Top Gear (partially found original British airings of BBC Two television series; 2002-2003)

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TG2003.jpg

A screenshot of Top Gear on UKTV channel Horizons circa 2003.

Status: Partially Found

Top Gear is a long-running British television series and is a reboot of an earlier show[1] by the same name. Broadcast in over 212 countries[2] at one point in time, the series soon became the most pirated in the world[3], even in its own country, mainly due to the episodes frequently being subject to edits which removed significant amounts of footage for time-saving or copyright-related reasons. This record would later be broken[4] by spiritual successor show The Grand Tour. Due to the BBC's "blanket license"[5], allowing free usage of music on any of its intellectual property which would otherwise cost a lot of money to independently license, much of the original soundtrack in later reshowings or foreign territories ended up swapped out in favor of generic alternatives where the conditions of this license are not enjoyed, in addition to segments showing or featuring copyrighted footage being removed in their entirety.

The original British airings of every episode since Series 4 in mid-2004 have long been available on various illegal torrent sites and other unofficial sources, but airings of the first 29 episodes have been almost completely lost.

History

From its inception, the 2002 reboot of Top Gear proved immediately successful on the internet. Originally distributed online by individuals such as "Jabba" of the long-defunct Jabba's World[6] and "Vuk" of Fast-Autos.net[7], as well as on the Racing Flix forum[8], these rips were notoriously low quality but spread word of the show on an international scale and resulted in the creation of FinalGear[9], a fan forum, in January 2003 by Alex "Viper007Bond" Mills, an American fan of Top Gear who would sadly pass away[10] in February 2019 from Leukemia-related causes, and would be paid tribute[11] to by former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson. As recording technology and methods improved, with DVD recorders and capture cards becoming more affordable and available, by 2006 these early recordings of the episodes, often made on outdated mediums such as VHS had been replaced by Scene member Maxiuca's digital recordings of the international BBC Prime rebroadcasts of each episode, which omitted segments and lost a large portion of the original soundtrack. This did not matter to the community at large, as the higher quality of Maxiuca's rips led the grand majority of individuals to switch over.

Of these losses, the largest loss is of the "Greatest Car" competition held throughout Series 2, which has resulted in each episode being cut by around 10 minutes. These segments featured a guest host talking about a particular car, and why they thought people should vote for it as the greatest car of all time. Of these segments, only Murray Walker's report on the McLaren F1 officially survives due to its appearance in the 2003 DVD release "Back in the Fast Lane". A further four of these segments survive due to being uploaded to video sharing site YouTube:

  • Graeme Le Saux's segment on the Audi Quattro was posted to YouTube[12] in November 2006 and survives to this day.
  • Richard Hammond's segment on the Land Rover resurfaced[13] on the website in 2009, and comes from a BBC World re-airing.
  • Another of these segments, featuring the Fiat 500 and being presented by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, resurfaced[14] on YouTube in 2011.
  • And another BBC World recording featuring Jeremy Clarkson and the Ford Mustang resurfaced[15] in 2013.

In addition to these, a partial visual fragment of James May's segment on the Citroen DS also appeared in the 2010 DVD release Top Gear: Apocalypse. Brief visual fragments also appear in the credit sequences of each Series 2 episode where this segment was featured. In the end, the winner of this competition was the Land Rover[16], whose segment was hosted by Richard Hammond.

In early 2020, LMW user AlexGRFan97 managed to locate BBC Two airings of episodes 4 and 7 from Series 1, alongside a UK Horizons rebroadcast of episodes 3 and 4, which are cut for advertisements but retain the original soundtrack. Along with the four "Greatest Car" segments, he also managed to locate the second, fourth, and seventh episodes of the show's third series as they originally aired on BBC 2. These were all released[17] as part of a torrent containing over 900 GB of Top Gear footage.

List of missing recordings

Below is a table comparing the original BBC 2 episode length, recorded on their Infax archival database[18], and the version which appears on MotorTrend On Demand[19], which are the most complete versions of the episodes broadcast since their initial UK run. At one point in time, over 2 hours of footage were missing from the first three series of Top Gear and had not been seen since their original airings. MotorTrend's version of the third series has reduced this to around 85 minutes, with 75 of those belonging to Series 2 alone.

Note that the MotorTrend cuts are around 4.5 seconds longer than the stated original length. This is most likely due to the BBC logo at the start of each episode, which is an addition not present on the original episode.

Series 1 (2002)

Approximately 4 minutes of footage is missing from MotorTrend's version of Series 1, of which only 100 seconds from the 10th and final episode is truly lost.

Episode Original Airdate Original Length Longest Cut Footage Lost Available Description of missing content
1 20/10/2002 58:57 59:01 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
2 27/10/2002 59:00 59:05 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
3 03/11/2002 58:52 58:25 0:32 Yes Showing and discussion of Ross Kemp's infamous car crash scene in EastEnders. Survives in 2003 UKTV Horizons recording.
4 10/11/2002 58:53 56:43 2:15 Yes Showing and discussion of Richard Burns' crash at the 2002 Rally New Zealand, as well as promotion of his book Driving Ambition. Clips of Die Another Day and the 1979 French Grand Prix. Cuts made to Stig's power laps. All survive in 2002 BBC2 and 2003 UKTV Horizons recordings.
5 17/11/2002 59:12 59:16 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
6 24/11/2002 58:56 59:01 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
7 01/12/2002 59:00 59:05 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with low quality version of original soundtrack.
8 08/12/2002 59:05 59:09 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
9 22/12/2002 59:03 59:07 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
10 29/12/2002 58:59 57:25 1:39 No Unknown.

Series 2 (2003)

Series 2 is by far the most cut of any series of Top Gear, with over 75 minutes missing across each of the 10 episodes. Of these losses, only around 20 minutes have been recovered via YouTube and other sources, meaning close to an hour of footage remains unaccounted for as of 2020.

Episode Original Airdate Original Length Longest Cut Footage Lost Available Description of missing content
1 11/05/2003 58:58 48:44 10:19 2:35 Introduction to Greatest Car segment, in addition to Murray Walker on the McLaren F1 - of which 2 minutes appear on the 2003 compilation DVD Back in the Fast Lane. Small cuts made to Ferrari F355 replica segment; available on 2005 BBC Prime rip. 7 and a half minutes remain missing.
2 18/05/2003 59:27 53:38 5:54 No Chris Barrie's Greatest Car segment on the Jaguar E-Type.
3 25/05/2003 59:12 50:36 8:41 5:53 Jeremy Clarkson's Greatest Car segment on the Ford Mustang; found separately from low quality BBC World airing. 3 minutes remain missing.
4 01/06/2003 59:00 50:25 8:40 No A.A. Gill's Greatest Car segment on the London Taxi. Richard Hammond discussing the cult French film Rendezvous.
5 08/06/2003 58:53 52:23 6:35 4:57 Richard Hammond's Greatest Car segment on the Land Rover. Approximately 90 seconds remain missing.
6 15/06/2003 58:52 52:26 6:31 5:32 Nick Mason's Greatest Car segment on the Fiat 500. Approximately 1 minute remains missing.
7 22/06/2003 59:02 53:15 5:51 No Stuart Hall's Greatest Car segment on the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
8 06/07/2003 59:00 45:41 13:24 No James May's Greatest Car segment on the Citroen DS.
9 13/07/2003 59:00 52:44 6:21 3:27 Graeme Le Saux's Greatest Car segment on the Audi Quattro. Approximately 3 minutes remain missing.
10 20/07/2003 58:53 55:50 3:08 No Greatest Car result; Sir Patrick Stewart's role in Star Trek: Nemesis.

Series 3 (2003)

Approximately 5 minutes of footage is missing from MotorTrend's version of Series 3, much of which is copyrighted/archive footage. Until their release in 2019, however, much of Series 3 was missing in the same vein as Series 2.

Episode Original Airdate Original Length Longest Cut Footage Lost Available Description of missing content
1 26/10/2003 59:15 57:23 1:57 0:42 Showing and discussion of Martin Kemp's fiery car crash in EastEnders, which appeared in the 2005 BBC Prime airing of the episode. Approximately 1 minute remains missing.
2 02/11/2003 58:37 58:47 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety.
3 09/11/2003 59:29 59:35 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
4 16/11/2003 59:45 58:35 1:15 Yes Dead rockers who owned Lamborghinis. Retained in the 2005 BBC Prime airing.
5 23/11/2003 59:51 58:27 1:29 Yes Australian Toyota Hilux advertisement and news clippings of Toyotas used in war. Retained in the 2005 BBC Prime airing.
6 24/11/2002 1:00:25 1:00:29 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
7 07/12/2003 59:27 58:36 0:56 Yes Compilation of Germany's past achievements. Retained in the 2005 BBC Prime airing.
8 14/12/2003 59:02 59:07 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.
9 21/12/2003 1:00:00 1:00:08 0:00 N/A Episode available in its entirety, albeit with replaced soundtrack.

List of Known Altered Content

However, even with many episodes now available in complete forms, most of those do not feature the episode's original soundtrack, typically made up of well-known pop and rock songs that would normally cost a considerable amount of money to license. Below is a list of content which is known to have been altered, either from watching the limited amount of original footage still extant or from posts made on FinalGear's "What's That Song"[20] subforum. This list is liable to expand over time.

  • Countless original soundtracks from the first three series.
  • Episode 1 originally contained songs such as Herb Alpert's "This Guy's In Love With You" and Roger Sanchez's "Another Chance".
  • Episode 3 originally contained songs such as "Bossa Nova" and Blur's "There's No Other Way." These were surprisingly retained and left unedited on the 2005 BBC Prime re-airings, although were removed not long after.
  • This episode also contained a clip of Ross Kemp's infamous crash into the River Thames in EastEnders, and was removed shortly after its original rebroadcast period on UK Horizons.
  • Richard Burns talked about his crash at the 2002 Rally New Zealand in Series 1, Episode 4, as well as promoting his book Driving Ambition.
  • The Stig's power lap of the Aston Martin Vanquish and Ferrari 575M originally featured Boston's "More Than A Feeling" alongside commentary from Jeremy Clarkson.
  • Richard Hammond's review of the Maybach in Episode 5 originally contained snippets of Rammstein's 2002 single "Ich Will", which is replaced with stock music on all future re-airings.
  • In Episode 6, Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" was played during The Stig's power lap of Jeremy Clarkson's own Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG. This is retained on the "Back in the Fast Lane" DVD release.
  • Songs such as "Flower Duet" and Quicksilver's "The Shining" played during Richard Hammond's SAAB segment in Series 1, Episode 7.
  • A different orchestral song was played during the Rolls-Royce Phantom segment in Series 2, Episode 2. This is retained in the aformentioned DVD.
  • When Jeremy Clarkson changes the radio station inside the Jaguar XJ on Series 2, Episode 4, a rap song is described as playing but has been overlaid with a generic stock track.
  • Series 3, Episode 2 and Series 3, Episode 7 had entirely different introductory "Tonight" sequences filmed.

Gallery

References