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”.


Top Gear Challenges 2

Top Gear: The Challenges 2

“Well, here we are again. Another Top Gear DVD, and one that should be considered essential on subject matter alone. Let’s face it, the Challenges are the BEST part of the show as they test Jezza, Hamster and Captain Slow to their limits and beyond, in tasks that are extreme, barmy, exciting, surprising, hilarious and (more often than not) end in disaster.

Top Gear: The Challenges was a brilliant DVD, I thought. It had the best challenges ever in the show’s history, which for that reason alone, made it worth buying and cherishing. However, the DVD was criticised by many regarding the editing and the presentation. The menus were awkward and difficult to operate, the sequence of challenges were broken up and scattered so it was hard to follow them properly, and the scene selection wasn’t as well conceived as it should’ve been. Personally, none of this bothered me, though I could understand why it annoyed others.

But first things first, what exactly can you expect from Top Gear: The Challenges 2? All the best challenges from the tenth series, which is the only logical thing to do, seeing as how all the best challenges from the show’s HISTORY have been released previously.

The Challenges here are Amphibious Cars: The Sequel (where they cross the Channel), The Bugatti Veyron vs. The Eurofighter, Motorhome Racing, Fiat 500 vs. BMX, the lads’ search for The Greatest Driving Road, The 24 Hour Race (at Silverstone) and the epic Race Across London (featuring James in a Mercedes, Richard on a bicycle, The Stig on public transport and Jeremy in a racing speedboat). These challenges are all fresh, and while perhaps not as classic as the last batch, there’re nonetheless excellent, featuring all the essential stuff that makes Top Gear the cracking entertainment that it is.

But…HAVE the BBC listened to all the criticisms that were directed at the last Challenges DVD? YES, THEY HAVE. The structure of the compilation is MUCH better than it was previously. No skipping over to another challenge halfway through the one you’re currently watching THIS time around. Each portion of the Challenges from the shows have been grouped together to form a much better, more structured presentation. You’re watching one Challenge all the way through before moving onto the next one, allowing you to just sit back and enjoy a much-more smoother and better-flowing compilation.

The scene-selection has also been better designed, meaning the chapter-breaks are at much more convenient points. And all the menus operate like they SHOULD. Cursors are where they should be, you have the cool Top Gear theme playing on almost every menu, and there’s a really nice Stig animation that accompanies the transitions between the different menus.

And the icing on the cake? EXTRAS. There’s some really great ones here. First up, are clips from celebrity stars of the last series, Lewis Hamilton and Simon Cowell. Both of their amazing Lap Times round the Top Gear test track are shown here, along with extended interviews. The new cuts are noticeable and thus make these extras even more special.

There’s also a ride with The Stig in the No. 1 Lap Car, complete with an interactive option that allows you to change the camera angle via your remote. Even though there’s only two angles to choose from, it’s still a great addition to the disc. There’s also another interactive multi-angle option featuring the Eurofighter from the Bugatti Veyron race, and although it’s quite brief, it is absolutely breathtaking and seriously worth partaking in. And finally, there’s a nice little video of the Lamborghini Gallardo (from The Greatest Driving Road) driving on the Col De Turini. This is made special by the camera that’s mounted on the front of the car, making you understand why the Col De Turini is SUCH a fantastic road, as the lads have said.

And because this is a BBC DVD, you can naturally expect high-quality presentation. The DVD transfer is as clean and as crisp as always. Sound cannot be faulted, and there’s useful subtitles (as usual) just in case.

Now, if it’s Top Gear, I buy it on DVD for pure entertainment, regardless of how it’s released, because I know I’m getting my money’s worth seeing my favourite moments again and again. But the presentation of this particular release has really impressed me. Perhaps more than any other previous DVD that the BBC have released. Top Gear: The Challenges 2 has everything here. The outstanding highlights, better menu selections and cracking extras. Those who were disappointed with the last Challenges DVD won’t be disappointed here. It’s a fantastic release and like all Top Gear DVDs, should be part of your collection”.