Top Gear: Behind the Sultan of Brunei controversy

Top Gear Series 27

In a return to form, Top Gear is back at the wrong end of controversy

Series 27 of the BBC motoring show, Top Gear, has been racing through the episodes since returning to our screens in June.

New hosts Paddy McGuinness and Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff have proved to be a real hit with viewers and this week's episode, a Top Gear special no less, saw the two Lancastrians venture off into the jungles of Borneo accompanied by a squad of elite Gurkha soldiers.

However, although it was pleasingly tackled in the episode, one element of the Borneo special has caused no small degree of controversy. 

Top Gear Borneo Special

The challenge

The Borneo special, which features just Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff - let loose without co-host Chris Harris - sees the pair buy cheap but rare cars to transport across the jungles of Borneo in order to deliver them to a mysterious rare car collector who we'll get onto in a moment.

In the episode, Paddy brings along a one-off Matra Bagheera, a low-riding sports car that is completely unsuited to off-road jungle driving, while Freddie opts for an Austin Alegro estate, hardly a glamourous car but one that makes up for that in its utility.    

 The northern duo are joined by a unit of the crack Gurkha soldiers who help them tackle the toil of the jungle.

However, halfway through the episode, it's revealed that the car collector their rare rides are destined for is, in fact, the Sultan of Brunei.

Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah delivers a speech during an event in Bandar Seri Begawan on April 3, 2019. - Brunei's sultan called for

The controversial Sultan of Brunei

Just before the second half of the Borneo film is shown, moments after comedian Bob Mortimer had a spin in the reasonably fast car, Paddy and Freddie reveal to the audience that the cars are destined for the Sultan of Brunei.

That may all seem well and good, however, they then explain that shortly after they had filmed the episode there, the Sultan introduced a law that would make homosexuality and adultery punishable by death. 

It's pleasing to see the Top Gear hosts offer instant criticism of the law and the Sultan for introducing such an archaic practice before carrying on with the rest of the challenge. 

What put the cherry on top though, was the heroic return of the pair's rare cars which are now decked out in stunning new pride-themed liveries.

Top Gear Borneo Special Cars

Series 27 of Top Gear continues on Sunday July 14th at 8pm on BBC Two and all four episodes so far can be found on BBC iPlayer.

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