Robot Wars is a British television game show which was originally broadcast from 1998 until 2004, and was revived in 2016. The idea of Robot Wars came from a US-based robot combat competition which ran from 1994 until 1997. The show lasted for nine UK series, which included seven main championships and two series of Robot Wars Extreme before its cancellation, with the current 2016 reboot serving as a tenth series. The show was originally broadcast on BBC Two on Friday evenings for the first four series, moving to BBC Choice on weekday evenings for the fifth and sixth series and both series of Extreme, with all four series being repeated on BBC Two in its regular Friday timeslot shortly after the original broadcast. For the seventh series, the show moved to Five and was broadcast on Sunday evenings. The rebooted series of Robot Wars is currently airing on BBC Two once again, this time on a late-peak Sunday evening timeslot with repeats the following Monday night in the UK, and the following Wednesday night in Northern Ireland.
Both series of Robot Wars Extreme were repeated on the digital channel Dave between 2010 and 2011, and have since been repeated on Challenge from November 2015 and January 2016 respectively. The Second Wars also enjoyed a repeat run on Challenge in May/June 2014, before Challenge began showing repeats of Series 5 in November 2015, Series 6 in January 2016 and Series 7 in March 2016. H2 also started repeating Series 3 and 4 in January 2016.
The Robot Wars television show was based on a robot combat competition which ran from 1994 until 1997 in the U.S. This competition was created by Marc Thorpe, a designer working for the LucasToys division of Lucasfilm. The first competition was held in 1994 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco and three further competitions took place between 1995 and 1997. Approximately one month prior to the first event, Thorpe formed a partnership with New York based record company Profile Records, who provided additional funding for the competition.
In 1995, Profile Records partnered with production company Mentorn to produce and televise a Robot Wars event in the UK. Mentorn acquired the worldwide television rights from Profile later that year, and Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey created the television format from the original Robot Wars concept. The series was originally pitched to Channel 4, but it was rejected, so Mentorn approached the BBC instead. In 1996, Tom Gutteridge arranged a meeting with Michael Jackson, the controller of BBC Two, which would take the form of a live event featuring several stock robots built especially for the occasion and three US robots - Thor, La Machine and The Master - which would fly over to the UK to take part. Jackson was impressed with the event and the reaction of the live audience, and promised Mentorn some episodes. However, Jackson left his job at BBC Two to become controller of BBC One and was replaced by Mark Thompson, who was a friend of Tom Gutteridge. The previous controller of BBC One, Alan Yentob, had become the new BBC Director of Programmes, and he was not interested in the idea of Robot Wars. As a result nothing happened until 1997, when Yentob left this job to become the BBC Director of Television, which allowed Thompson finally to commission the series, which began filming later that year.
Mentorn used Marc Thorpe as a consultant on the show and the first series of Robot Wars in the UK was broadcast over six weeks in February and March 1998. It was an immediate hit, with more than 2 million viewers, and a further 27 episodes were commissioned by the BBC that year. 155 episodes were produced in total, and the show was seen in 26 countries.
In addition to the main series, two series of Robot Wars Extreme were produced, featuring various side competitions and one-off battles. Two seasons of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors were produced in the US for the TNN network, and a version aimed at a younger audience was also produced and aired on Nickelodeon. Also produced were two series of Dutch Robot Wars and a single series of German Robot Wars, which were broadcast in their respective countries. All were produced in London by Mentorn, and executive produced by Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey.
In 2003, after six main series and two Extremes, the rights for the show were acquired by Five, which broadcast the seventh series. The final episode was broadcast in March 2004, after which the series was eventually cancelled, leading to a 12 year hiatus off-air.
Modern Live ShowsEdit
After Robot Wars ended, robot combat in the UK continued with a series of non-televised live events held across the country, mostly organised by Roaming Robots, Robots Live! and RoboChallenge, and featuring several Robot Wars veterans in addition to new roboteers. In February 2013, it was announced that Roaming Robots had agreed a deal with Robot Wars LLC to use the Robot Wars brand name and House Robots for its live shows. The first official event of the new Robot Wars live show was held in Barnsley in February 2013, and a new Robot Wars UK Championship was held in July 2013, with Eruption winning the title.
Return to TVEdit
On January 13 2016, the BBC announced that Robot Wars would return to TV screens, with filming taking place in March of that year. The series consisted of six episodes, each an hour long, which were filmed in Glasgow and due to be broadcast on BBC Two. Filming began on March 4th, with an unaired pilot being filmed on March 1st, and was concluded on March 13th. The series began airing on July 24th 2016, and a series of teaser trailers were released in the lead up to the series' broadcast.
The first series was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, the pit reporter was Philippa Forrester and commentary was provided by Jonathan Pearce. Clarkson left the show after the first series and was replaced with Craig Charles, who presented the show until the original version ended in 2004. The role of Clarkson and Charles was to present each part of the show, announce the winners of each battle and talk to the teams after the battle ended. Forrester's role as pit reporter consisted mainly of speaking to contestants about their robots in the pits before and after battles. In the fourth series and the first Robot Wars Extreme, Julia Reed took over the job as pit reporter due to Forrester's pregnancy. Forrester returned for the fifth and sixth series and the second Robot Wars Extreme. When the show moved to Five for the seventh series, Jayne Middlemiss took over the role due to Forrester being pregnant again. In 2016, Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon became the new hosts of Robot Wars, taking up joint roles as presenters and pit reporters, with Jonathan Pearce returning to provide commentary for the new series.
- Series 1: Jeremy Clarkson
- Series 2-7, Extreme 1-2: Craig Charles
- 2016 Series: Dara Ó Briain, Angela Scanlon
- Introduce each show.
- Interview contestants before and after battles.
- Announce the winners.
- Close each show.
- Series 1-3, 5-6, Extreme 2: Philippa Forrester
- Series 4, Extreme 1: Julia Reed
- Series 7: Jayne Middlemiss
- 2016 Series: Dara Ó Briain, Angela Scanlon
- Speak to contestants in the pits about their robots before and after battles.
- Present many of the trophies to the winning teams.
- Close some shows.
The format for the first two series of the show consisted of six robots in each heat competing in a series of three challenges - the Gauntlet, the Trial and the Arena.
- The Gauntlet was an obstacle filled maze defended by house robots. Competitor robots had to make their way through the course in the quickest time, or the furthest distance possible in the time allowed. The robot that covered the least distance was eliminated, leaving the other five robots to progress.
- The Trial varied from heat to heat, with challenges including 'Sumo', 'British Bulldog', 'Stock Car', 'Labyrinth', 'Snooker', and 'Football'. The Second Wars added 'Skittles', 'Tug of War', 'King of the Castle', 'Joust', and 'Pinball'. Each trial had a specific goal and the worst performing robot was eliminated, leaving four robots to continue.
- The Arena was the point at which the robots finally entered the arena to do combat. The four remaining robots paired off and fought in head-to head battles within an enclosed battle arena patrolled by the House Robots. The two winning robots would progress into the Heat Final, where the winner of this battle would go through to the Grand Final (Series 1) or one of the Semi-Finals (Series 2).
In the First Wars, the six heat winners fought each other in a single battle to determine the series champion. The Second Wars had two Semi-Final shows, each with six heat finalists reprising the Gauntlet and the Trial stages, followed by arena combat. The two winners from each Semi-Final progressed to the Grand Final, where the four remaining robots paired off in two eliminator rounds and the two winners met for a final battle to determine the series champion. The losers of each eliminator would also face each other in a play-off to settle third place.
From the Third Wars onwards, the Gauntlet and Trial stages were scrapped and the championship took the form of a straight knockout tournament, with a mix of melees and head-to-head battles determining the two Heat Finalists. Heat winners would then progress to the Semi-Finals, with two robots from each going through to the Grand Final of each respective series.
In each arena battle, there were many ways in which a robot could lose:
- A robot immobile for 30 seconds would be counted out and turned over to the house robots for further punishment. From Extreme Series 1 and The Fifth Wars to the Seventh Wars, Refbot would count down the final 10 seconds. In the 2016 series, robots would be eliminated if they stood immobile for 10 seconds, with the battle ending immediately after that.
- A robot flipped out over the arena railing into the space between the arena and the enclosure box was eliminated instantly.
- A robot that fell or was pushed into the open Pit of Oblivion was also eliminated instantly.
- If none of the above conditions were satisfied, a panel of three judges scored the competitors on 'style', 'control', 'damage' and 'aggression', with 'damage' taking precedence in the event that the scores were tied. For 2016, the 'style' category was dropped, leaving only 'control', 'damage' and 'aggression' as the key criteria.
- Main article: Judges
Whenever a battle ended with no clear winner, a panel of three judges would decide on the outcome by scoring each competitor on style, control, damage and aggression. The original judges for the first two series were Eric Dickinson (the only British veteran of the original US competition), Adam Harper (then holder of the land speed record for electronic vehicles) and Professor Noel Sharkey (Head of Robotics at Sheffield University) who judged every series.
In Series 3, Dickinson was replaced by Martin Smith (Head of the UK Cybernautics Society). Series 4 saw Adam Harper replaced by Dr Myra Wilson (Head of Computer Science at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth). In Series 5, Mat Irvine (BBC Technical Consultant and House Bot designer) went from being the show's safety inspector to judge, and he, Smith and Wilson cycled throughout, with two of each acting as judges for Series 5 and Extreme 1. After this, Wilson left the show, and Irvine, Sharkey and Smith remained in the role until the original end of the show's run.
When Robot Wars returned in 2016, Sharkey returned alongside two new judges, robotics professionals Professor Sethu Vijayakumar and Dr. Lucy Rogers. Additionally, the 'style' category was dropped from the judges' scores, leaving only 'control', 'damage' and 'aggression'.
In addition to the UK series of Robot Wars, other versions of the show were produced for television networks around the world, featuring competitors from other countries as well as their own hosts, pit reporters and commentators. A US version of the show called Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors was produced for the TNN network, running for two seasons, alongside an additional series produced for the children's channel, Nickelodeon. There were also two series of Dutch Robot Wars produced for the BNN network in the Netherlands, and one series of German Robot Wars produced for RTL II in Germany. All international versions of the show were produced in the main Robot Wars television studio in London with the battles taking place in the main Robot Wars Arena and featuring the UK series' judges and House Robots.
As well as these localised versions, the original UK series was broadcast in other territories, including North America, Australia, mainland Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In some territories such as India and most European countries, the programme was broadcast in English with regional subtitles. Elsewhere, such as in Pakistan, the series was dubbed into each country's regional language, in this case both the Hindi and Urdu languages, with English subtitles. Arguably the most well-known foreign dub was Robot Wars: Grand Champions, an American dub of The Fourth Wars broadcast on TNN and featuring US hosts and commentary.
- Main article: Episode Guide
These are the Champions and Grand Finalists of the eight main series of Robot Wars. For more information on each series, see the individual articles linked below.
|The First Wars||Roadblock||Bodyhammer, Robot The Bruce, Recyclopse, T.R.A.C.I.E., Cunning Plan|
|Series||Winner||Runner-up||Third Place||Fourth Place|
|The Second Wars||Panic Attack||Cassius||Roadblock||Killertron|
|The Third Wars||Chaos 2||Hypno-Disc||Fire Storm||Steg-O-Saw-Us|
|The Fourth Wars||Chaos 2||Pussycat||Stinger||Hypno-Disc|
|The Fifth Wars||Razer||Bigger Brother||Firestorm 3||Hypno-Disc|
|The Sixth Wars||Tornado||Razer||Firestorm 4||Terrorhurtz|
|The Seventh Wars||Typhoon 2||Storm 2||Tornado||X-Terminator|
These are the Champions, Finalists and Semi-Finalists of the three Robot Wars World Championships. For more information on each series, see the individual articles linked below.
|The First World Championship||Razer||Behemoth||101, Diotoir|
|The Second World Championship||Razer||Drillzilla||Manta, Tornado|
|The Third World Championship||Storm 2||Supernova||Crushtacean, Tough As Nails|