Top Gear – The Great Adventures (Polar Special & US Special)

Top Gear – The Great Adventures (Polar Special & US Special)

“Top Gear, frankly, is one of those things that has made me feel excited about television again. For a long time, I only really used my TV to watch a DVD/play a game. There was little to nothing for me to watch in terms of original broadcasting. Then my cousin recommended watching Top Gear…and everything changed for me.

The whole premise of the show is just genius. Three big kids, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, loving cars and getting into all kinds of adventures and mishaps is just brilliant. In their own special way, they’re all intelligent, entertaining, quick-witted and produce some hilarious, hair-raising and truly unforgettable viewing together. For me, Top Gear is the best thing on television today, hands-down.

Having developed a love for Top Gear (and subsequent DVD releases) in virtually no time at all, The Great Adventures is doubtless something to be really pleased to own. The reason why this box set is such a mandatory purchase is because it features the two most memorable specials ever in the programme’s history.

Scratch that. BEST EPISODES EVER in the programme’s history.

Starting with the Polar Special, you have Jeremy Clarkson and James May driving an extensively modified Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, competing against Richard Hammond and a dog team…in a 450 mile race to the North Pole. Those who watched this when it was first broadcast will remember it being not only an epic race, but also a tremendous test of survival, very real danger, incredible discovery and a true sense of accomplishment.

For the TV version of that amazing challenge to finally be released on DVD is special in itself, but the thing here is that this version of the Polar Special is actually the Director’s Cut. And this is not a cheap plug with only a few measly seconds of insignificant footage included. This is the real deal. The Director’s Cut is ten minutes longer than the hour-long version that was originally broadcast. The extra footage is absolutely amazing and enlightens the viewer more on what the lads went through in preparation for the adventure, the stress and dangers they endured, and what other astonishing discoveries they made.

The other special included is the U.S. one. This was the first ever episode of Top Gear I watched, so naturally it has such a special place in my heart. Here Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow have purchased $1000 wrecks to embark on the ultimate American road trip over 700 miles to their destination of New Orleans, encountering all kinds of memorable challenges along the way. These consist of lap races, breaking before alligator-infested waters, preparing a road-kill feast and baiting the people of Alabama and surviving.

The U.S. special is just as excellent as I remember it. The lads’ quest for purchasing American cars on such a low budget, the hilarity of the lads’ road-kill feast, the frightening realism of their dangerous antagonising trek through Alabama are the highlights. And the charitable acts of the presenters to the people of New Orleans merits such respect and admiration, making it the perfect ending to a fantastic adventure.

However, I was very surprised that the lads’ frightening drive through a fierce storm on the highway was cut from this home release of U.S. special. It didn’t deter me from it anyway, but it is a tad on the disappointing side. What’s really disappointing, though, is the music edits that had to be made due to contractual reasons. This is very noticeable during the Polar Special Director’s Cut. A lot of the soundtrack music used here instead of that on the original broadcast really doesn’t have the same quality impact on the presentation. In fact, the substitute soundtrack feels somewhat out of place and like it doesn`t really belong here.

There’s no extras either, which is a shame. Some outtakes and deleted scenes would’ve been really nice. Along with audio commentaries from Clarkson, Hammond and May regarding their own personal reflections of their amazing adventures.

But at such a bargain price, and with such a beautiful DVD transfer, I shouldn’t complain, really. Top Gear: The Great Adventures is a box set that every fan has been waiting for. These two expeditions are events that best showcase why these three guys have every right to be proud of what they do, what an amazing life they lead and why Top Gear is the best thing on television right now. The best DVD release of the show so far? I’d definitely say so”.

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