Monday, 11 January 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Robot Wars


Robot Wars was a highly successful TV series that ran from 1998 - 2001 on BBC 2. Then moved to BBC Choice for the 2001 - 2003 series. It was created in 1992 by an American toy designer at Lucasfilm, Marc Thorpe. He got the idea after playing with some remote control vaccum cleaners. Between 1994 and 1997, Thorpe had held 3 events in the US and planned to bring it to the UK, when he  caught the attention of Mentorne Media. In 1998, it debuted on BBC 2 to 2 million viewers.

The first series was very basic and lasted 30 minutes an episode. It was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson.  He was best known for presenting Top Gear at the time. He was also well known for insulting the Roboteers and Robots in the arena. He left after one series.The concept was the first round was the 8 robots took part in an obstacle course. There was a 3 minute time limit to beat the course and it featured ramps, brick walls, barrels for the robot to navigate. The 8 were whittled down to 6, who took part in a series of small games against each other or a house robot. These were again, whittled down by 2. Then the remaining 4 would battle it out in the area to see who was the winner. This concept lasted 2 series before being scrapped in series 3 for straight up carnage. In series 2, Craig Charles took over being the host. He was well known for being excited about the carnage, as well as being more professional in interviews post fight with the winners and losers.

Series 3 onward upped the amount of contestants to 8 per heat, consisting of 16 heats per series. Later seasons added 3 and 4 robots per round to speed things up. These arena melees had side events, including a football tournament, pinball, sumo against the house robots, light division battles and even walkers. 

The most famous thing about Robot Wars and everyone loved was the Arena. It was a 32x48 foot arena with plexiglass around the outside for audience protection. To make the combat more interesting, the BBC had added hazards to the arena, these ranged from flame jets and spikes, to angle grinders and a heavy object in later seasons. The one few things that remained constant through all 7 series were the Pit and the CPZs. As it sounds, the pit was a large hole in the middle of the arena with tyres at the bottom. Pushing another competitor into the pit resulted in a win and was perhaps the easiest way to win, other than judges decision or immobilasation. In later series, the pit could be activated by hitting a button on the arena wall. The CPZs are where the house robots lived, the large and brutal machines that dominated the arena. Any robot who either steps into these zones or gets pushed into them was at the mercy of the house robots.

The series was so popular that it got a number of merchandise. There were toys, books, two separate Magazine series that were cancelled. VHS tapes, a number of video games and even it's own single, which sadly only charted at number 51 in the UK charts.

Sadly, after the series died off and ended, nothing much happened with it on TV. However, in 2003, a number of roboteers bought the name and called themselves The Fighting Robot Association and toured around the UK. In 2013, Roaming Robots bought Robot Wars from the BBC and now operates under that name at various conventions, including MCM in the UK