Robot Wars Series 9: Robots fought, that’s pretty much it.

WHEN I WAS asked to review Robot Wars, I originally thought I was asked to do the “Grand Final” episode of Series 9. I’ll be honest I have no idea how to review Robotic Combat Entertainment Sport without giving away the spoilers, otherwise my review would have been “Fight A – Robot 1 vs Robot 2 = Robot 1 winner. Very good. Lots of carnage. Fliptastic. House robot lol” rinse and repeat for the 8 or however many fights there were in the episode. So instead you’ll be getting a review of the series as a whole!

Jason & Thor in Robot Wars (Credit: BBC)

Robot Wars returned to our screens for a second rebooted series or ninth overall for 6 glorious weeks of flips, spins and general carnage, proving that robotic fighting technology has come a long way since the days of Jeremy Clarkson as host. This time round though despite strong competition from the flipper bots, the variety of spinning discs, bars or drums proved to be the deciding factor in an almost identical repeat of the final for series 8. Comparing the robots between this reboot and the original series is difficult in its own right. Even comparing this latest series and the last one is tough due to the rapid advancement of technology in the world for the robots themselves.

As an overall production, well there are pros and cons. I’ll start with the good and when I say good I really mean it. The presentation of the show was fantastic. We got plenty of team profiles and a more in-depth look at the returning teams and their robots with longer and more insightful look backstage as the teams were either fixing their fighting machine or just preparing themselves for battle. Dara Ó Briain returned for a second, and what now looks likely to be a third series as the host, after uncertainty on whether he would actually be involved in series 9. But his work was fantastic and had become more comfortable as host alongside the also returning Angela Scanlon who seemed much more at home in series 8 compared to Dara. We also had commentary legend Jonathan Pearce back at the helm as commentator giving us his fantastical made-up words that only work in the world of Robot Wars.

The quality of the robots themselves was a huge improvement. Some stronger, faster, tougher, many still weaker, explosive, and a few down-right poor. Many of them seemed like they had more character added despite being metallic objects used to fight for our entertainment. Do Robot Lives Matter? Who knows, not I. We also got a good mix of returning robots; Thor, Behemoth, Carbide, Apollo, Pulsar and many more, plus a number of exciting and intriguing new robots such as people’s least favourite robot Cherub (though everyone enjoyed the kids who were driving it), Concussion, Wyrm and Crackers ‘n’ Smash – an ingenious cluster bot (Will someone explain why Cluster Bots are legal? – TV Ed).

Team Storm II in Robot Wars (Credit: BBC)

With good must always come bad and there was a whole load of bad. Many of the fights were in my eyes too short. Yes, the power of some was to be expected but very few of the fights went the full three minutes. I enjoy the occasional squash match but I want to see a tactical classic that goes to the wire making you second guess who will win. The battle arena quality is so not up to quality. I know the original arena wasn’t good, but even in Series 7 it didn’t show as many flaws as it did this year. The arena needs a serious revamp with the power many of the robot’s possess. Additionally, they need to improve the visibility for the drivers as a number of times robots were caught in a blind spot and made it difficult for one team to get out and actually fight. On top of that, the 2 hour repair time is not long enough in my opinion. They need to make it longer for the competitors in order to fix their robots. By the end machines were just hobbling to survive making some of the finals especially one sided. I want to see two goliaths go hog wild at each other not one machine lightly tap the other into a pile of rubble.

Now the episode structure itself is a tad awkward as the round robin format suffers from practical limitations. I personally do not have an idea to replace this but perhaps adding more robots into the competition could change things up. And this can lead into the above point of longer repair time. The lack of a proper Knockout timer both on-screen and in the arena equally confuses the proceedings. Use a spotlight with 10 dots surrounding it counting down, or project it on the sidewalls. You can even use a CGI inlay post production for the audience so they know when a robot is being counted out. Hell, bring back Ref-Bot for this, make it clear what is happening. To add to this, make the Judges Decisions transparent as well by not seemingly making up the rules as you go along. To me the judges seemed ill-prepared for all possible eventualities this time around. More robots, more repair time, clearer rules, more interesting fights. At least that’s my two cents.

Judges Dr Lucy Rogers, Professor Noel Sharkey and Professor Sethu Vijayakumar in Robot Wars (Credit: BBC)

If you like to watch robotic destruction paired with hit-and-miss educational segments to explain about robots and how to build a fighting one then series 9 is great, and in my opinion, better than series 8. Then again I go “heh robot go smashy smash” so make your own thoughts on it. This series we witnessed an unstoppable monster, plucky underdogs, and some pretty friendly people, plus a grown man storming off after some children beat him. If that’s not enough, I have heard new rules are being introduced making it more difficult for the ever increasingly powerful spinner bots for series 10 plus the inclusion of a featherweight division. So if you like mindless fun, watch Robot Wars and if you don’t, then live with the fact that you’re missing out.

Ollie is not on Twitter so instead his own website, he suggests you watch this

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