Towards the end of July of 2007, the folks in England got a real treat – the Top Gear Polar Special. That's right, for those who don't know, someone thought it was okay to send Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond to the North Pole. Actually, that's not accurate, no one sent them there; it was worse than that. Someone made the three men get to the Pole on their own (but with a little help). Here in the States we finally got to see this bit of brilliance last night.
It was, in short, the best of times and the worst of times. What the guys were doing was obviously terribly dangerous – as they pointed out several times, there was the real possibility of death. Sure, they were going in the summer, but it's still awfully cold in the Arctic during the summer. However, if something truly terrible had happened to anyone one of them we would have known about it long before. Top Gear episodes filmed well after this one have already aired here, and not only have all three men been in those episodes, but they've been in them with all their appendages intact. On the other hand, watching the men struggle to reach the Pole was absolutely brilliant.
Two thoughts really struck me going into the episode – first, it's something of a miracle that these guys don't kill themselves on a regular basis going around the track in England; sending them to the North Pole where things are even more dangerous was almost asking for trouble. Second, some of the series' best episodes are those in which the guys get travel – anywhere. They just have to go somewhere (the Botswana trip instantly comes to mind as being the best of these).
The episode certainly did not disappoint. It was utterly fantastic. I'm not sure I really buy the excuse they gave for the show doing the trip: a race between dogsled and a car — a car that would be the first to ever make it to the Pole – but what ended up on tape was enough to make any excuse enough. Clarkson and May went by a modified Toyota Hilux and Hammond went by dogsled (with an experienced person along to help). I won't ruin the ending of the race (even if it has aired already in much of the world), but that's not really where the fun was. No, the fun was in watching these men battle the elements and each other.