There is something about this time of year that demands a good, solid adaptation of a literary classic. Right on cue, here is Around the World in 80 Days for the entire family to enjoy. After the past two years, the prospect of watching adventurers gallivant all over the planet, on a whim, seems almost too cruel to contemplate. No pricey PCR tests, no threat of a country ending up on the red list at the last minute, no prospect of cancellation due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control? Those global circumnavigators didn’t know how good they had it in 1872. That should mean there is more pleasure in quite literally watching the world go by, even if it takes a while to get going. After hearing of a new railway while dining at his private members’ club, Phileas Fogg accepts a bet that he can be the first man to travel around the globe in 80 days. Off he goes, gathering up companions as if this is a 19th-century Doctor Who and getting himself into historical scrapes. Tennant promised a “romp” from this updated version of Jules Verne’s novel, and it certainly is lively. This is big television in the vein of His Dark Materials (and its gorgeous opening credits seem to have taken some inspiration from that series, as well as from Game of Thrones). The prolific composer Hans Zimmer has written the score, alongside Christian Lundberg. Naturally, given its source material, it zips around the planet. This is a multinational production, showing off its many locations and a second season has been confirmed before the first has even aired. Clearly, there is great confidence in it. It is justified, largely. Fogg is a dour, troubled rich man, ambling around in the trappings of his vast and mysterious wealth. He sulks in his mansion, he sulks in his club. He has a touch of the Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos about him; the spectre of a wealthy man who needs a frivolous and history-making journey to feel alive again is familiar. His ardour for the “balloon contraption” is his equivalent of the modern enthusiasm for the space rocket. In the book, Fogg is fastidious and precise, but Tennant’s Fogg is more of a clumsy blunderer, at least to start with. Here, the charisma is shared among the three main characters, rather than hogged by Tennant alone. Detective Fix, Verne’s Scotland Yard policeman, has morphed into Abigail “Fix” Fortescue, a plucky gal reporter with a weekly column to fill and an unwilling subject – Fogg – about whom she has to write. The Crown’s Leonie Benesch portrays her with guts and gumption, as a woman trying to break into a man’s world and make a name for herself against the odds. And why not? The book remains as it ever was, even if purists may grumble, and the character doesn’t seem crowbarred in. The fact that she is a likable journalist may require more of an imaginative leap for some, however. Completing the trio is Ibrahim Koma as Fogg’s valet, Passepartout, whose story shares near-equal billing with Fogg’s in the first episode, via the addition of an emotional fraternal reunion and a revolutionary subplot. Koma brings a lot of charm to his Passepartout, despite setting him up as a bit of a romantic cad. Although they have not had a lot of time to establish themselves as a three-piece quite yet, it looks as if they will not have any trouble carrying the show together. Around the World in 80 Days does suffer from a touch of first-episode syndrome, though. It has to set the scene and build its world – and it takes its time to do so. It isn’t until the white cliffs of Dover begin to recede behind Fogg, Passepartout and Miss Fix that it starts to feel as if it is going somewhere worth your time and investment. By the halfway point, I was keen for the travelling to start and the adventures to begin; British television is not lacking in period dramas about posh people, so the least they could do is chuck in a bit of pleasant scenery and swashbuckling, to hurry along the wagers made in private members’ clubs over boiled beef and spotted dick. However, as I say, this is big television, an eight-part series and it has plenty of time to unfurl and reveal its charms. I am looking forward to seeing where they go next, in every sense.