Top Gear throughout its existence as a program, has had several different kinds of show. There is the more informative type of show where they present cars and have guest stars and other silly challengers and scenarios and then there is the challenge type episode. The India special is the latter kind of episode. Unlike most story driven shows, the plot is generally self-contained in a single episode (except for the one two part show they did in Myanmar) and unlike most informative documentary types of shows, there is character driven narrative complete with a perilous task our heroes must overcome. To the unknowing viewer who may think this show is all fact and no fun they may be surprised to find out that the show while not a drama, is told in a very dramatic way.
The episode first begins with the typical intro credits of stylized shots of cars and other images from previous episodes all the background of “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers. When the credits are over we find ourselves not in India but in front of the home of David Cameron where they tell us quite seriously, about how Mr. Cameron has told Great Britain that “we need to do more business with India.” They go on to tell us about how they have requested from Mr. Cameron that they be allowed to conduct an official trade mission to India. It is then that David Cameron is seen leaving his house telling the team to “stay away from India.”
After the unequivocal run in with the prime minister the scene quickly changes with many shots in rapid succession of Indian Buildings, landscapes, trains, and monkeys. The many images of people, the roads, and the city shot from either high angle to give a sense of scale and eye level to give a sense of vigor and life attempting to further draw the audience into the illusion. When the camera goes back to the hosts we are introduced to the cars: James in a second hand Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, Jeremy in a second hand Jaguar XJS, and Hammond in a second hand Mini Cooper. Even as both James and Jeremy both agree before Hammond arrives that they link his car, what follows is the typical bickers between the three about how terrible the others car is.
The scene then transitions again with more artful shots of Indian landscape followed by a map of India that shows the team starting in Bombay and their route through Jaipur, Delhi, and finishing in the northern tip in Shimla near the Himalayas. Before we are presented with the first act or challenge of the show the three go about talking history and their affection of both their cars and India. It is in this first part we are introduced to some key information that could possibly threaten the team. First James lies to the other two about his A/C not working when it is actually fine and that there is a back-up car. The back-up car an Allegro is so bad that to keep the engine from overheating the heat must remain on at all times which in the heat of India in the summer is essentially a death sentence.
After this introductory segment closes the hosts disclose to us about dabbawalas. They surmise that they will improve upon the system (which has an accuracy of 99.9996%) with their cars. Jeremy with his famous rhetoric explains to the other two that when you order take out they don’t use the train. Whist preparing for the race between the dabbawalas we see a big difference in personality amongst the hosts. Jeremy throws about 16 out of his 100 bucket lunches carelessly in his car leaving the rest for James and Hammond. Jeremy actually arrives before the dabbawalas but has questionably handled his cargo, Richard who has taken the cans Jeremy left behind, had lost several of his cans, and James was lost attempting to be meticulous and crafty.
We then enter act two where the team goes north to Jaipur by train as told by the producer. When the team sees the line for tickets, Jeremy and Hammond both make excuses to leave forcing James to stand in line. Jeremy at lunch with Hammond, presents him with a gift of a double bass. This reoccurring theme of buying gifts that are too big for Hammonds car, actually give them the idea of hosting a diplomatic trade dinner and getting the Top Gear band (which is themselves) to play the event.
In the train they annoy passengers with their rendition of “Hey Jude” and then come up with another idea. At one of the stops they Hammond gets material for making an advertisement on the side of their train. First they attempt to hang the banners whilst the train is moving which turns out to be extremely dangerous even warranting two advisory warning messages. We see the banners which say “the United Kingdom Promotes British I.T. for your company” and “Eat English muffins”. As they hang up the banners James is left behind due to his pedantry, at one of the stations. The other two opt out of pulling the stop cord because it cost 13GBP (about 17$). When they arrive at their final destination the train separates at the two cars holding the banner changing the meaning.
Hammond and Jeremy proceeded to unload the cars from the train when they discover that James had lied to them about his A/C. Jeremy utilizing more of his rhetoric, explains how Gandhi talked about wealth inequality which the two use to justify breaking James A/C. It is here we start to see that the three hosts are actually all anti-heroes to each other.
This brings us to the next challenge thought up by Clarkson, which was to show India British motor sport with a hill climb. Many locals sporting small cars, mopeds, three wheeled taxis, tractors, the police, and even an elephant all come to race on the track. Before the team goes they remind us of their diplomatic intentions explaining that they must not win. When the winners are presented we see Jeremy on the podium sporting first being humble as always.
After the race track debacle Richard comes up with an idea inspired by when the prince of Whales came to visit Jaipur, to give their cars a makeover to make them look more Indian all set to the backdrop of more artistic shots of Jaipur. When the team reconvenes we see James’s car decked out in tacky Ganesh figurines and incense. Jeremy’s car has had an Indian themed paint job and a toilet on the trunk of the car. Richard arrives satisfied with the paint job he has done. Upon inspection from the other two they discover that Richard has not painted the Indian flag but rather the Mexican flag, where they allude to a previous episode where Richard insulted Mexico and therefore has been in trouble with them for some time.
The next act of the show we see the team driving from Jaipur to Delhi. James discovers the betrayal with the sabotage of his A/C and Jeremy tells the audience that India suffers per year 196,000 motoring deaths or 22 deaths per hour. Hammond affirms this statement by saying they are the most deadly roads in the world and they get worse at night. The camera shows us what they hosts see or rather what they cannot with massive trucks blasting by, pedestrians in the road sitting and walking, and cars unilluminated by any signal lights. James exacts his revenge on Jeremy by turning his heat on full and removing the knob and later on Hammond by permanently moving his seat to the forward most position.
When they arrive in the diplomatic neighborhood of Delhi they are given an Indian crew (which does not speak English) to help with the preparations for the party. We can find that the team do not make very good carpenters, James not a good cook, and Hammond not a good valet. James leaves to get fireworks when Jeremy crashes into his car. Hammond and Clarkson apply model airplane paint to the dent. When James returns he is unaware of the damage but is immediately criticized by Clarkson about the size of his fireworks. This is when Jeremy makes his own giant firework.
When the guests arrive immediately the party goes to shambles as Hammond cannot handle the job of valet parking, James’s food is inedible, and Jeremy pant less showing off his British made pant press. The team noticing that they were doing a miserable job promoting Great Britain to India, gets on stage to preform “Hey Jude.” Jeremy judging from the faces of pain goes to light off his firework which ends up blowing up the house. This quickly ends the party.
The next day opens with transitional scene setting camera shots to introduce the team where we find them recapping the night and discussing their future plans to head further north. This sets us up for the final act of the show. Before they set off on their trek to the Himalayas they decide to modify their cars to have off-roading capabilities. This is done through a montage style reminiscent of an 80’s action drama complete with heroic A-teamesk music. After another transitional series of shots Jeremy discloses to us that he has ruined his car. James had also ruined his car but Hammond had actually only added new tires and a winch.
Having noticed that Hammond’s car was not absolutely unbearable Jeremy uses his newly added PA system to play Genesis’s “I like what you like (in your wardrobe)” which alludes to Richards hate of the band mentioned in previous episodes. Jeremy then switches the use of his PA to play the British national anthem to the people. He is promptly hit by a bus.
After they fix Jeremy’s car they leave the town and enter the foot of the Himalayas. Shots from a 1st person perspective, panning shots that simulate driving, and extreme long shots to for scale. After monologue by Jeremy comparing the mountains to Switzerland we discover that he and Richard have exacted re-revenge upon May making his horn honk every time he uses his breaks. The team then comes across one of their final challenges as the tarmac on the road comes to an end. A steep near 45% angle part of the road lye between them and the finish. Jeremy and Hammond both make the climb but James is unable to make it. They decide to use Hammond’s winch to tow his car up. This works but at the cost of tearing apart Hammond’s front end.
When night comes Hammond in lead of the convoy convinces the others to stop to camp for the night, something the others detest. But it is here we find the brotherly compassion between the hosts reaffirmed. They conversations feels real, unscripted, and much like you would expect them to talk like whilst off camera, finished up neatly with genuine laughter.
The next morning the trio proceed with their journey near its end which is signified by a recap and summary. They accept the fact that they have been utter failures at diplomacy but state that the cars had done a brilliant job as British diplomats. A few more scenes follow to help bring closure. The team plays cricket with locals by using Jeremy modified car to pitch balls, they burn Hammond’s Double Bass Bridge to symbolize mending a bridge, and they memorialize their cars on the top of one of the mountains in a pass between India and China.