The western coast of Namibia faces the Atlantic Ocean. Perfect location for a special about beach buggies, right? Maybe. It definitely didn’t go the way our favorite trio thought it would. From cold weather to dead ends to dunes as high as mountains, the terrain was punishing on both body and vehicle. In the end, they almost accomplished their objective but were forced to relinquish victory to Mr. Wilman.
This special is reminiscent of the Top Gear Africa special, where the guys spent an entire day navigating the salt pans in Botswana. Problem after problem plagues their journey, all the while a threatening Volkswagen Beetle lurks behind the group, a promise to the first driver who can’t coax their vehicle across the pans. Really, it’s reminiscent of all of the Top Gear specials. No news, no guests, no track times, just shenanigans and laughs, something I think every viewer had been missing.
One of the best things about this special is the sheer beauty of the environment it’s shot in.
“The quality of The Grand Tour’s work feels more appropriate for the BBC’s phenomenal Planet Earth series, rather than some geeky car show, and that’s doubly true of the entire Namibian saga.” Nearly every scene is a spectacular sweeping view of the Namibian coast or the Namib Desert or the tribal lands in the northern part of the country. These are the type of shots that make you pause and say, “My God, that’s breathtakingly beautiful.” Brandon Turkus of Autoblog
Despite the apparent beauty of the cinematography, the prevailing consensus seems to be that this is all a welcome departure from the usual episodes in the tent studio.
“The episodes are definitely proving to be the best episodes so far as there are no scripted jokes, no tent, no conversation street and specially no celebrity brain crash. This has shown the real grand tour acquiring their old Top Gear style.”- Asmita Kundu of International Business Times
“On the plus side, the absence of The Grand Tour tent meant we didn’t get any cringe-worthy studio segments.” – Martin Bigg of CarBuzz
“…the jaunt served both as advertisement for the bottomless resources of Jeremy Clarkson and cohorts’s new corporate backer, Amazon, and also as proof that the show works best setting aside the studio-based flummery… Thus, there was no tiresome Celebrity Brain Crash segment…” – Ed Power from the UK Telegraph agrees.
This could be a good popular indicator that the format Amazon is following with show isn’t working with viewers. The numbers might then be due to popularity of the presenters rather than gimmicky content. I, for one, continue to hope that a more “Stig-ish” replacement is found for the American, whom I feel tries a little to hard to be stereotypical and therefore humerous.
But while the format change was welcomed, it seems that the usual special configuration fell flat. In comparison to specials from the Top Gear age, car creativity seemed lacking.
“But there’s somehow a mismatch in the entertainment they’re having versus the entertainment they’re providing the viewer. You always get the sense that it was much, much more fun to film than it is for us to watch. Sadly, these homemade machines are part of that, as they lack the character of some of their previous machines on such epic journeys,” – Ally Heath of British GQ.
Any viewer can pick out their favorite vehicle from specials past, each having a personality to rival their driver. The sports lorry from the Burma special. Hammond’s Opal Kadette, lovingly nicknamed Oliver, from the Botswana special. Even the long-suffering, many-mirrored Vespa from the Vietnam special. In the Namibia special, however, there seems to be no connectivity between buggy and driver, and therefore no connectivity with the viewer. In each special, there was always someone I rooted for to make it, because I wanted to see that underdog cross the finish line.
But with this special, I couldn’t tell who the underdog was, or that there was really much difference between each of the buggies other than stats. There wasn’t enough differences or variables here to make it truly interesting.
But one has to admit that this escape from the norm, however lacking in connectivity, was a refreshing change. It’s definitely got a feeling of coziness to it, like putting on a pair of expensive slippers. Undeniably beautiful and completely comfortable at the same time.
I give this special four out of five rubber penises and most likely will watch again.