Series: Engineering Connections s1
Most boy nerds know Richard Hammond as one of the guys from TOP GEAR. Specifically he’s the guy to survived a gut wrenching (almost) three hundred mile an hour crash during an attempt at the British land speed record back in 2007. More importantly though, he’s a guy who has created many many hoon-filled hours of light-hearted entertainment over the years. And he brings all that wide eyed exuberance, cheeky personality and inability to brush his hair to the ENGINEERING CONNECTIONS documentaries.
You’d be forgiven for putting this DVD back on the shelf and walking away after reading it’s content. On the surface these aren’t really glamourous or overly intriguing topics: The Airbus A380 (giant ruddy plane), Taipei 101 (friggin tall building), the Keck Observatory (looks at stuff far away) and the Troll A (massive gas platform). But Hammond turns these massive structures into his own personal jungle gym, and has about as much fun with the science behind them as the Mythbusters do at every given opportunity.
The premise of these documentaries is to connect a current engineering marvel with the origins of the technology that went into their construction. In the case of the A380, Hammond spends time examining the kinds of materials used in the skin of the aircraft. Wow, boring, right? Well, not when he stress tests those materials by launching chicken carcasses at them! He sets a boat on fire using mirrors, sets off explosives in tubs of water! Sometimes you find yourself thinking “Yeah, Richard, I get the concept, but what the hell… lets fire that slab of concrete out of a cannon anyway!”. This extreme and “science for the sake of seeing stuff go boom” mentality is really what’s at the heart of these documentaries. And they’re great fun as a result.
It’s not all ‘bloke-science’ though. Across the four documentaries Hammond is afforded opportunities that most of us would never be and is able to take cameras deep into the innards of these magnificent structures. Along the way — somewhere in-between watching him chuck hammers through glass panels and tear-arse about in sports cars — he manages to impart some real insight into just how mind-blowing some of these technologies are, and successfully links them back to the seeds from which they grew.
It’s hard to think of these documentaries as ‘episodes’ of a series. Each one stands alone and each is brilliantly made. One or two of them seem to drag on a little, however they’re made in such a way that if you’re losing interest in one particular portion of the episode it’s not long before Hammond is up to something new, making a new connection or marveling at another awesome facet of the structure in question.
It’s really hard not to like this guy, while his enthusiasm and bewilderment can seem a little over the top and mugged for the camera at times, there’s no denying his genuine interest in these topics. There’s also no denying that taking every opportunity to smash, break, drop, launch or detonate anything they can get their hands on in the making of this series has made for great viewing.