Two men are marooned on a desert island and have to use all their smarts to survive.

No, it is not the plot of a new thriller film, but instead the concept of a brand-new docuseries on Amazon Prime.

The Great Escapists follows two of pop science TV's greatest minds - Richard Hammond and Tory Belleci - taking on the engineering challenge of their lives, as they try and invent their way off the island.

For example, in episode one - after finding themselves shipwrecked somewhere in the Pacific - we see the pair construct the mother of all shelters, and build a car out of wood. (All they have available is their bare hands and the wreckage of their boat, by the way).

"It's a big one, a noise-maker," exclaims Solihull-born Hammond, 51, when asked to describe The Great Escapists.

"It's not often you get to work on something genuinely new, but this is genuinely new because it's a mash-up of pop science, engineering, survival, and drama."

As the six-part series continues, Hammond (also famous for Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour) and 50-year old US TV personality Belleci (best known for the Discovery Channel programme MythBusters) increasingly build a more and more luxurious place to live.

Here, the dynamic duo tell us everything we need to know.


Former Top Gear host Hammond - who also presented Brainiac: Science Abuse on Sky One - says he was "desperate to make a show in the pop-science space where you've got stuff in it, not just nonsense".

"Richard had called me maybe about three years ago and said, 'Hey, I wanna work with you' and I was like, 'Err, how do you even know who I am?!' because I was a huge fan of his and I didn't know if he knew who I was," recalls California native Belleci, laughing.

"We would go back and forth on phone calls, just pitching ideas... And then I remember Richard calling going, 'Got it! We're going to get stranded on a desert island' and I was like, 'That's genius!'"

Belleci then flew over to London, where they spent a week sitting "in a tiny little shed" with writers and producers and "banged out the whole series".

"It's been months and months and months developing this show, all of which led to us two muppets standing on a beach one day, going, 'Oh, we're really doing this now. We've got to actually make it!'" quips Hammond, grinning.


Discussing the beautiful location of the show, Hammond notes they had very specific requirements.

"We needed a lot of freedom, privacy, and it had to look like a desert island, which we couldn't have done if there were hotels in the background.

"It will be visually delightful on-screen and I've never seen that kind of setting in a pop-science show before. In fact, I've spent decades standing on windy airfields in the East of England.

"They are fabulous places to shoot the pop-science stuff - when you're experimenting with a rocket-powered shopping trolley or whatever - but to be standing on a tropical beach with Tory, discussing if our beer-cooling windmill is powered by pressure differentials across the blades or Newtonian laws of equal opposite forces, that's fantastic."

"The place is amazing," agrees Belleci.

"Once you walk off onto the beaches there's no sign of life, the whole island was ours.

"It really did help us get into feeling like you're on an actual desert island. They do these crazy drone shots and there really isn't anything - all you see is vegetation."


Filming the show certainly had its challenges, including the fact they were so far away from home and their families.

And, as father-of-two Hammond says, "it was an intense day's work".

Everybody was being pushed because, as well as the scientific elements to the show, "it's got to look visually great, it wants some drama, it wants to look filmic", he elaborates.

As part of the concept that Hammond had imagined, there was no "straight to camera" pieces.

"He was like, 'We have to come up with ways to let the audience know what we're doing without breaking that fourth wall of like, 'We're on a show!'" explains Belleci.

"It's like, 'We are not on a show, we're on a deserted island. How are we going to get these theories of engineering and science across to the audience?'

"It was a challenge - but this is probably one of the proudest projects I've ever worked on."

Hammond adds: "We got on to the beach on that first moment and I thought, 'Oh my God, what if it's no good? What if we don't spark?' And, thankfully, after moment one I knew, 'OK it's going to be alright, we can do this together'."


One of the pair's inventions is an automatic fish-catching machine, built using tools they found in the shipwreck, "because Tory's always moaning about how hard it is to catch fish".

"Then we build a waterwheel to provide power," continues Hammond.

"We have two different approaches to building a machine: I obviously go for speed and Tory goes, rather more sensibly, for something that has pulling power.

"In every instance, all of the big builds are built for a reason and then we play with evaporative cooling or any of the lovely pop-science principles that people enjoy."

He wants to make it clear that you don't have to be a scientist to watch this show.

"We do all the nerding for you - there's no need to do any. If we can make it fun, make it accessible, that's got to be good news."

"And the science is real - we keep talking about how we've created this world, but someone could actually do this!" Belleci reiterates.

"It's like these principles are real science; we're not faking any of this stuff. Well, mostly not faking it..."

There were also scientific advisers involved in filming, to make sure it was "true to its heart".

"We're constantly checking with experts because I don't want there to be a wrong fact, although I'm not saying that there won't be despite our best efforts!" says Hammond.

"But it has to be right. That's at the core of it. You can't lose sight of what you're making."

The Great Escapists is on Amazon Prime Video