The Series 1 Robot Wars Set was the first evolution of the Robot Wars Arena. Designed by Steve Clark, the set was located in the heart of London's docklands, presumably in or close to the building that hosted the 1995 UK Open Championship. The set was constructed in three days, featuring lots of scrapped materials and neon.
The Arena itself was mainly made from plywood, and all the different hazards and constructions of the arena were detachable, so the set could be quickly adapted for the various different disciplines.
- "...that's why we used the neon signs, a lot of neon, because it always looks good on camera"
- — Steve Clark
The Arena was a plywood square, surrounded with a small metal wall and metal bars, and with a large Robot Wars logo with a sliding door to give access to the arena. The arena was decorated with scrapped metal that had been welded on to frames, and decorated in neon. Competitors fought either from the presenter's balcony, or from cherry pickers on either side of the balcony. When set up for the Gauntlet, the area in front of the sign was dominated by a rotating turntable, the area was blocked off for the Arena stage.
- "On to my bed springs, and I'll tell you- they're painful"
- — Jonathan Pearce comments on the springs
The first incarnation of the arena featured many hazards, although most were reserved for the gauntlet. When in its Gauntlet configuration, the arena featured a spinning turntable, corkscrew lances, ramps, slow firing arena spikes, springs, flame pits, spiked pyramids, a steel maze and panels set into the floor, as well as the less effective smoke screen and pendulum.
When in its Arena configuration, the set was far less cluttered with obstacles. Steel bars lined the walls and could beach robots, as happened to Mortis in its Heat Final against Recyclopse. The pyramids from the gauntlet remained, as did the pendulum, but these proved only atmospheric decorations.
Far more effective was the predecessor to the pit, the grills set into the arena floor which could immobilise robots with low ground clearence, such as Wedgehog, alhough it was not impossible to escape. A controversial moment occured during the final of Heat E, when Shunt immobilised itself to save the stranded Bodyhammer who eventually defeated REALI-T to win the Heat. It is unknown why Shunt freed Bodyhammer, but it is possible that this was one of the first examples of the producers manipulating a heat.
Also used in the first arena was flame pits, which were not set into the ground as the grills were, but caused more of a problem than flame pits did in later series, due to the robots relatively primitive nature.
The CPZs (Corner Patrol Zones) were the final major obstacle in the way of the competitors. The squares in the four corners of the arena each housed one of the four House Robots, and any robot that strayed into a CPZ was liable to be attacked, and possibly immobilised. The CPZs were somewhat larger than they were in future Series, however they were less frequently used.
Besides the arena, the main feature was a large balcony with a neon Robot Wars sign from which access could be gained to the cherry pickers, competitors could control machines off the balcony, and host Jeremy Clarkson could talk to the camera and to roboteers. Behind the balcony stood two large metal sculptures with lights, made to resemble metallic trees.
In the first series, there were two places from which roboteers could control their robots. During the Gauntlet and Arena stages, the roboteers competed from cherry pickers on either side of the balcony, where as during the Trial stages, roboteers would compete from the balcony itself, especially in Trials that required all robots competing at the same time, for example Football.
The audience stand was very different in Series 1 than later on. Most notably, the audience were raised above the arena, and were poorly protected from anything flying off, however luckily no incidents occured.