousin Rebecca keeps him on his mettle at all times. So one must suspect that Saratoga, desperate as her plight was, fragile as her strength was, appealed to some deep vein in Phileas’ character.

And of course it chimes perfectly with the perverse streak in Fogg’s character that he falls in love with a woman who owns slaves when he’s come to America to help defeat the very forces trying to preserve slavery. As Jules Verne, of course, is the first to helpfully point out.

But what does Rebecca think of the fact that Phileas Fogg has fallen in love at last? After all, isn’t he supposed to have a certain tendresse for her? And aren’t they sufficiently distant cousins to make a romance between them at least a possibility? All true, but the fact that they’re related had always kept Phileas (just) at arm’s length, and even for Rebecca, who likes being worshiped from afar, the thing has been becoming something of a strain. So Phileas falling head over heels for a beautiful Southern belle – that seems like a good thing to Rebecca.

As for Count Gregory: you have met Count Gregory now, and heard his tragic and terrifying story. There’s no doubt that being torn apart by Turkish wild horses in the main square of Constantinople does something to a man’s character, and being reassembled by the monks living in the catacombs beneath Sancta Sophia might seem like a luck break until you examine their medical equipment. Being kept alive for hundreds of years at the head of a conspiracy of reactionary nobles isn’t all fun and games. But what Count Gregory has been working on is this: a way of concentrating enough electro-magentic power at any one time to allow his constituent parts to reassemble themselves. The period of wholeness may be brief, but it can allow the Count to achieve things he would otherwise not be able to contemplate.
Things we would rather, in fact, he did not contemplate.
As Fogg, Verne, and not least, Saratoga Browne are about to find out.
Hold onto your hats.

GAVIN SCOTT’S INTRODUCTION TO “LET THERE BE LIGHT”

In many ways the American Civil War was the start of war as we know it – the point when scientific knowledge, materials technology and mass production came together with human aggression as the four horsemen of the apocalypse to turn armed conflict into an industrial process. When it began Jules Verne was an unsuccessful playwright. By the time it was over he had created science fiction. At the time of his personal transition Americans were building submarines, armored-clad riverboats and machine guns. When the war was over, Verne was convinced, they would turn their extraordinary scientific energies and industrial might to the task of sending a man to the moon. In many ways America was the inspiration for his vision of the future of mankind.

So how natural it would be for Jules Verne to find himself on a train in the middle of the American Civil War with … well: I wouldn’t read on if I were you. See the show – find out at the end exactly who it was Jules met on that train. And ponder the riddle how that person came to find the design for the time machine built by Cardinal Richelieu in a book of Aztec drawings.

Here’s the conundrum: Alexander Dumas came across the design for the Chronological Displacement Device in the papers of the great Cardinal. He built it and traveled back to the Cardinal’s own era. But of course the Cardinal hadn’t built it: he’d read about it in the secret prophecies of Nostradamus and simply anticipated its arrival. The plans in his papers were simply his drawings of the machine.

Which leaves the question of where the design actually originated. Was it Aztec? It seems hardly credible that a civilization which hadn’t developed the wheel could have built a machine that would pass through the dimensions. And yet they clearly knew about it, because it was from them that the young American hero of “Let there be light” drew his inspiration. Does the machine possibly have a life of its own, passing through the dimensions and appearing in our world at unpredictable intervals throughout time? And in which case who originally created it and what is its purpose?

While you ponder these questions, I was to go back for a moment to the mysterious young man on the train. A journalist recently asked me how I could stretch history so violently as to include him in the time and place I’ve put him. To which I replied – no violence has been done to history. Al did the job I have him doing in roughly the time and circumstances I have him doing it.

As to what he might have gone on to invent had he not met Jules Verne – that is something I will leave you, dear viewer, to speculate about for yourself.

GAVIN’S INTRO TO “THE BALLAD OF STEELEY JOE”

First question – could Jules Verne have met the future Mark Twain on a riverboat in the middle of the Civil War, and would said future author have fled with him into the West. A resounding yes to both questions, if Jules had happened to be in the right place at the right time. Twain – then known as Sam Clemens – has enthusiastically joined the Confederacy early in the Civil War, had helped form a small unit of volunteers and had set off to fight the Yankees. Young men discovered very rapidly that war is not quite what it’s cracked up to be, and having been worsted in some of their first encounters, started retreating. They then learned, as Twain told people years later, “more about retreating than the man who invented retreating” and by the time they’d retreated nearly all the way home concluded it was time to pack up the soldiering business and get on with something more profitable. Sam’s problem was that as a riverboat pilot he was a valuable commodity: the Union wanted people like him who had learned the ways of the Mississippi River to help guard their armored gunboats into Confederate strongholds. Not liking the sound of this, Clemens headed west, joined his brother in Nevada and became a journalist in the wild mining communities between there and California. This, in fact, was where he found his feet as a writer, decided to adopt the pen name Mark Twain, and started on the road to fame and fortune. And as for Jesse James, if you’re wondering whether he too could have been anywhere near the Mississippi at the time specified, the answer is yes to that too. Before he was an outlaw, he did indeed ride with Quantrill’s infamous Confederate guerillas, learned everything he needed to know about killing and terrorizing people, and prepared himself, like Mark Twain, to enter history.
His jokes, of course, were nothing like as good as Mr. Clemens ….

Gavin’s Introduction to The Strange Death of Professor Marechal

Back from the dead! The phrase itself seems designed to send shivers down the spine. But it has always puzzled me why Dr Frankenstein, setting himself the task of returning someone from the next world to our own, should have made it more difficult for himself by cutting up several different individuals and sewing them together, to say nothing of swapping brains. Surely just bringing a perfectly ordinary human being from beyond the grave would have been enough? And if you want a monster – isn’t the really interesting possibility that in organizing this unorthodox form of transportation – you CREATE a monster?

Certainly Jules Verne’s good friend Professor Marechal wasn’t the kind of man to waste his time digging up corpses and hem-stitching them together. He concentrated on the real challenge, which was generating enough electricity to make it happen. Every forward thinking person in the nineteenth century knew that provided you had enough electricity, you could do pretty much anything.

That was where the extraordinary tides on the northern coast of France come in. Tides which even today are still providing power from their tremendous energies. It was here that the Professor set up his laboratories, began the process of bringing people back from the dead – and discovered that being called back from the great beyond can have calamitous effects on the human brain.

Which might have stopped the experiments in their tracks – had the League of Darkness not heard about them, and realised the enormous potential the technology offered them in their quest to control the way the future unfolds.

Yet another factor was necessary to create the intense drama which the “Strange Death” records: the unfortunate demise of the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the height of a crisis in India which only he can solve. Has the British Secret Service heard about Professor Marechal’s experiments? Yes it has. Do they want to see if the Prime Minister can be brought back for long enough to keep India inside the British Empire? Yes they do. And is Rebecca Fogg the unfortunate agent given the task of getting Marechal’s machine for Britain? Take a wild guess.

And prepare for a journey … beyond the bourne from which no traveler returns.

Gavin’s intro to Rocket’s Red Glare

General Custer! What a swine! And a vain swine at that: he was inordinately proud of his long blond locks. We always think of him in relation to the frontier, but of course his career took off during the Civil War: and I think it was inevitable he would one day clash with Phileas Fogg and Jules Verne. He never knew how close he came to preventing them saving the United States from what would have been a disastrous intervention by the British Empire in the Civil War. Because the fact is that had war broken out on the border between British Canada and the United States, American military effort would have been fatally diverted from the war with the south, and instead of the Confederacy being defeated and slavery abolished, Lincoln might well have had to make peace.

We are already familiar with the League of Darkness campaign to aid the south through the intervention of heavier-than-air flying machines, and how our the Foggs, Jules and Passepartout foiled that attempt – though at the terrible price of Mrs. Savannah Brown’s murder. You will recall how Count Gregory’s ariel battleship, fatally wounded, disappeared westward streaming smoke and flame presumably to crash in some spur of the Appalachian Mountains.

But you will also recall the Count’s extraordinary ability to survive. After all, a man who was torn apart by wild Turkish horses in the main square of Constantinople five centuries ago and lived to tell the tale, however haltingly, is not likely to be silenced by a mere air-crash. The Count is designed to be separated from his constituent parts – and reunited with them by his loyal followers. Indeed, we learn, in this episode, yet more of the means by which he controls those followers. The mind-stud seen the “Lord of Air and Darkness” was only a precursor of the mental control mechanisms employed by the reincarnated Count.

And chillingly he has now decided that Verne and Fogg are to be added to his collection of mental slaves. As for the fate he plans for Rebecca in relation to the rocket he has built – it scarcely bears thinking about.

It may be incumbent on me to suggest that only those with the strongest constitutions nerve themselves to watch what happens in the light of … The Rocket’s Red Glare.

Good luck!

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