There isn't an automotive enthusiast on Earth that hasn't heard of Top Gear. Although there are many iterations of the franchise around the world, the most well-known of them is the revamped UK version. The trio of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May will forever be immortalized in the industry as the famous Top Gear trio despite having been replaced and moved to their now critically acclaimed new show on Amazon "The Grand Tour".
During their presence, this automotive show has attracted not only the more hardcore enthusiasts but also the casual viewers. The main reason comes from their chemistry on stage. Although the program was marketed as an automotive show, what really attracted the fans over the other TV offerings, such as their main rival at the time: "Fifth Gear", was the usual way the series was delivered and the endless shenanigans that its presenters managed to get themselves into.
Spanning almost two decades, this television series has offered fans an abundance of episodes, whether for the most loyal fans to rewatch over and over again or to attract newcomers into the world of entertainment television that Top Gear has become known for. So now comes the debate, with over a hundred episodes in its repertoire, what is the best Top Gear episode to date?
Keep reading to find out what we believe is till this day the best Top Gear episode for established fans and for attracting a new generation of viewers to the franchise.
The Trio Goes To Vietnam
Surprisingly, the best Top Gear episode doesn't involve cars. Instead, the famous trio heads to Vietnam with a pocket full of Vietnamese dong, and much to Jeremy Clarkson's dismay, the only vehicular transport they can afford are actually two-wheeled scooters and bikes. After finally acquiring the three sets of wheels, the presenters head out on a 1,000 miles trip across Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh to Ha Long Bay.
The adventure was filled with unfortunate mishaps and banter between the three hosts that we have come to expect and love and ultimately end at its final destination with some self-reflection from the trio. Reading this you are probably thinking that it sounds like the typical Top Gear special but in reality, this episode means so much more, truly the show at its finest.
What Made This Episode Special
Top Gear has almost always been regarded as an all-time favorite for automotive enthusiasts. Its basic episodic format includes the well-known presenters in the studio in front of attendees, a few pre-recorded car reviews, some lap times with fast cars driven by the Stig, and some other less prominent segments. Once in a while, there would be a challenge episode, but all in all the basic structure of the show has always been more or less the same. That is if we disregard the first series after the rebranding, where Jason Dawe completed the trio instead of beloved James May.
Although everyone loved the good old regular Top Gear episodes, the one that really attracted current fans and new ones alike was the Specials. Those episodes usually sent the hosts and three themed cars on a shenanigan-filled adventure. But what made the Vietnam episode stand out was ironically the lack of cars. The usual special usually focused on a specific theme and the trio each brought a car that matched said theme and then proceeded to go through a series of challenges to determine who made the best choice.
Throwing the good old recipe out the window, the Vietnam adventure saw the focus shift on the hosts instead of the vehicle. This was a particularly bold move considering that Top Gear was a car show. In the end, it paid off, the episode was a big hit and had attracted new fans to the already established series.
Setting The Stage For Future Specials
The popularity of this episode meant two things, the importance of the chemistry between Clarson, May, and Hammond, and how much the audience loved seeing the trio out of their elements. It wasn't supercars in the south of France, but old broken down vehicles on roads less traveled. This knowledge helped set the stage for many other Top Gear Specials and eventually, as the trio moved on, carried over to their lastest project The Grand Tour.
We understand that there might be a difference of opinion when it comes to crowning the best of something, but taking out the subjective, the trio little escapade in Vietnam will do down in the history of the show as one of the most well-received episodes and one of the most important moments in Clarkson, Hammond and May's career.