Ditching the studio tent isn’t the only big shake-up planned for The Grand Tour when it returns for its fourth series later this year: the Amazon Prime show’s hosts will also be fronting an eco documentary for the normally car-focused show, according to Jeremy Clarkson.
Speaking to The Sunday Times today, Clarkson confirmed that a new “The Grand Tour Presents…” episode, due on December 13 and, in characteristically schoolboy-esque manner is named “Seamen”, will turn the programme’s emphasis away from high-octane thrills and supercar shootouts and instead chart the considerable effects of climate change on Cambodia and Vietnam.
While the Grand Tour trio have previous experience with the region (most notably, perhaps, when filming the Top Gear Vietnam Special in 2008), Clarkson claims this most recent trip really opened up his eyes to the effect mankind is having on the environment. He said: “It’s the first time I’ve had a graphic demonstration of global warming, and you go, ‘Jesus Christ, that is really alarming.'”
Clarkson may be thought of as rather old-fashioned and conservative in his views but in a column for The Sunday Times in August 2019, the man probably more famous than any other for his lover of powerful petrol cars said he had let go of his long-held scepticism and had concluded that, actually, “ the climate is changing“.
In the new show, and for the first time on Grand Tour (and Top Gear before it), no cars were used on camera. Instead, the trio made their way across Indochina in boats, meaning they’d experience first hand the difficulties of traversing lakes and rivers during an uncharacteristic drought.
“The irony is not lost on me,” Clarkson quips. “A man who hosted a car programme for 30 years, limited to seven miles an hour by global warming.”
Despite the serious message behind it, the Grand Tour eco episode likely won’t be for viewers looking for some serious programming to tide them over until the next David Attenborough-fronted series airs on TV. The vessels the presenters use on their journey to the South China Sea are perhaps the clearest evidence of this: Richard Hammond is at the helm of a powerboat and James May attempts the trip in an 1930s motor cruiser, while Clarkson takes on a jet-powered military patrol boat.
In true Grand Tour fashion, Clarkson says, there will be plenty of mishaps along the way. By virtue of his boat not having any propellers, he managed to avoid his colleagues’ fate of being ensnared in fishing nets during the two days they spent crossing the Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia, and Hammond apparently had difficulty keeping his potent speedboat under control — much to Clarkson’s amusement (“at least on water it’ll be harder for him to set himself on fire”).
By far the toughest challenge the trio faced, he said, was trying to survive a sudden, unseasonal storm that struck the Vietnamese coast. “The sea was so rough,” Clarkson claimed, “it bloody nearly sank a camera boat. Four fishermen drowned right next to where we were. We were lucky to escape with our lives.”
Having experienced what he recognised as the effects of global warming first hand, and just about survived to tell the tale, Clarkson now believes strongly that something needs to be done to solve the crisis — though doesn’t get fully on side with climate change activists and took the opportunity to knock the work of teenage sensation Greta Thunberg (echoing his comments at this year’s Sunday Times Motor Awards).
“Greta hasn’t got any answers. ‘Ooh, we’re all going to die.’ Right, tremendous. Now go back to school. But I genuinely hope people are working on what on earth to do about it.”
To read the article about Jeremy Clarkson’s Seamen adventure in full, pick up The Sunday Times or read it online here.