The U.S. of A, the North Pole, Botswana, Vietnam, Romania and the dangerous jungles of South America. Where else left in the world can Jeremy, Richard and James conquer?
The Middle East. That's what they decided last Christmas for a Top Gear Special. The mere idea was shocking, and it just so turned out to be one of the best they've ever done. So for this year's Great Adventures box set, expect delightful Directors' Cuts of both the Middle East special, and the special challenge Road Trips to Albania and (again) America.
The trek across the Middle East doesn't quite match up to the greatness of the legendary Polar Special (the definitive edition of Top Gear), but it certainly is outstanding, and definitely the most controversial. Jezza and Hamster wearing burkas(!), Jeremy Clarkson realising he has the initials "J.C.", the lads following the path of the `Three Wise Men', the second coming, loaves and fishes, walking on water, giving presents to Joseph and Mary etc. But what can you expect? Boys will be boys, and to journey from Iraq to Bethlehem as `the Three Wise Men", they were obviously gonna incorporate the nativity, religion and the Middle Eastern culture into their humour!
But all the humour is innocent and harmless fun, really. And absolutely hilarious, which couple with the rest of the adventure's content, makes the Middle East Special one of the best Top Gear episodes ever. It immediately kicks off with a bang as the lads scream in a hair-raising landing in a Russian transport plane...with the cargo ramp OPEN! And from there you can again expect amazing discoveries, modifications to the cars, races and all kinds of happenings, like Richard's scary stop at customs, James' scary accident in the Syria desert, and Jeremy's attempt to make a bulletproof door. And the SHOCKING ending featuring the `Baby Stig' ices a most delicious cake of an episode.
An honourable mention must go to the producers also for their filming of Iraq. Initially, there's real reason to be afraid because of the war, and the exposed drives through the country, but when it becomes apparent that there's nothing to fear here, you feel pleased amidst all the violence and madness, there are normal people and beautiful country to behold. It's really pleasing to see, and kudos must be given to those who filmed all the wonderful shots.
As for the second disc that contains the U.S. and Albania road trips, expect more top-notch entertainment. Jeremy, Richard and James' third trip to the states is another highly eventful romp, featuring their squandered drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway (due to harsh speed limits), their playtime on the historical Wilkesboro Speedway (where NASCAR itself began), meeting the brilliant Mayor of Wilkesboro (he's such a character!), more races, Clarkson shredding tyres, a drive-by shooting on cut-outs of the Stig (Hammond is GENUINELY scary here!) and the culminating race across Manhattan, where only one of the trio will guest appear on morning American telly!
Like previous U.S. trips, this one is tremendous fun and packed with memorable moments. The first U.S. Special is still the best American adventure, but this sequel is definitely a worthy one. But the adventure in Albania surpasses the U.S. trip in my opinion, as Clarkson, Hammond and May heed the call of a Mafia Boss (apparently) to determine which is best out of the Rolls-Royce Ghost, The Mercedes S-Class and the `Bentley Mulsanne' (which is really a second-hand rubbish Yugo, due to Bentley pulling out at the last minute).
More discoveries consist of a fascinating trip to a disused submarine base and abandoned airbase featuring MIG-15s, there's a hilarious test to see if which of the cars can successfully get a `Dead Body' in the boot, an obvious mismatched drag-race and a really daring bank robbery to determine the best getaway car, most notable for the tragic, VALIANT death of Captain Slow himself.
Rest in peace, mate. Until next time, obviously.
So once again, there's plenty of worthwhile material for fans. The Director's Cuts again feature noticeable new footage, the deleted scenes are fab, the Middle East commentary featuring James and the crew is excellent (though maybe next time we could have Jeremy and Richard joining in?), and the overall DVD quality is typical of 2entertain. With no signs of faltering, Top Gear remains top-notch, both on BBC2 and on home video. Yet another box-set to add to your collection.