In this blog, I aim to rank every single series of Robot Wars from every different region, into one collective Top 18. Although I'd like to think it's relatively objective, my opinions on the show tend to... differ, from the rest of the field. So I mean to say, while I think this list is as accurate as I could make it, treat this as my opinion, first and foremost. Looking at my order, I certainly wouldn't call it conventional.
...Now then, doesn't this list seem a little familiar? You would be correct; I started drafting my Top 18 a few days ago, and after telling Nweston8, he revealed that he had been planning the exact same blog on the exact same day. For these reasons, we're going to publish our lists alongside each other! Our planned schedule is to release two new series per update, as close to daily as possible, and then we'll be equally surprised by the other writer's wrong opinions. Towards the end of the list, it'll likely be one series per update. The key positive and negative points in each section are bolded for convenience. With that, let's get started with my end of the list!
Nick's version of the list can be found on this page.
18: UK Series 1
I didn't want to do it to him. I really didn't want to put Series 1 at the bottom of the list, as believe me, it still has redeeming qualities. There's a really positive feeling when watching a series where literally everyone who showed up got to compete, and Series 1 paved the way for what was to come. Heat A of Series 1 is one of the strongest opening episodes to any series, and really made its mark as the first ever episode of Robot Wars. Right on the other end, the Grand Final is still one of the best fights in Robot Wars, as seeing an almost-weaponless wedge pave through four different opponents until only one remained was eternally memorable and brilliant to watch, even now. The competing blogger really underrated it in this "Top 100" series I have heard he's making.
Sticking with the positives, I even hold the belief that one of the typical 'bad' points of the series, Jeremy Clarkson, is much an underrated factor. Yes he would disparage a lot of competitors, but is that strictly a bad thing? Clarkson was clearly portraying a character, one which sided with the House Robots, and that's a perfectly valid approach - especially when it was only for one series. It's not as though he would never praise competitors, he actually praised them more often than not, it just didn't stand out as much. Knocking Prince of Darkness was genuinely funny, the team laughed along with it, and Philippa Forrester made the truly harsh comments. Clarkson as a person, I won't defend, but as a Robot Wars host he was not bad.
Ultimately though, this is at the bottom of the list for a reason. The short version is it's the first series. It would be nice to just leave it at that, but in order to justify it being below the next few entries on the list, we have to delve into the negatives. The stock robots are an obvious target; no other series has ever had robots forced to lose. The combat was the most primitive of any series, which is to be expected, but in an objective ranking that has to be used as a counterplay. There's unique appeal to the Gauntlet/Trial era episodes, so it's not strictly an awful thing that the combat took up so little of an episode, but when all of the Gauntlet and Trial runs were less enjoyable than Series 2, it makes Series 1 as an overall package... just a little dull.
The main problem with Series 1 for me was its overall balance of competitors. I don't even mean this in the sense of "there was an episode of only lightweights and featherweights", I mean that even within the heavyweights, if you put the Series 1 heat draws on a set of balancing scales, the scales would fall apart. Heat A, while necessary to create an opening impact, contained:
- The eventual champion
- A future Grand Finalist which would win absolutely any other heat in the series
- A recurring all-star which won the Sumo
- An unremarkable robot in this heat, but could be a Heat Finalist elsewhere
- The best stock robot by a country mile
- A genuine super heavyweight
Follow this up with Heat B, where you have the greatest weapon in Series 1 and the greatest robot in Series 1 within the same heat, yet other episodes leave us with an unremarkable Robot the Bruce vs Cruella Heat Final, and in the worst instance, REALI-T vs Bodyhammer. With a slight swap of the draw, Killertron or Mortis would have made a much more honourable runner-up than Bodyhammer, no doubt about it.
17: Extreme Warriors, Season 1
The first US season was always the one that I used to think was the worst season of Robot Wars, even in spite of the fact it wasn't fully uploaded to YouTube. In terms of competition, it might STILL be the weakest series, but US Season 1 has a huge saving grace. With the only other contender being Angela Scanlon, I think Mick Foley might be the best host the show has ever had. He was a perfect fit, bringing in the wrestling fans, while having the perfect blend of being pleasant and disparaging towards competitors. You wouldn't see Craig Charles spouting an irrational hatred of clowns, and Dara tried it with Bucky the Mascot but without the same success. Foley was the one who livened up even the weakest episodes. I don't even understand what half of Mick Foley's tangents are about, but hey, that's why we have mystrsyko2! I always go on tangents when talking, so just the fact that Mick is veering off course is entertaining enough to me. Did you know that Foley recently declared that he felt it was a mistake to make him WWF world champion in 1999? Sorry, that was a tangent.
There were some pleasant fights and competitors in Season 1 without a doubt. Manta vs Tiger Cat stands out as a funny battle for its destruction, while General Chompsalot vs Stinger provided a close and enjoyable fight, followed up by another great win over Joker. The other big highlight of Season 1, and the US show as a whole, was the sheer number of comedy teams. If you take away the paint job and cardboard armour from Tricerabot and Rosie the Riveter, then you have fundamentally identical robots, but with the addition of the cavemen and pilot personas, we suddenly have two likeable teams. It fed more material to Mick Foley, and tied in with the whole wrestling theme better than Extreme could - classic example being The Revolutionist and their "lemme tell you something brother" catchphrase which was practically given to them; and that's fine by me.
But while I prefer to harp on the good, we have to say why this is basically at the bottom of the list, especially when Nweston8's first entry hasn't even appeared on my blog yet. Let's start with a quickie; the Tag Team Terror is one of the worst episodes of all time, somehow being worse than Extreme's. It was filled with padding, a problem shared by the other episodes but not to THIS extent, it only had four battles, all of them were bad, with one in particular continuing another big problem with some parts of US Season 1: the House Robots illegally attacked competitors on a frequent basis. It never happened in a truly important match, and you could go an entire episode without it happening, but it was grating. I praised Rosie the Riveter for its team; too bad the robot had seven fights and didn't work in any of them.
The biggest problem with US Season 1 comes in two halves. One, five of the six episodes were side events. It's quite hard to become engaged with all of these brand-new robots when they are just fighting in side events for little more than pride. This is made worse when the side events were won by:
- Drillzilla, a robot rightly deemed unfair by other competitors, which decided to team up with Rippa Raptor of all robots to carry that garbage through to the awful Annihilator final at the expense of Conquering Clown and Red Virus, winning two separate episodes. I suppose Tut Tut counts as a winner amongst this as well, it certainly didn't need to show up.
- Pussycat, one of the absolute best robots in the UK which had no business in a "War of Independence" episode which should always be won by the USA.
- Literally noone, despite the fact the competitors dominated the House Robots thoroughly.
- Manta, a good winner in its own right, but it was a Confederacy representative which defeated another Confederacy representative in the final - and they even had The Revolutionist on their team as well!
So all of the five side events had problems, what was the other half of the issue? The US Championship structure was truly poor. The battles themselves were fine, but putting six robots into a five-minute battle to decide a "heat winner" led to a myriad of problems. The fights had to be edited down considerably, the audience lacked the necessary information to try and decide a winner in some battles, other robots blatantly didn't look like they deserved to win, such as the immobile Manta, and Panzer Mk 2 which was overshadowed by Drillzilla in the edit. I would've quite happily swapped all five of those spin-off episodes for a conventional US championship.
Oh and The Second World Championship was part of this series too, but that was won by Razer, featured Firestorm III and Tornado as similarly dull UK representatives, The Revolutionist didn't spin, Yeborobo didn't move, and W70 dared set foot in the arena in front of my innocent ears...
16: The Dutch Battles, Series 1
If you were on a journey to watch every series of Robot Wars and you could skip only one, then Dutch Series 1 would be the straightforward choice. Its champion never appeared outside of that series, most of its heat winners flopped in the following series, and it had the typical issues of a first series. It's impressive that such a large field of robots was ready in time for this series, but as you would expect, most of them didn't work. It was really noticeable how the only two robots with prior experience, Slicer and Philipper, turned out to be the best robots competing.
The fact that robots didn't work sadly extended beyond the limp breakdowns that we saw in a lot of Round 1 fights, and even some fights in later rounds. While the format was fine in theory, we saw a lot of withdrawals before robots made it to their losers' melees, despite the fact some of them hardly even seemed damaged. Series 9 gets flack for two robots withdrawing from the competition, so Dutch Series 1 must be treated equally.
Returning back to the champion, Slicer, it still continues to be such an awkward robot to judge. On the surface of it, Slicer appears to be a very strong robot, but how can we know that for sure when it was completely unchallenged by any robot other than Lizzard? Speaking of Lizzard, that has to be the most awkward runner-up we've ever had. It lost twice during its heat, being completely dominated by Philipper before suffering a limp breakdown against Bamm Bamm. The wildcard wasn't undeserved, it was the most deserving Heat Finalist bar only Pullverizer (which apparently declined the wildcard), but when you delve into second-rounders, surely Philipper earned it more; were it not for their suicide, they would've headed straight for the final two. To make matters worse, Lizzard nearly won the Grand Final itself!
But while this is the first time I've started a blog entry off negatively, Dutch Series 1 still ranks above two other series, why is that? The fact that the series was a knockout tournament of combat battles helps, that is proven to be what people prefer from a series of Robot Wars. Not all of the robots were duds; Twisted Metal won a heat in deserved fashion over Pullverizer, an excellent robot in its own right. Botwork was slow, but it found chances to cause damage before falling in a very anti-climactic semi-final clash.
The best part about the series was the sheer amount of stuff to laugh at. Both of Philipper's battles were hilarious, even if they changed the entire outcome of the series. Blue was probably my favourite satirical robot in the whole of Robot Wars, and hit the nail on the head much better than the King of Bots competitor of the same name. "Team Blue; Blue, Blue and Blue, and their robot Blue, from the planet Blue" cracks me up every time, and they even pulled off a shock win against Project One! Same story with El-Mower - a complete joke, which went on to earn a deserved win. Shapeshifter got obliterated by Matilda in one of the funniest departures from any series. A robot based on Pikachu made the Heat Final! Fair play to the Grand Final too, although a Lizzard win would have been extremely awkward, we saw an enjoyable, close match. This series is good for a laugh - you just have to reeeeeally like Robot Wars.
15: Robot Wars: The German Struggles
This appears to be my most controversial entry yet, as Nweston8 put this right at the bottom of his list, barely even giving it two paragraphs to write home about. The German series of Robot Wars sits at 15 on my list, above three other series, and I appreciate this will seem strange to some of you. Let's start with the bad, and talk about why the German Wars is expected to be so low on the list.
The entire first episode was a shambles. There is no way to get around this, all four of the unique battles to this episode completely sucked, and the worst battle from Robot Wars Extreme in the form of the German Melee was thrown in there to make the episode even worse - it even messed up the continuity by showing two different Ansgars back-to-back! The series genuinely began with a fight where only one of the three competing robots moved. That is hilariously bad. Matilda saved things by making an utter mess out of Thorgrim, but when the highlight of the heat was Son of Armageddon flipping Junkyard Queen onto its side... yeah, not the best opening to a series, and it's unsurprising why there never was a second season of The German Struggles.
The other main criticism of the German Wars, and the main reason why it is believed that these wars can't stack up to any of the others is the fact that the main championship was only three episodes long. Technically that is 3x the amount of main championship episodes seen in US Season 1, but there were no side events aired exclusively in Germany to go with it, thus leading to the perception that the German Wars is by far the shortest series of the show.
Now why do I say perception when quite clearly and objectively, the German Wars IS the shortest season of Robot Wars? Notice in the above section how I included The Second World Championship as part of Extreme Warriors Season 1. Just because the Deutschland v England Special and the European Championship were not exclusive to the German Wars, that does not mean they do not count as part of the series. It's easy to understand how this perception came about; we are all English speakers, and we saw those episodes as part of Series 6 and Extreme 2, not as part of the German series. However, any viewer back in Germany watched five episodes as part of this new show, and who are we to discredit that?
The UK vs Germany in particular benefits from appealing more to a German audience than an English one. While Series 6 viewers berate the UK vs Germany for finally tarnishing the UK's perfect win record in international events and ending in an awkward tie following a late disappointment from Fluffy, a German audience gets to see a Round 1 loser in the form of Delldog make a comeback and show its worth, while Das Gepäck carried the German side to a joint victory. The tie will still leave a slight sour note, but it's miles better than, say, Pussycat winning the War of Independence in America.
The European Championship sadly suffers from the opposite effect, where Philipper II's huge upset over Black Hole actually works against the appeal to a German audience, but the episode overall was still of a very high standard. Some battles such as Razer and Tornado's first two appearances were poorer fights, but remember we are judging an episode here, not just fights, and those battles were made up for by a bunch of Elvis imitators giving Jürgen Törkott a full-body check, Team Razer receiving the "we're gonna cream your crank" letter (yes, in both dubs), Snake Bite showing a clear improvement over Hydrotec from three episodes ago, and then Team Razer ultimately forfeiting their place in the competition to Tornado. Undeniably the sheer carnage of Black Hole vs Zeus appeals to all regions.
Moving back to the main competition then, Heat B was of a much higher standard than the heat before it, with both Black Hole and Tsunami leaving a massive impression, as they each earn explosive wins with lots of damage, setting up for their eventual clash in the Grand Final battle, which even now is one of the best title fights in any series. Along the way, we got an enjoyable third place play-off, and comedy gold in the Grand Final thanks to the Fifth Place Play-off, where in one single battle, Mr. Psycho fell over in an effort to carry Junkyard Queen around the arena, before a former competitor robot in the form of Golem was used as a Drop Zone item. Classic!
Back to reality though, the main championship is really short. Ultimately that does stop the German Struggles from being any higher on the list, but it's still not inherently a bad thing - the German Wars is the perfect series to bash out in a single night, and doing so more than once has provided some of my happiest Robot Wars memories. It's just too bad that Heat A really was awful...
14: Nickelodeon Robot Wars
It breaks my heart somewhat to put Nickelodeon Robot Wars this low, it genuinely does. The reason I feel dismay at ranking it at fifteenth out of eighteen is because, in my opinion, Nickelodeon Robot Wars is the second-most underrated series of Robot Wars. I'm sure the single most underrated series is fairly obvious to regular readers of my blog, but this is the one I've never been able to stress before. When Nickelodeon Robot Wars is good, it's really good. When it's bad, it's really bad. Let's look at the good first.
I shall do so by talking about what is quite honestly the reason I started this blog in the first place (and therefore is why I'm so sad to only put the series at 15). The Ultimate Mayhem tournament is the most underappreciated tournament in the entirety of Robot Wars, it is superb. This consisted of three melees with three robots in each, all vying for a place in the titular Ultimate Mayhem, somewhat of a 'budget Annihilator' in concept, but we still got an Annihilator anyway. The very first battle in the Ultimate Mayhem was a split decision between two US Grand Finalists. That was an extremely long sentence to put entirely in bold, but it's such a good clash that I had to give it that level of credit. Propeller-Head and Rosie the Riveter II both performed extremely well in their main series heats before falling to a dodgy suicide, and now they meet in one place to batter Xylon, before having an individual clash so close that only two Judges could vote in favour of the winner, Propeller-Head. Afterwards, Vert-I-Go asserts itself as my favourite loanerbot with a totally unique KO, flipping a removable link out of the back of a robot! In the last qualifier, which also happens to be one of the first matches I ever saw on YouTube, giving it personal meaning, The Revolutionist absolutely mullers Diskotek and Rigby. The latter of those two competed on Robot Wars solely to be destroyed in this battle, we certainly never saw it again! After all that experience playing as The Revolutionist in Extreme Destruction, this was exactly what I wanted to see when I first typed it into YouTube. Sadly it breaks down immediately in the final, but Vert-I-Go holds up remarkably well before Propeller-Head takes home a deserved victory.
So we get that I like the Ultimate Mayhem, but after saying that much about it, is that all Nickelodeon has to offer? Not at all, because Tut Tut's Challenge Belt defense was wonderful to watch. After nabbing the belt from the 'Nickelodeon Champion', it forces Rosie the Riveter into its second split decision of the series, before burying its axe straight through the shell of the 'Nickelodeon runner-up', which in turn provided good comedy with its weapon-walking. I also loved the Battle of the Spinners. One, Destructive Criticism, was a third-place spinner for all the right reasons. The other, Ninjitsu, was a third-place spinner for all the wrong reasons. Put them together, and envisage my surprise when Ninjitsu takes an early lead! Destructive Criticism started to bring the whole fight back, but in the resulting Judges' decision, Ninjitsu narrowly scraped out an excellent win.
...Unfortunately, the good starts to run out after these examples. The International Tag Team Terror has a wonderful battle where Ming III demonstrates its peak performance, Rick nearly flips Bigger Brother out of the arena, and it even impresses in the final by flipping The Revolutionist, but the House Robots try their best to ruin the fight, clamouring to help the Americans. What's more sad is that I totally understand why they felt the need - a seven-year old Nickelodeon viewer in America will obviously want his home country to win the event. Instead, America couldn't even win the play-off after one of its competitors withdrew. Let's face it, Kat 3 was fine, they just wanted to even out the match - too bad it wasn't Bigger Brother they took out.
The Annihilator is a weird one. I get a weird enjoyment out of seeing Bunny Attack do well (it has a 5-2 Win:Loss ratio hahahaha), and Hannibal puts on a good enough show, but Techno Trousers consistently tries to ruin every event it ever takes part in by being fundamentally incapable of movement. The Annihilator also takes the biggest hit from a problem that affects the entire series: each episode only has four fights. This makes sense because the Nickelodeon timeslot + adverts only gives the series 22 minutes to work with, but it's certainly not what we're used to.
All of the Vengeance battles were shambolic, with the infamously terrible Bunny Attack vs Hoot ironically being the most entertaining one just on the sheer basis of being ludicrously dull. It was better than seeing Joker and Spin Doctor break down once again. The House Robot Rebellion was so bad it wasn't even funny, the best House Robot Rebellions are the ones where competitors such as Gravity and Tricerabot actually make an impression; the House Robots are allowed to win and the battle can still be good, but what were two wimpy loanerbots supposed to do against three House Robots? The fur-coated robot couldn't even be set on fire because the concept of flames was disabled for the entire series which makes no sense to me at all.
So based on the ridiculously long paragraphs I have written above, I think it tells a fairly even story of good and bad. Unfortunately we have to tip the scales completely into the negatives, because while I appreciated that the series attempted to have a domestic championship, the Nickelodeon US Championship was the worst main championship by a huge margin. Phantasm wasn't even a complete robot, Ninjitsu died under no peril, Probophobia was the most likeable robot there and it still lost, while Tyranabot became the most dull champion in Robot Wars history, winning only because of Matilda. Notice how I only named four robots for an entire championship, and that was literally all of the competing robots!!
I really wanted the Ultimate Mayhem and Challenge Belt to carry this series to loftier heights, but when you take Mick Foley away from American Robot Wars, you're left with two new presenters who are forced to be overly friendly and polite due to the younger target audience, alongside Stefan Frank who I never liked anyway (but that's just my opinion), and a series which is ultimately just side events with a terrible main championship thrown in there.
13: Robot Wars Extreme, Series 1
Fundamentally, Extreme shares the same positives and negatives of Nickelodeon, but on a much larger scale. I can confidently say right away that the show's lack of an identified structure holds it back significantly. At least with Nickelodeon, it was only three of the six episodes, but here we have thirteen episodes which were an unrelated assortment of battles, with only four following a traditional format. This of course was the intention, and I can't call it explicitly a BAD thing, just something that was always going to hold Extreme back on the list.
Robot Wars Extreme was of course our first exposure to 100kg robots in a brand-new arena, an arena which will always be one of my favourites. The positive aspects of these changes was demonstrated most pertinently by Thermidor II, which came into Extreme much-improved, and tossed three whole robots out of the arena, with its battle against Behemoth and Stinger being the highlight of the series. The series started off very well, with impressive performances from Tornado, Behemoth, Chaos 2, Panic Attack, Typhoon and a rip-roaring Hypno-Disc Mayhem within the first two episodes. The third episode was also excellent, with Behemoth handily beating Hypno-Disc and Stinger, Arnold pulling off a surprise on Wild Thing while the floor flipper satisfied its lifetime quota on Fluffy, and Panic Attack prevailed in an interesting match over Manta.
As the series progressed though, the flaws of the series became more and more evident. We waited and waited for newcomers to liven up the proceedings, but as the series carried on, it became clear they just weren't coming, unless it was the Wild Card Warriors, where disappointingly the veterans won every time. Again, this was the point, the recognised faces of Robot Wars were supposed to come together and make an entertaining show over a competition. Certainly, Extreme was the perfect series to solve a lot of mysteries that would otherwise go unsolved - without Extreme, we would never see Wild Thing take on Dominator II, never see Pussycat fight Stinger, never see Tornado avenge its loss to Chaos 2 etc. However, the repetition of robots ultimately posed a large problem.
This series is seventeen episodes long. That is good and bad. It's good, because it gives us more content, and I'd certainly take an extra episode over literal nothingness. The bad side is that Extreme really dragged, and that was down to two things: overexposure to certain robots, and a continued decline in battle quality. Let's talk about the latter point first. I mentioned earlier how Extreme started very strongly, getting the classic battles in there immediately. Picking a semi-random example, let's fully discuss a typical late-game episode. Episode 12 looks good. It featured:
- A mayhem which was won through a limp breakdown, and one flip which took two minutes to achieve, before Judge Shred's srimech broke.
- The German Melee, which as we know, is one of the worst battles in the history of the show.
- A Vengeance battle so slow and lacking in action, that the House Robots were forced to intervene and liven things up. Then Shunt couldn't get his axe back out of Mega Morg. Should've thought that one through, lads.
- Razer absolutely crucifying an extremely strong competitor and giving it no room to breathe.
- A good battle between Tornado and Chaos 2 is marred by controversy regarding a fair knockout.
In hindsight that might have been a particularly harsh episode to choose, as it must've been among the worst, but Episode 9 for example was similarly poor. On the subject of overexposure, let's say straight away that Tornado was in ten of the seventeen episodes. It even fought TWICE in Episode 15! I know Behemoth did that within Episode 2, but those battles coincidentally turned out to be amazing. Tornado hardly has the biggest fanbase, and while some of these matches were unavoidable, such as the All-Stars, others were completely unnecessary. If it won that Mayhem, it would've been in eleven episodes. The second fights against Pussycat and Chaos 2 were both poor. Whose idea was it to allow Comengetorix to fight Tornado? Heck, who even allowed Comengetorix to be here in the first place? It fought in a whopping five battles and sucked in all of them. Razer hardly even entered any of the events, but it still won all of them except for its Vengeance battle, creating overexposure, especially as it followed the trend of declining battle quality. After starting off with remarkably close battles against Gemini and Behemoth, it closed with easy and dominant wins over Firestorm and Tornado, and that was BEFORE its World Championship defense. Some of the choices of robots to take part in Extreme confuse me in general - what did The Steel Avenger do to become a Robot Wars mainstay that, for example, Terrorhurtz did not do?
Extreme's placement on this list is mainly boosted by its many hours of content, but it has enough good qualities to help justify the number. Arnold A. Terminegger was the star of a superb Annihilator, damaged only by the fact Pussycat picked up its third(!) title. The Antweight Melee was a beautiful and memorable battle. Wild Thing extracted a rare, evenly matched ding-dong out of Firestorm. Napalm hilariously won a three-way battle by knockout. Panic Attack performed a thing of beauty against Axe-Awe. The Flipper Frenzy created a truly rewatchable fight much better than the real House Robot Rebellion. Unfortunately though, there's still more downsides.
Roboteers can't act. The comedy wrestling-style interviews worked very favourably for teams such as the Plunderbird Boys, Mega Morg's team, and much as it pains me to say it, Comengetorix. Other teams were completely lost, and I don't think Julia Reed helped to fix a lot of cringe-worthy situations. W70 automatically detracts points from any series. Sub-Version breaking down while beating Mega-Hurts single-handedly ruined the Forces Special, as it would've been a much more enjoyable finalist. The featherweight battle was woeful, SURELY there were more featherweights out there than those two, before we even get to the limp breakdown and the destroyed winner, commiserated by its visibly upset team. The second Annihilator had two withdrawals. And of course, I have to close on this.
THE. TAG. TEAM. TERROR. WAS. DISASTROUS.
12: UK Series 2
This list already opened with UK Series 1 in eighteenth place, so Series 2 was always going to be on borrowed time, but I think it has a respectable place here. It's worryingly noticeable that Nick's list still hasn't added UK Series 1 to the list (admittedly his effort is purely personal, while I'm attempting to make this somewhat objective. Nickelodeon Robot Wars would be, like, top ten in a personal list), so it's clear to see he holds a lot of personal attachment towards the very first Gauntlet series. I feel more that way about Series 2, with some points to back it up.
The number of participating robots is absolutely astounding. In just the second-ever series, how did we get 72 competing heavyweights, reserves, super heavyweights and lower weight class entries? That is a stunningly high amount, when in this day and age, Series 8 of Robot Wars struggled to put forty robots together, and now we sit at just thirty. The 72 robots involved in all twelve heats are an incredible diverse bunch, with all kinds of weapons, colours and designs used. I might even go as far as to say the Series 2 had the most diverse range of competitors, rivalled only by the even larger cast of Series 3.
The diversity among the robots also generated Series 2's greatest strength. The entire heat process was extremely unpredictable, with almost all of the heat winners being surprising or new choices. We even lost two of the six seeds in the heats! The unpredictability factor doesn't just apply to the winners, but the entire heat. Certainly in a first-time viewing, and even in a re-watch when you've forgotten a lot of the proceedings, it is nearly impossible to tell who is going to be eliminated during the Gauntlet and Trial, because absolutely any robot could! This didn't apply to Series 1 for two reasons: the lighter robots were always likely to lose battles while sacrificial robots like Psychosprout couldn't possibly pass the trials; the stock robots, while not pointed out to a viewer at home, all died in fairly obvious ways and certainly lose the unpredictability on a re-watch.
Series 2 lacks stand-out moments, but the above points make The Second Wars a completely different viewing experience to every other series of Robot Wars, and it makes for a blimmin' good television programme! It's almost like a separate entity, living in a vacuum, but the way Series 2 played out was much better than it could have done as an all-battles series. Allow me to also slip in the fact that Panic Attack was the most likeable champion from any series, telling a true underdog story with the added aspect of charity, and of course continued the unpredictability factor. No other series of Robot Wars could ever hope to have a champion like Panic Attack.
It is with a heavy heart that I must end the praise here, though. Putting Series 2 at the twelfth position is admittedly a stretch, and it couldn't hope to climb any higher than this unless your name is Nick Weston. I have spoken nothing but praise for the Gauntlet and Trials, and believe that it genuinely made for a good series, but when the combat is outright tragic, that is objectively an issue. Off the top of my head, let's name some good Series 2 battles. King Buxton vs Robo Doc. Killertron vs Behemoth. Panic Attack vs Cassius.
...G.B.H. vs Ivanhoe? I'm already struggling here. The reasons are obvious. The robots are so primitive that while they run the preliminary rounds well enough, they simply couldn't fight. The producers knew this, which is why every single battle contained four House Robots, more than capable of inflicting the damage that the audience wanted to see. It's just a pity then that the House Robots were located within a PPZ covering the entire perimeter of the arena, and would immediately immobilise any robot that drew even slightly near to them. Within the laughably poor opening episode, the first ever battle of Series 2 saw Panda Monium take an early lead, before driving just within range of Matilda, and it was punished with immediate death. This carried on for the entire series, where fights could be won simply by driving in a straight line, or by waiting for your opponent to make one slight error in driving. Even in the Grand Final eliminators, we were still seeing cases like Cassius vs Roadblock, where the dominating robot edged slightly towards a House Robot, and its hopes were vanquished for ever making such an UNFORGIVABLE mistake.
This is the only real problem with Series 2. I could nitpick minor things such as robots like G.B.H. and R.O.C.S. being eliminated in rounds where they would have comfortably qualified in any other episode, but really, the combat is the only worthwhile problem. It was just so severe that it has to ground Series 2's progression on the list right here.
11: UK Series 9
Out of all the combat-only UK series, it is the ninth series, aired in early 2017, which comes up short. Everyone has an opinion on the reboot series, because they only just aired, and are fresh in people's minds. It's from this, that Series 9 forms such a divisive case - other people stick up for it and question whether people's initial disappointment with the flaws is overshadowing what may well be an underrated series, while others will claim it was the worst UK series altogether. I'd like to think that by reaching the eleventh space, Series 9 has done relatively well here, but there is still some dismay that I have to put it at the bottom of the list for the battles-only series. The easiest way to go through this is to review the series episode-by-episode.
Series 9 starts off with the celebrity specials, Battle of the Stars. Well, sort of. The BBC considers Battle of the Stars to be its own series - if I adapted that logic, than it would land in a solid nineteenth place. We all know why. Episode 1 of the celebrity specials was a full hour of misery, where six of the seven fights (TR2 vs Behemoth aside) were decided by a twenty second KO, typically by a spinner making contact with an exposed wheel. While still suffering from spinner dominance, the second episode was much better. Ultimately though, I don't want to use Battle of the Stars to detract any merit from Series 9. All over the blog, you will find (now and in the future) many six-part series, from The Netherlands, America, and even the UK. We weren't entitled to these extra two episodes, so just as the UK vs Germany and European Championship could only add extra points to the German Struggles, Battle of the Stars only helps Series 9 - just not enough to push it higher up the list.
Series 9 truly starts with the first episode - and it's utterly fantastic. It's not flawless; Nuts 2 couldn't move, Rapid withdrew after its first head-to-head, Aftershock's victory was completely inevitable, and the Heat Final kickstarted the trend of all Heat Finals being terrible. However, it was the perfect choice for the series opener, with a wonderful pair of opening battles, a surprise Heat Final from Sabretooth, and expert use of narrative to tell the stories of Sabretooth and Jellyfish throughout the episode. A viewer had every right to be excited for the rest of the series after this episode.
Controversial and completely personal opinion - the second episode lived up to this completely. If you don't like Eruption, then you're not going to enjoy this one too much, but seeing it throw a robot out of the arena in four straight battles is something I had awaited ever since Atomic lost to Typhoon 2. These were completely credible flips too, with Behemoth being a gargantuan and extremely competent machine, while PP3D was a dangerous spinner which had defeated Eruption previously. Cobra's strong effort in the melee, Draven getting stapled by Shunt, and PP3D turning into a firecracker upon contact with Behemoth were all highlights as well - and of course, "she's up tae speed now, boys!" topped it all off. The biggest source of controversy within this episode is Cherub. It is fine if you disagree with either of the Judges' decisions which went in its favour, but speaking purely from my perspective, we saw two extremely close and tactical battles, with plenty of big moments and rewatch value. The kids took their extremely unexpected place in the Heat Final, allowing Series 9 to roll out its second case of a very strong narrative. If the first episode was emotional, this was charming and enlightening. Without commenting on what actually happened in 'Antgate', or how people reacted to it, the sequence was something that undeniably happened at filming - it had to be included.
Two episodes in, and Series 9 is on remarkable form. What could go wrong? A lot, sadly. Episode 3 demonstrated an extreme decline in the quality of the series, with both Group Battles being a complete joke. In fact, now that we're past the second episode, almost every single Group Battle in Series 9 was dreadful. This stings so much, because not only does every episode start on a low note, that's twelve robots you're never going to see again, due to the lack of a redemption round. For Episode 3 specifically, that was a generally poor episode which desperately needed a working Foxic in place of the continually weaponless M.R. Speed Squared, which lost the rematch that absolutely noone asked for against Thor. The 'saving grace' was a newcomer in the form of Concussion rolling into town and pulling off a Heat victory. Allow me to slip in my opinion that Concussion's first battle with Thor is one of the most overrated battles of all time. What was initially seen by the viewing public as a complete newcomer pulling off a comeback victory over a Grand Finalist becomes a very different battle with the power of hindsight. I would describe it more as a robot with an objectively better weapon type losing drive on one side, before pulling off a completely inconsequential win over a constantly declining robot it would fight again anyway, all because after several seconds of being trapped on the closed pit (which should never happen ever), Jason Marston voluntarily drove his robot into a drum spinner and died for it. Concussion now has nine victories, let's not rave about this one just because Thor had a better reputation at the time. I can't wait for some of you guys to realise which fights Nweston8 had to cut from his Top 100 Battles in order to include this mess at sixty-seventh...
After Episode 4 cobbled together a miserable draw where Crushtacean had to fight three mega-spinners while someone out of Frostbite, HIGH-5 and Wyrm got to go through, we realise that the announcer just said the word SPINNAHHH while introducing six of the eight competing robots. Expand this to the second round, and four out of four competitors were spinners. Expand this to the entire series, where half of the entire cast had a spinner. This includes some liberties, as I classified Eruption, Nuts 2, Coyote and HIGH-5 as spinners, but the imbalance of weapons is still extremely noticeable. In contrast, we have only seven flippers - and two of them were reserves replacing even more spinners! Episode 4 also demonstrated the true problem with the format not evidenced by Series 8. The round robin format was a nice idea to get us more battles per episode, and I am still glad to have received that over a straight knockout format. The trouble is, the robots could not cope with a round robin format, and would progress into their final battles as a hobbling mess. The remarkably improved Supernova fell to a dire one-hit KO from Ironside3, Frostbite became the second withdrawal in four episodes, and Pulsar entered the Heat Final using a srimech motor for drive power. One look at Magnetar's self-righting will tell you how that went.
The heats concluded with an episode which was originally intended to open the series, but it is abundantly clear why it was pushed as far back as possible. Within two victories from Carbide, it was obvious to anybody that it was clearly going to win the entire series. The thoroughly enjoyable Grand Final between Carbide and Apollo from the previous series was succeeded by two squalid battles completely unworthy of the two. Despite how poor those fights were, the episode was forced to revolve around it, because the other competitors involved were utterly useless, with a paltry battle between Crackers 'n' Smash and Coyote leaving us all with a sour taste.
Carbide was through to the Grand Final we all knew it would win, and the palm connects with the face when you realise that all five of the heat winners had a spinner. Again I'm somewhat exaggerating, as Eruption's "spinner" made no impact whatsoever in the one fight it was used, but when every episode opens with "the level of challenge involved in building a fighting robot is that there is no perfect design" feels deceitful when clearly spinners were the way to go. The wildcard Apollo is defeated by the crumbling arena more than its opponents, and Concussion is easily dispatched in a miserable battle between three spinners. The only saving graces of the following rounds were an enjoyable battle between Ironside3 and Aftershock, and the flipper of Eruption managing to power its way to the top two - and even that lost its novelty in the latter half of the year. Carbide quickly and easily ploughed through all of its opponents on its path to the most obvious win in Robot Wars history, not breaking any sort of sweat before winning the worst title fight since Series 5.
The summary of why I have to rank Series 9 low is that there are so many more bad points than good points to talk about, and it had entire hour-long episodes without redeeming factors. In order for a series with six main episodes to rank higher than a series with fifteen or nineteen main episodes, it needs to be consistently better throughout and leave a good impression. While I'd like to be more kind towards Series 9, I can't justify putting what was essentially only two good episodes above the series with more episodes, and the series which were consistently stronger. The feeling when a nine-second OotA was the best Heat Final of the series.
10: UK Series 3
It's interesting to see Series 3 and 9 back-to-back, and to explain that I have to delve straight into the negatives, but both series suffer from the exact same problem: being a foregone conclusion. As soon as you saw Carbide in Series 9, you knew it would win, the only question was who we'd see in second place. As soon as you see Chaos 2 and Hypno-Disc in the first half of Series 3, you knew that one would win, and the other would come second. This was almost unavoidable, with only 101 threatening Hypno-Disc's run once it escaped the heat. I didn't grow up with Robot Wars in the same way other members of the wiki did, I couldn't join in those discussions about "who's going to win, Chaos 2 or Hypno-Disc?" I have a feeling Chaos 2 was always the more likely champion though. The series culminates exactly in the way we expected... and then the title fight was a huge anti-climax. Hypno-Disc could not move, there was no drama whatsoever, the fight ended in a single flip, and Chaos 2 had to take on the House Robots to redeem something out of it - even Carbide technically gets credit for that!
It's a pity to open an entry so negatively, but I might as well finish the job before we talk about the positives. I feel like growing up with Series 3 was mandatory for its maximum enjoyment. Users like Hogwild94, CrashBash and DevilboyScooby grew up with the series and have a near-photographic memory of the series as a result. I have watched Series 3 in full three times - that's no mean feat, a full three re-watches should be more than enough for me to remember everything quite clearly. Why is it then, that after all of those repeated viewings, I can still completely forget the content of entire battles, and in the worst cases, forget entire robots? These viewings were all within this decade, yet I can remember every match-up from each following series - I can only surmise that a lot of Series 3 was just forgettable on an objective level.
Of course I'll accept that other people will feel the same way about later series, I'm not saying that a series should lose merit just because I can't remember it as well as everyone else, but when you look at some of the fights, I'm convinced it can't just be me. Can you tell me with confidence that you know how Atlas vs Challenger II ends? What exactly did Aggrobot do to defeat Binky? We all remember how Sonic and Stealth lost, but somewhere along the line, they won a fight to be there - don't ask me how. Ultor and Bumblebot fought in the second round?? Series 3 just had a lot of fights where nothing of note happened, and were reliant on the House Robots to spice things up, at which point the battles start to blend together.
Series 3's conversion from the Gauntlet and Trial into full combat was a necessary step, but one with a lot of teething problems. Excluding a seeding system wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as finding sixteen worthy robots was impossible, but some of the draws were extremely questionable. How do you have Haardvark and Napalm share a heat, Cassius and Plunderstorm share another, while Dreadnaut and Sir Chromalot are set up to have heat wins? Who put The Big Cheese in the only heat it couldn't win? However, I'm slightly concerned that I've written four whole paragraphs of negativity on a series that, believe it or not, I enjoy a lot. Let's finally get onto those positives.
The series having twenty-one episodes has to be a good thing. Yes there were plenty of dud heats, but more content is more content. This includes the First World Championship as an episode, which was enjoyable from start-to-finish, and was well worth the retail price as an individual purchase. The series had a satisfactory number of tournament upsets, with Steg-O-Saw-Us ploughing through a heat with two "seeded" robots to make the Heat Final, Scutter's Revenge won what is still one of the best episodes of Robot Wars by remarkably pulling off Heat M, and Gravedigger beating Mortis to this day remains a huge shock. 101 got its revenge on King Buxton to earn All-Star status, and although the semi-finals had a few weak links such as Trident and the undeserving Top 8 finish for Beast of Bodmin, it was overall a fairly good line-up.
The best part about Series 3 was the banter which filled every episode. Philippa Forrester was absolutely in her prime here - she was on fire with her remarks, the quickfire introductions at the start of each episode started everything on a positive note, and the roboteers were still allowed to fancy her, leading to more jokes. Craig Charles had fully settled in by now, even if his interviews were held over awkwardly long distances, and Jonathan will always be Jonathan. The banter doesn't just consist of the presenters though - some of the competing robots were absolutely ridiculous. This was probably the final series where you could just turn up with something that you'd made in the shed for a laugh and still get on TV, leading to some truly amusing designs. To a wiki user like us, The Witch just stands out as a weak robot that couldn't fight in any capacity, but I have seen first-hand how throwing in a silly design now and again really adds to the overall package. Max Damage didn't even move, but it looked wonderful BEFORE it entered the arena. Terrorpin was an example of a robot that was clearly built for a laugh, and accidentally performed very well. The Pinball was a layer of the episode nobody asked for, but we all enjoyed, showcasing even more novel designs. Series 3 definitely had a lot of charm.
That charm, alongside a lot of nostalgia, is why Series 3 is remembered so fondly. At the end of the day though, this list has always attempted to portray an outsider looking in - and in Series 3's case, I provide that very perspective. It has made the Top 10, and it very well could have placed higher than the next two or three entries, but this is where I have to place it. Maybe it's just because Firestorm was already winning fights with just one flip...
9: UK Series 5
So I'm not quite as ballsy as Nweston8, who placed the fan-favourite Fifth Wars at a measly 11th place, but here in Toast's Controversial Corner, I too, will be placing Series 5 at an unexpectedly low position on the list. This is not an opinion I've had for my whole life - just like the wider fanbase, many of whom still claim that Series 5 is the best series of them all, I also believed that Series 5 was towards the very top of the rankings. It's clear to see why. Most of us watched Series 5 as children, who are always prone to remember the best parts of something they like, and ignore the flaws. Similarly, by the time the Robot Wars communities on the Internet had become popular, Series 5 had ended years ago, and we still only remember the good parts. Let's talk about those.
...Or should I even bother? Let's face it, they're obvious. I'm going to list them anyway, just to prove that it goes without saying. S3 was a marvellous newcomer who pulled off a marvellous heat win, with a highly destructive debut, and a nail-bitingly close affair in its battle against Mousetrap, which deserved so much more airtime. Diotoir beat Tornado - that's hilarious. The campaign of Prizephita Mach II was truly honourable. If you are a fan of Hypno-Disc, then its win over Atomic goes down as one of its best. Razer vs Widow's Revenge still holds tremendous value. Every fight in the first semi-final which did not contain Razer was outstanding, and the Grand Final itself featured three blim-tastic battles which still hold up as some of the absolute best-ever.
Did I even raise a single new point there? I did not - by now, everything good about Series 5 has been established. The one I intentionally missed off was Wheely Big Cheese's heat, which I would like to break down now, because it was such a remarkable exception to the rest of the formula. This is what made Heat H so good.
- Pre-fight interviews about tactics would take place in the pits, and every team got the chance to speak.
- Post-match interviews would be conducted by Craig Charles with almost all of the competing teams.
- The one battle which went to a Judges' decision got several minutes of airtime.
- Three of the four robots which lost in the first round were actually competent fighters.
- The one bad robot in the heat was still satisfying to watch while it lost.
- A well-known, seeded robot, was convincingly defeated by a newcomer.
- Not one robot broke down in a limp fashion.
- Plenty of robots were thrown out of the arena.
- The heat winner was genuinely one that we were truly excited to see again.
Putting aside the last two points, as they completely depends on your opinion, think about the first seven points. Why did those only occur in Heat H? It's especially confusing in the case of the first two points. If Philippa recorded interviews with teams in the pits, and Craig Charles interviewed the teams after each fight, why did only Heat H get this content broadcast? Surely they recorded it for the other episodes as well, so what happened to it? Half of the competing teams in each heat (other than Heat H) never even got to say a word on-screen, unless they hung on until a Judges' decision. When this means that seeded teams such as the men behind Thermidor II and Mini Morg went an entire series with no dialogue, this is utterly inexcusable. This had a similar effect on the robots entered by new teams - how do you choose which robot you want to win, when you know nothing about the machine or the people that built it? By the time you've gotten to know anybody new, they're already facing a seeded machine in the second round.
...Oh the newcomers!!! How was the selection process butchered this badly? The problem wasn't a lack of newcomers, they were plentiful. But whoever picked these particular machines to compete are comparable to people who spend £2 on a lottery ticket each week, don't win anything for three months, but justify their next purchase because they won £25 two years ago. You picked a genuinely competent newcomer such as S3. You picked an entertainingly bad newcomer such as Granny's Revenge. In return, a plethora of awful, awful newcomers join the cast.
Storm Force. Obsidian. The Tartan Terror. Black Widow. Juggernot 2. Guzunderbot. Rohog. Dome. Sabretooth. VIPER 01. Eleven. Monad. Kliptonite. Axe-C-Dent. Those are among the weakest of the newcomers, and that's not even including the returning robots which performed terribly without redeeming themselves, such as Twister, Velocirippa and Immortalis. If I listed a robot here, they were poor competitors, almost all of which fell in first-round battles which were truly at the bottom of the barrel. Curse you Guzunderbot, for making me have to say 'almost'.
Let's look at some of the newcomers who could have taken the place of these machines. Barbaric Response. Brutus Maximus. Cedric Slammer. Chip. Chompalot. Dorkus. Draven. Edge Hog. Gahra. Hamster. Hell's Teeth. Lightning. M2. Mute. Pendragon. Terror Turtle. The Stag. TX-108. Vader. X Box. And that's without including the veterans who absolutely deserved spaces, such as Arnold A. Terminegger, Killertron 2, and a returning Heat Finalist in Spirit of Knightmare. We know that the producers didn't just pick the winners of the qualifiers, they picked robots they liked. So why was I able to name so many robots that would have made much better members of the cast? I'm not saying they're all BETTER robots, as I included Brutus Maximus and Terror Turtle, for example. But they would have been much more fun to watch in defeat than something like Rohog driving into the arena wall.
But why is it important to name so many robots which put on a disappointing performance (all while we never even got to meet their teams)? The format. Whoever made the executive decision to scrap melees and return to a head-to-head format single-handedly tarnished Series 5 irreparably. If a robot was boring, an entire fight was boring. The logic here was one of two things. Either it was "we're not sure four-way melees would work, sounds risky" - clearly proven wrong next series - or "more fights means more of what people came for". Absolutely not. The lack of interviews left a huge crack in the bedroom wall, and so the show added two more truly shoddy Round 1 battles to each episode in an effort to fill that gap. It messed this up so badly that the wall is now overflowing with adhesive cream, making a right mess of the wall, to the point where you were better off just leaving the crack in it. (Editor's note: don't let Toast make anecdotes).
So, bad newcomers spoiled the first round in 80% of the opening battles. The rest of the heats must be fine, right? Well when only two heats were won by an unseeded robot, they were so overwhelmingly predictable that the entire series becomes a slog to go through. And that has to include Bigger Brother's heat win as a "surprise" when it so clearly wasn't. When I watch Series 5 back, I sit through two episodes where the reigning champion gets a free ride and then Hypno-Disc mullers two highly promising flippers, ruining Extreme's second Annihilator in the process. There, I finally make it to S3's heat, my safe haven. I better enjoy this one, because after it, I get the entire rest of the series without any surprising winners. It doesn't help that Heat D is probably the worst episode of all time. I get that Team Firestorm are competitive, but Sir Chromalot is a 0/10 on the competitive spectrum, PLEASE don't just defeat them in a two-second flip, oh wait, you did. Show me the House Robots' statistics one more time, and I'll flip. That time could've been spent making S3's battles with Mousetrap and Wild Thing last more than two minutes.
I mean, this isn't even me exaggerating the bad points in order to justify it being below the following eight series on the list, the heats of Series 5 are genuinely bad. I enjoy them because they are episodes of Robot Wars, but this isn't me judging the eighteen series of Robot Wars against the other programmes airing at the same time of day. I am comparing series of Robot Wars against the other series of Robot Wars, and Series 5 cannot reach the upper echelons just on the basis of five or six episodes (Heat C, G, H, Semi-Final 1, Grand Final, then Heat E if you put aside Warhog, Napalm and the Judges) out of the total of fifteen being of a high standard. Those episodes existed to get it within the top ten, which Series 5 couldn't manage otherwise. I make no effort to deny that Series 5's classic moments are quite possibly the greatest moments in Robot Wars history, with Chaos 2 vs Wild Thing, Razer vs Firestorm III and Bigger Brother vs Hypno-Disc having endless re-watch value. But that is the point of a top battles list, not a top series list. I am growing more and more frustrated whenever I hear Series 5 paraded as the best series of the show, because it cannot possibly be. Series 9 gets tons of flack for featuring overall more bad points than good, despite its peaks being amazing. This should be the case for the Fifth Wars, and I bet people would agree with me if they hadn't grown up with the series as children.
8: The Dutch Battles, Series 2
I definitely had trouble figuring out where to put this one on the list. The second series of the Dutch Battles is a personal favourite and an underrated ride, which peaked at seventh on my first draft of the list, and fell to its lowest position of eleventh. My morals were shaken when the flaws pointed out by Spawn of Weston were once Again too great for me to ignore. Consider that Nick's Revenge for me 'underrating' Series 1, eh? And yet I tried to write the entry as an eleventh place series, and I completely swallowed all of the flaws with so many positives. Let's quickly (Editor's note: yeah I knew I couldn't phrase it quickly) rehash the young man's points in Toastier words.
Wild Weston is correct in bringing up PulverizeR's campaign - the champion never truly put on a winning performance, and would have lost to Philipper II by a huge margin in the modern judging criteria. The head-to-head format is a strange decision, just like it was for Series 5. In a way it somewhat benefits us English-speakers, as the fight:interview ratio is greater, but there was a small handful of dull opening battles between one or two robots which didn't really work. Take the two-second immobilisation of Amok and the embarrassing progression of Scarab into the second round as examples. Compare it to something like Series 5 and we had plenty of good first-round fights in comparison, but this was filmed concurrently with Series 6, and even the German Struggles, all of which used melees. Nowadays, we are spoiled by round robins and double elimination brackets, but even in 2002, I'm not sure why the producers thought an entirely 1v1 format was the best choice.
This problem made its biggest impact in the Grand Final, where the five heat winners were joined by a whopping three wildcards, and these decisions were truly poor. Nick brings up Bamm Bamm receiving a wildcard despite getting dominated in the first round, but I can take this a step further. The justification behind Bamm Bamm's wildcard is that it was a former Grand Finalist - so why not give its wildcard to Twisted Metal Evo, a former Grand Finalist which lasted until a Judges' decision during the Heat Final of the same heat? Twister at least made its Heat Final, but it was stopped comfortably by Philipper II there - Neater on the other hand was eliminated in an extremely close Judges' decision, which the televised edit honestly pushes in Neater's favour. I would have given the wildcard to Neater even if I could only give ONE away. Meshuggah went on to have an amazing battle with Scrap-II-Saur but I don't think that should overlook what was a poor decision very similar to the one between Bamm Bamm and Twisted Metal Evo - Meshuggah collected a free win over The Lethal Swan, before losing to Lizzard in much easier fashion than Neater did. If √3 itself was too damaged to receive the wildcard, how about Pika III? It performed well in both battles, is the 'reigning Belgian champion', and almost won a Judges' decision into the Heat Final. Not sure if that gives it more credit than Twister, but it's worth a mention.
Aside from the large Slicer-shaped hole, I have no new complaints of my own to bring to the table though, unless you count my inability to speak Dutch. What I can say in terms of the good is that every single episode has several highlight moments. Within a small six-part series, not one episode was bad. Even with some duff battles scattered around, all six of the episodes had at least two or three high quality battles, including five out of five good Heat Finals, making for a consistently enjoyable viewing experience – I can think of only two other series which had such a consistent standard across every episode involved, and we won’t be seeing those for a while. It's those two points which made me put Dutch Series 2 above UK Series 9 and 5, which started with two stellar heats before declining in a big way, while featuring zero out of five good Heat Finals. This is the same advantage The Netherlands had over UK Series 3 and 5 – it had far less episodes, but no duds. Imagine trying to convince someone to watch a fifteen-part series in Dutch. They wouldn’t. But don't just take my word for it on Dutch Series 2 being a jolly good show, let's review the highlights!
- Neater's axe going through the shells of Hard, Blackdevil Warzone and Lizzard.
- Meshuggah throwing over The Lethal Swan.
- Impact setting its tail on fire and using it to batter Beaverbot.
- Twister ripping Impact into as many pieces as there are letters in Jeroen van Lieverloo's name.
- A wonderfully close battle where Trazmaniac nearly felled the eventual runner-up.
- The shadow second seed being wedged to death in the very first round.
- Hammerhead 2 stylishly spins IDO into the pit before fighting Krab-Bot well.
- Crushtacean finally getting the heat win it deserved by outmuscling a pusher, flipper and spinner alike.
- Eric Corton says the name "Bloody Murder Weapon" while Infinity trades blows with Mr. Psycho.
- Gravity out-pushes a trophy-winning pushing robot.
- Scrap-II-Saur's perfect flip on Cyclone, with great wins on Tough as Nails and Gravity.
- A robot is quite literally split in half.
- Part of a clusterbot gets thrown out of the arena, and the remaining two still win the Judges' decision.
- A fight befitting of the Grand Final between Philipper II and Krab-Bot.
- One of the all-time great comebacks against Meshuggah.
With the rising standard of British robots around the time of Series 6, seeing what the Dutch could cobble together made for a very charming series which paid off superbly, and is well worth a watch. I admit it was for the best we never got a Dutch Series 3 though - I wouldn't trade Gravity's place in the UK series for the world.
7: UK Series 8
We have two six-part series in straight succession here, so I think the best way to talk about why Series 8 is here, is to explain why it beats the second series of the Dutch Wars, first. That's simple, and ironically, it's one of the things that hindered Series 9 - the format really worked for Series 8. I'm sure many of us were disappointing when we first realised that our 12-year comeback for Robot Wars would last only six episodes, with just forty competitors involved, but that was redeemed when we realised that each episode had nine fights per episode. This didn't fall into the Series 5 trap of "more fights per episode must be better, right", as it was the second-round competitors who made repeat appearances, ensuring at least some level of quality. It does make you feel more sorrow for robots like Supernova and Or Te which only got one shot, while Foxic and M.R. Speed Squared tried their best to crash the wedding, but you just have to remember that Supernova, Or Te and friends would suffer from the exact same problem in any other series, the only exclusions being Series 10 and Dutch Series 1.
That, and the presence of powerful flippers strong enough to prove that OotA's are still possible even in this brand-new arena, are the only reasons I narrowly put this above Dutch Series 2. The next direct comparison is Series 9, how does it beat that, especially when they both had the same format? How can you slate one series for its format, and then praise another series for having the exact same format? Simple - I am judging what we saw on television, and Series 8 saw its robots complete the round robin successfully, even following it up with a good Heat Final in some of the episodes. There was one withdrawal in the form of Chompalot, but that just constructed the narrative of Pulsar's story, while also allowing the dragon to go out in a blaze of "glory".
Series 8's balance of robots was also far greater than that of Series 9, and I don't just mean in terms of the spinners. Series 8 did have eighteen spinners, but that includes Nuts, Terror Turtle, Sweeney Todd, Kill-E-Crank-E etc, and the interchangeable weapons of both Storm2 and Big Nipper within the count, as opposed to three bar spinners in one heat. The main thing that makes Series 8 so balanced is the way it expertly transitioned from the classic series into the new era. Through coincidence or not, every single heat contained a semi-finalist from the previous series, and the heat which included Bonk as the "seed" ended up including the most famous returning robots in Razer, Behemoth and Terrorhurtz, in a titanic opening heat. Long-forgotten competitors from the Seventh Wars became surprise returnees, and didn't feel out of place, with DisConstructor, Thermidor II, Infernal Contraption and King B proving that they, in fact, DO still exist. Most fell by the way-side, but it helped to set up the episode, before we delved into the potential of the newcomers - it helped a lot then, that every heat was won by a newcomer. That doesn't necessarily mean that the winner of each heat was a surprise - TR2, for example, was clearly going to win as soon as it passed through the melee without even using its flipper. A lot of the heat winners genuinely were unpredictable though, with Carbide still feeling balanced against its opposition thanks to its loss to Terrorhurtz, Shockwave coming out of nowhere to gain revenge on Thor, and Pulsar winning a heat after losing in the first round. Most people chose Apollo as their heat winner when writing up predictions on the wiki, but I was firmly under the belief that the king of the live events Eruption would have a cruise, or at the very least our returning World Champion Storm2 would uphold its standard. Even in the Heat Final itself, I still didn't think Apollo would win the heat.
...the Heat Final. The Heat Final!!! And the head-to-head clash between Apollo and Storm2! I don't want to get caught in a Series 5 style trap, and overrate Series 8 just based on two battles, but these three House Robot flips helped to cement the fourth episode as one of the best of all time, and when the opening episode was already brilliant, at least two thirds of the series already consists of phenomenal episodes. Let's make that half of the series then, with a truly unpredictable final which sent me on a rollercoaster of emotions. I was convinced from the get-go that TR2 would romp home to victory, so I was quickly silenced by the Apollo machine I STILL lacked faith in. Other people, meanwhile, thought that Carbide had what it took to 'spin to win', and yet after it earned three easy victories, it then turns its back on that belief, and loses fair and square to two solidly performing flippers. TR2 vs Carbide loses its enjoyment completely on a re-watch, but for a first-time viewer, the tension was high while the robot which had already qualified for the title fight was suddenly displaying weakness. When Apollo defeated Carbide, we saw a TRULY re-watchable fight, won by the most endearing team, and their robot which I had doubted since the very beginning.
The second, third and fifth episodes definitely were not as good as the other half of the series, but they were not BAD - certainly they were all better than Carbide's heat from Series 9. The 2016 series was consistent enough to give it the boost over the consistently strong Dutch Series 2, and its own successor in Series 9 which boasted much better editing and lighting.
...Yeah that had to be brought up eventually. Series 8 had the worst lighting and editing in the history of the show. To this day I've never really liked the red and black colours of the new arena, it reminds me too much of Simon Cowell's dreadful gameshow Red or Black, and I had to get the black and red Nintendo Switch to redeem it. Who thought it would be a good idea to use red lighting in a red arena? We're also missing the overhead camera track which was added for Series 9, the sound effects were missing, the lack of music was evident not just in the battles (something that applies to every reboot series), but even outside of the combat. Opening up the series by interviewing a comedy bunch like Team Nuts was a wise move, yet it felt hollow to my overly expectant eyes and ears, with the lack of music and experimental camerawork leaving me wanting more. The editing saw robots jump across the arena, attacks being skipped, and the pit being opened by... um, who? The stat boards were ugly and sparse of detail, the camera completely missed Terror Turtle's depature, the list goes on.
These were problems, undoubtedly, but not major ones such as the bigger flaws found in Series 5 and 9. The number of removable links which fell out, axes which couldn't fire, Pulsars which Pulsared etc, were all a shame, but were almost always redeemed by a bigger moment hiding further into the episode. Series 8 did what it needed to do, and wasn't unimpressive by any stretch. It pushes past the other six-part series due to its higher quantity of good battles, but falls behind the rest of the list, because... well, it was only six episodes...
6: Extreme Warriors, Season 2
I have waited a long time to talk about the second season of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors - the fact that it sits one space away from the top five should tell you why. It was punishingly close to being in the top five as well, but it's held back by just a few minor things. The second US series has no in-between. It has some very clear bad points, and some absolutely wonderful factors.
Before we talk about the combat, let's talk about the presenters. Right at the beginning of the blog, I called Mick Foley the best host that Robot Wars has ever had, and that was just during the first season. Here in Season 2, he is even better. It was so clear that Foley had complete freedom to do whatever he wanted with the role. He didn't care one bit for the tension of Judges' decisions, he'd just tell a team they were going home, and get straight back to the banter. The fact that Mick Foley was allowed to actively cheer against competing teams was a pool of comedy that just never dried up - how typical was it that Mick Foley decided to hate the Conquering Clown and Falcon teams, and then both made the Grand Final? It wasn't even an irrational 'hatred', the man just... doesn't like clowns! Those damn clown horns tickled me every time, while Mick just despised them, and it was beautiful. The Falcon team deserved everything they got, they were the Plunderbirds of the American series, and they got their comeuppance for it every time... even if Mick couldn't send them home until the semi-final of the entire competition.
Special mentions go out to Carol Grow as well. Season 1's Rebecca Grant was a complete mismatch for the show, as she'd keep giving those libidinous looks straight into the camera for all the kids watching, and she'd get so close to the roboteers that they wouldn't be blamed for thinking they were going to get lucky that night. Carol Grow doesn't do anything spectacular, but her presenting style was simply a much better fit for the show. She was probably the best visual match for the show as well, if we're allowed to use that as a factor. The main presenter is already a wrestling legend, so why not have a suitably hardcore woman in the pits? Consider her the only presenter on Robot Wars to award the awkwardly heavy trophy to the champion without breaking a sweat. Stefan Frank... yeah, I still don't like his commentary. Don't just tell us that someone is the "comedy entrant", let us make our own judgements! But perhaps I would like him more if I grew up in America, so let's just chalk that one off.
I have a few minor complaints with the presentation style. For the pre-match interviews, we saw the return of the overly professional arch-gate in the pits, where I would much prefer to see interviews in the pits, while the teams are working on the robots. The camerawork used to capture a robot before the battle starts is particularly poor. It has what I refer to as Kat 3 Syndrome, where just before a robot's statistics show up, the establishing shot of the competitor always seems to be taken from the side, or from behind. It's truly terrible when you're trying to take screenshots of the competitors without them being in motion. I said earlier in the blog that if I saw the House Robot stat boards one more time, I'd flip. And I have, so I will. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
So, those are the presenters, and the presentation style, the next logical talking point would be the format. Season 2 of Extreme Warriors has possibly the best format of any series that Robot Wars has ever aired. Its only contender is Series 10, which had an outstanding format for each heat, but it was at the cost of permitting only thirty robots into the series. This format has no downsides whatsoever. It has eight heats, far more than any other foreign series, plus a Grand Final on top of that. It opens with three-way melees, where only one robot has to fall, and most of them throughout the series were of a very high standard. The rest of the heat was a standard affair, before leading up to an eight-man Grand Final of seven straight knockout fights, with robots good enough to make it interesting. Yes, the main competition uses a single elimination format, whereas now we are spoiled by formats that would allow robots to redeem themselves after a loss, but that doesn't mean US Season 2 didn't have a way for the losers to redeem themselves, far from it. In addition to the nine episodes of the main competition, this season of Extreme Warriors contained four side events, bringing the total episode count up to thirteen. Nickelodeon Robot Wars was also run concurrently, offering a second chance to compete for pretty much the entire cast. Out of EVERY robot that competed in the main competition, only ONE left the series without fighting at least two battles, while the rest got to compete in a side event, or the Nickelodeon series. Sucks to be you, Lightning Tracks. You can even extend the rules, and try to count how many robots which lost in the second round of the main competition were not seen again. It's just The Gap, King of Diamonds, Marauder and Dragbot. No team flew all the way out to England just for a single fight. Again, unless you're Lightning Tracks.
Those side events were actually fantastic, by the way. As soon as we're in the Annihilator, Hyperactive leaves a huge impression, before Cyclone throws two robots out of the arena using a vertical spinner in two straight fights - and Brute still comes close to beating it in the final! The Tag Team Terror featured a whopping sixteen robots, and there wasn't a single bad battle along the way, ending in a deserved trophy for Rocky-Bot-Boa and Black Widow. The International Championship had highs and lows. It was disappointing to see General Chompsalot 2 so ridiculously outclassed by the British Tornado, resulting in one of four examples where a British robot won an episode of an American series, but I loved the way there. I have to give so much credit to General Chompsalot 2 for its surprise win over Manta, and while Tornado's victory over Razer was blatantly wrong, it was still a good fun tussle. The Robot Rebellion had no business being good. Who fights for the chance to take on the House Robots with only one teammate? Indeed, the actual House Robot Rebellion was trash... until they dropped an ORGAN on Snookums!!! That wasn't even the best part though. Absolutely nobody pegged Snookums and Snake Bite to qualify with robots like Ninjitsu and Rosie the Riveter II in attendance, but they both won remarkably close split decisions to get there... and those weren't even the closest fights! Ninjitsu and Buzz had to be declared a draw, and sent to a rematch!!
But don't let me harp on the side events exclusively, because the main championship was great too! Propeller-Head was at the heart of it all, winning two fights in devastating fashion before taking on the reigning runner-up in the heat final, which was one of the greatest comebacks in Robot Wars to date. The battle seemed completely sewn up when Propeller-Head completely lost its... propeller-head, but it didn't give up, and achieved an astonishing pitting. The Revolutionist wasn't the only "seeded" robot to fall by the wayside either, with Manta losing fair and square to Rocky-Bot-Boa in a close affair. The debut battle of Destructive Criticism was one of the most impressionable, showing no remorse for the Run Away machine which was supposed to be heading through to the next round. I think we know the reason why Lightning Tracks only fought one battle. Speaking of Run Away, they fought their own Tag Team partner in General Chompsalot 2, who did not give a damn, and absolutely mullered it! Probophobia vs Snake Bite put Panic Attack to shame, and contends for the most stylish performance the show has seen.
I've painted a very positive picture here, so that unfortunately means it is time to show why US Season 2 had to narrowly miss out on the Top 5. At this late stage of the list, the time for major flaws has passed, and it's just a collection of small things which lets this series down. The first one is quite questionable, and could be seen as a good thing or a bad thing, so that will help us transition nicely. Panzer Mk 4 entered the series as the defending champion... and emerged as the champion again. This is a familiar story shared by the British Chaos 2, and I admit, I would have liked to see a new champion. With that said, this is much better than the Chaos 2 example I still shouldn't really be talking about yet. While Chaos 2 was the single blotch on the track record of the British champions, being the only example across ten series of a repeat champion happening, Panzer Mk 4 gets the glory of being the undisputed US Robot Wars Champion, forever! It's not so bad when you think about it like that, and Panzer Mk 4's road to glory was truly monstrous, with high-paced wins long beyond the calibre of Tornado - this is Storm II levels of speed and power, we're talking here.
As with any series, some of the first-round losses were unsatisfactory. Cyclone died in fifteen seconds. Trilobyte hardly even existed, fitting for a fossil, I suppose. Texas Tornado dominated its melee, stopped working for thirty seconds, and then went back to dominating the melee it already lost. Techno Trousers was somehow the last robot standing in one melee. G-Force just suddenly stopped moving. It must be reminded though, that on the whole, the melees were very good. The House Robots generally kept their distance, but every so often involved themselves when they shouldn't have been there, snapping off Tyranabot's weapon, and drawing uncomfortably close to Conquering Clown 2 in the middle of a Grand Final eliminator.
These are the two main points, starting with the weaker one. If you don't like rambots, you won't like this series. It's as simple as that. In the Grand Final, half of the competing machines were rambots, with Panzer Mk 4, Tricerabot 3.0 and Rosie the Riveter II all predictably winning their heats without a challenge, while Rocky-Bot-Boa was the surprise addition, but also the one which didn't even have a wedge. Even Tyranabot made the Heat Final. I have no qualms with any of these robots, but it would put off anybody who does have an issue with this type of machine.
This is the clincher, which is quite honestly the single biggest reason which caused Extreme Warriors to miss out on a Top 5 finish, and without it, I think this list would change to match. The series had quite a few upsets and comebacks alike, but a startling number of them were caused by robots driving into the pit. It happened so much, it was not funny. Trilobyte did it in the Tag Team Terror. The promising Mechadroid, having already been eliminated by Techno Trousers, also pitted itself in the Tag Team Terror. Spin Doctor drove into the pit against Panzer Mk 4. A returning Grand Finalist in Brute dominated Unibite 2.0, which had done nothing throughout the entire heat, and drove straight into the pit. The Gap was losing a good loss to Propeller-Head, then drove into the pit by itself. Marauder drove into the pit while it was doing perfectly well against Destructive Criticism. Freaking Bunny Attack was beating the Nickelodeon champion until it made a bad turn and basically steered itself into a pitting they could have easily avoided. A full-throttle Grand Final eliminator where Rosie the Riveter II was beating Panzer Mk 4 was spoiled by Rosie driving straight into the pit. Propeller-Head tore The Falcon Mark II to shreds and then drove into the pit from across the entire arena in the middle of the Grand bloody Final!!
I loved the humour of the Falcon team throughout the episode, but good grief, were they out of place in the top four of the competition! You better find self-pittings funny, or you've got a large problem to deal with. One can only imagine the alternative universe where none of these robots drove into the pit... that'd be a killer of a series.
5: UK Series 4
Let's open this section with an unnecessarily controversial comment which I have no business opening the top five of the list with. If Series 5 is regarded as the best series of the show purely because one of its semi-finals and the Grand Final were excellent, why isn't Series 4 regarded as the best series for having an excellent Grand Final and two excellent semi-finals? It can be said that no individual fight reached the amazing standard of Chaos 2 vs Wild Thing or Hypno-Disc vs Bigger Brother (even then Hypno-Disc vs Splinter gives it a good go), but Series 4's second semi-final was still of an outstanding quality, whereas in Series 5, it sucked. Compare Hypno-Disc vs Splinter and Wild Thing to Hypno-Disc vs Firestorm III and Dominator II. Even when you compare Semi-Final 1, the Series 5 version had the strongest battle, to go alongside its glorious losers' melee, but the Series 4 Semi-Final 1 is quite possibly the best episode in the show's entire run. It saw eight completely competent robots go at it in consistently amazing battles, where each one to not contain Chaos 2 went to a Judges' decision, and they were all contentious right until Cease. The Grand Final was let down by Chaos 2 winning again - the main thing stopping this series from climbing beyond fifth place - but it still featured a stellar battle between it and Stinger, while the shock value of Pussycat beating Hypno-Disc felt even more unbelievable than Bigger Brother's shock win.
The final three episodes of the main competition, champion aside, are the biggest positive of Series 4. There is still plenty more to praise. Reading the blog up to this point makes it abundantly clear that melees are a much better way of opening a series than head-to-head fights or the Gauntlet - notice how the entire top seven consists of series which opened with melees. The melees of Series 4 opened each episode in entertaining fashion, including some classic battles, such as the first-round wins from Stinger and Behemoth, which only made it more confusing when Series 5 abandoned the format. While it's true that some weaker robots like Hammer & Tong and The Creature slipped through the cracks, we're still in an era of the show where weaker robots are OK to have in later rounds. Truly, this was the last UK series where it felt like anyone could build a robot and do well.
And anyone could build a robot and do well. Even in a series where one third of the competing robots were seeded (a separate negative point), we still managed to see five unseeded heat winners, and they were joined by robots on the lower half of the seeding list which had been written off in terms of a heat win, Pussycat and X-Terminator 2. I won't include Stinger as a "surprise" winner, as Bigger Brother was yet to impress, but despite the fact it was questionably seeded, it pulled a win out of nowhere.
An easy way to get points in this blog is to simply have a lot of episodes. It didn't help Series 5 reach the upper regions of the list because so many poor heats made it drag, but that still placed higher than series, while Series 3 just got outclassed by consistently superior series. With twenty-four episodes, Series 4 is the longest series of Robot Wars by far. This included sixteen heats of a generally high standard, with only one major dud, and almost an entire reboot series' worth of Christmas specials. It was within these side specials that some of Series 4's defining moments happened, with Razer vs Onslaught forming the childhoods of the masses due to how good the clash between Razer and its opponent was.
It's at this point where any other entry in the blog would, after four paragraphs, finally start to talk about the negatives. But this is the Top 5, so let's keep going! Thermidor II was so wonderfully improved and still charming, that it made for one of the greatest heat winners of all time. Razer lost in the heat, but this time it did so fair and square against a stunningly good Pussycat. The roboteers were still innovating with new and creative designs, and yet now they were actually getting quite good: Mousetrap and Robochicken, for example. Nobody asked to have the Pinball in Series 3, but we got it and appreciated it. Nobody asked to have the Pinball AND the Sumo Basho in Series 4, but we got it, and appreciated it. Well, most of it. I guess that's the best segue into the negatives I'm going to get.
Gemini was a wonderful addition to the main series - it was the first clusterbot, and it worked, even becoming the second robot(s) to throw a competitor out of the arena. "Most Original Entry" and "Best Design Award" are already extremely tough to differentiate - can we not bestow both awards to the same robot? Those were on top of its original trophy - a side event which was impossible for it to lose... and they still nearly lost to Spawn of Scutter anyway! So there we go, a whole paragraph on a flaw of Series 4. I had to write an entire paragraph about one minor flaw just to try and ground Series 4 into reality. It's truly something special. Let's bring up one third of the competitors being seeded again just to throw in another problem.
More problems, find some more problems... Julia Reed wasn't as enjoyable as Philippa Forrester and she needed to stop slagging off Thermidor II! Will that do? Reed wasn't bad, she just lacked the off-the-cuff nature we'd loved throughout the first three series, and displayed teething problems throughout most of the first round of the competition. Not literally, her teeth were fine. Just classic "I'm new to this" flaws that even the much-loved Angela Scanlon had to start with, and Jayne Middlemiss managed to carry through a whole series. Huge credit to Philippa Forrester for still introducing Julia Reed on-screen while heavily pregnant, by the way. We went from the fifth episode until the thirteenth episode without any robots winning a match by pitting their opponent! That's a huge staple of the series covered up by the fact the House Robots always dumped beaten corpses in there, which also allows me to drop in the fact that the House Robot carnage was a little bit overkill. Four House Robots (out of a total of five) ganging up on a beaten machine for a long period of an already-completed fight in nearly every heat semi-final just felt slightly GTI.
Sadly, Series 4's position on the list does just boil down to the aforementioned point of Chaos 2 defending its title. I mentioned in the US Season 2 write-up that Panzer Mk 24 can at least seek redemption in the fact it never lost its title. You could even say that while watching Series 4 for the first time, Chaos 2 retaining the title didn't feel like such a blotch, because it still had managed to win every series it competed in. I wouldn't know, I didn't watch Series 4 as a child. Now that Chaos 2 has been long outclassed, Series 4 stands idle as the one UK series which couldn't find itself a unique champion, and we would've had one if the Judges just felt a little differently about the battle with Stinger. Pussycat has far too many tournament wins to its name, and yet somehow, it still deserved one more. The Fourth Wars is so punishingly close to being the best series it could have been for the year 2000, but George Francis lifted his trophy once again, at the cost of the series itself being able to lift the trophy in this list.
4: UK Series 6
Coming in hot at fourth place is The Sixth Wars. It's funny, barely two years ago I was still struggling to prise Series 5 and 6 apart, and now we see four entire series between them. By now, my criteria for free points is becoming abundantly clear. 1) You can have a large number of episodes (as long as they are of a consistent quality), and Series 6 had sixteen episodes, including the second appearance on this list of the Deutschland v England Special. 2) Use melees in the first round instead of head-to-heads, and the Sixth Wars had frolicking four-way melees which spiced up every single episode. 3) Have a high number of unseeded winners. I admit that point is much more subjective than the list intends to be, as many fans love - sorry for bringing it up yet again - the Fifth Wars for containing nothing BUT All-Star heat winners. Regardless, I fail to see how newcomers winning a heat can be a bad thing, and while Series 6 was not outstanding in this regard, with three unseeded heat winners as opposed to the previous year's two, the three unseeded heat winners were truly special.
The incredible Dantomkia run absolutely speaks for itself. What is the BEST way for a brand-new flipper to leave an impression? Throw the double UK champion renown for inventing the OotA right out of the arena itself! Although Stinger was one of the lowest seeds in the tournament, 13 Black found itself in the heat of death, and continually prevailed over each match to deservedly take a place in the series semi-finals. And then Terrorhurtz was just phenomenal. You can't say that Panic Attack - or even Spawn Again - were the strongest opponents that it could have faced along the way, but regardless, Terrorhurtz absolutely clattered its way into the Grand Final with one of the most impressionable runs in any series of Robot Wars.
But that's not to say that the actual seeded wins aren't worth mentioning. Along the path of Dominator II winning Heat J, all five battles that played out across the entire episode were of a very high standard, and only the lack of a Hydra win stopped it from being a perfect episode. An episode that came even closer was S3's win of Heat D, which solidly stands out to me as one of the best episodes Robot Wars has aired to date - excluding semi-finals and Grand Finals, it comfortably sits within my all-time Top 5. To offer some proof, here's a breakdown of all five fights:
- GBH 2's melee - The most famous battle from this heat, and one of the greatest melees of all time. Despite a strong performance from GBH 2 throughout, a split decision decided that the damaging spinner of The Alien, and the knockout-scoring Sir Chromalot, would progress by the slimmest of margins.
- S3's melee - A battle that changes every time you watch it. What starts with S3 immediately ripping an entire weapon away from Shredder ends up seeing the handicapped machine take the overall lead by the end of the fight, pinning S3 against the arena wall (which it destroys), and Mr. Psycho nearly eliminates the seed in the first round. Armadrillo driving way from Refbot was highly comical.
- S3 vs Sir Chromalot - Robot Wars: Extreme Destruction Endurance at its finest. Sir Chromalot spends an entire match trying to trick the awkwardly large S3 into driving over the pit, nearly pitting itself in the process, before the battle is decided by some earth-shattering blows from the vertical spinner, all while Jonathan Pearce takes the mickey out of Steve Merrill.
- Shredder vs The Alien - Likely the least popular battle in the heat due to its debatable Judges' decision, eventually won by the underdog Shredder, but I'll always appreciate battles this close and contentious throughout. Shredder's win is questionable, but far from undeserved, and Jonathan said it best: "this shows a different side to Robot Wars".
- S3 vs Shredder - A hilarious battle where S3 keeps on damaging Shredder, throwing armour literally into the ceiling, yet the underdog comes back for more, and takes even more pain. In the end, a Shredder with a fully functional drive system is only counted out because its frame was too bent to let the robot make contact with the floor! As soon as Shredder is flipped back, it's already out of the battle, but still drives head-first into S3's disc!! Shredder even pitted itself to save the House Robots a job, leading to a top tier interview after the battle, all while the fully deserving S3 moves on for its second semi-final appearance.
The good heats keep rolling in. Spawn Again, despite being the tenth seed, was so written off against Supernova that it managing to pull off the "expected" win was so bewildering that it left an impression like no other. Am I personally a Razer fan? No, but Heat A was a fantastic episode for anyone who is, with a joyous opening melee, and a fun side-stories including Raging Reality earning its second OotA in one episode, Tetanus dominating yet another retro team, Cyrax performing admirably, and Refbot backing into the pit. While Disc-O-Inferno finally left its mark on the main competition, Bigger Brother was busy handling Behemoth in an all-timer of a battle. The semi-finals were not short of mayhem, with the losers' melee between Dantomkia, 13 Black and Wild Thing demonstrating the funniest battle in a UK championship battle, while the *greatest battle in all of robot wars* happens once again, except somehow Spawn Again lives longer than Hypno-Disc this time.
Sadly it couldn't all be a perfect storm, because... well this entry of the list has already strayed far enough from objectivity, Firestorm was boring. Don't let Nivada Stars from NJGW's audience find this comment! This was Firestorm's least enjoyable campaign of them all, with only a nifty ring-out on S3 to speak of, and I suppose a good loss to Tornado at the end of the run. How do you fight a second-round opponent so easy that it shouldn't have even been there in the first place, flip the Refbot, and then strand Barbaric Response on the wall so that noone can officially end the fight? The hopes of a promising Cedric Slammer, an improved X-Terminator, and a thoroughly likeable 13 Black were all dashed, while Firestorm passed through to the Grand Final. But that wasn't all - Heat A aside, Razer's run was even worse. At least Firestorm IV had the courtesy to lose and come third, but the reigning champion Razer tried its very best to ruin the semi-finals, with Wild Thing being suffocated to death, before the dynamite campaign from Dantomkia is closed out in what has to be my least-favourite battle in the show's lifetime. Somehow this misery continued when even Terrorhurtz was swallowed whole. In general, the finalists were just a problem. Razer and Firestorm made their second consecutive finals, Tornado was a new finalist but it was hardly a surprise or something that many were likely to cheer for, and Terrorhurtz stood alone as the one finalist I liked. It then came fourth.
Credit to Tornado though, both of their wins within the final were tree-mendous (after this number of blog entries, my vocabulary is running thin), including the best title fight since Series 1, possibly just the best altogether at that stage. The reigning champion was felled at the final hurdle, in hugely satisfying style. Needless to say, if Razer had won the final, Series 4 would be looking at an instant boost up the list. So what does actually make the Sixth Wars better than Fourth Wars, justifying its space on the list?
...Erm, good question! It's a very narrow call, and even now I find myself questioning if I made the right one, but looking at all of the flaws I addressed in Series 4's post, these were all fixed by the Sixth Wars. The standard of competing robot was generally higher throughout all stages of the competition, which allowed for memorable fights to happen at any stage of the series, rather than primarily in melees and the series semi-finals, a la Series 4. The arena and camerawork were generally easier on the eyes. The addition of two new House Robots leaves a different taste for everybody - there is definite sadness in seeing Sir Killalot succeeded by a robot that would always be less iconic, but Growler stands out as one of the most enjoyable House Robots to watch. This was also the series where Matilda gained her pink flywheel. She had a flywheel in Series 5, but it wasn't pink! I'll take the Drop Zone over a gang-up from four House Robot, any day. I don't want to give Series 4 too much credit for having more side events, as that was the express point of Extreme 2.
3: Robot Wars Extreme: Series 2
Yes, I do indeed prefer Extreme 2 to Series 6, and indeed, all of the series below it. This seems odd given that many other series lost points simply for not being a main competition, yet a series of spin-offs manages to reach the top three! How did this happen? Looking at US Season 2, that benefited from being a combination of a main competition AND side events. Although Extreme 2 is in actuality 100% side events, it feels like a combination of a UK championship and plenty of side events. This perception created by two tournaments in particular.
First, the All-Stars. In a sense, this almost DOES qualify as a main championship, because in order to take part, you needed to win a heat in the main championship of Series 6. There was no exclusion of 13 Black, no inclusion of Panic Attack, every robot here had to earn their place in the series opener through the main competition. Split across two heats, the All-Stars consisted of extremely good battles, and basically retold the story of the Series 6 semi-finals in a more enjoyable fashion, putting the final aside. Throughout the "championship" of Extreme 2, we saw fantastic moments including:
- Terrorhurtz defying all laws of physics to stay in the arena, while S3 was tumbled out of it.
- The reigning champion Tornado was felled by an unexpected victor in Bigger Brother.
- Firestorm had to work for all of its head-to-head wins, taking several minutes to do so, with the win over Bigger Brother being an all-time amazing fight.
- A double UK champion in Chaos 2 reaches the dramatic climax of its career, and is smashed up by a first-time heat winner.
- Dominator II earns its revenge on Hypno-Disc, with a big flip from Spawn Again.
- The entirety of 13Black vs Dominator II was absolutely wonderful, with damage, close calls, and a shock winner propelling the essentially brand-new machine with no srimech into joint third place.
Of course I had to carefully avoid any mention of Razer in that summary, because that was the negative factor of the tournament, but at least we're used to it by now. The All-Stars was not the only thing helping Extreme 2 feel like a serious competition though, as the series contained its own five-part sub-series in the form of the New Blood Championship. What a wonderful idea this was! Series 5 showed precisely why newcomers couldn't hold up against the veterans, and even Series 6 didn't see many new robots find success, so this was the platform to show off unseen potential from brand-new robots across five enjoyable episodes, using a full structure of heats and a Grand Final. This especially felt like its own series, because the New Blood Championship had a specific prize for the winner - a place in the Seventh Wars, later revealed to be a seeded place. Put the All-Stars and the New Blood together, and you have one tournament directly affected by the Sixth Wars, and one tournament directly affecting the Seventh Wars. Thanks to this, I can enjoy Extreme 2 as much as any main series.
I simply must throw some more praise on the New Blood Championship though, as I accept that it doesn't receive completely positive reception. The main criticisms I've seen include some robots dying too easily or not working at all, indirectly leading to a weaker selection of melees, a general lack of matches going the distance, and a poorer second heat and Grand Final. This, for me, starts a point with Extreme 2 which led to its "extremely" high position on the list - almost every criticism with Extreme 2 has a retort. It's true that a lot of robots in the New Blood didn't work, such as the confusingly similar Night Raider and Niterider, but I didn't mind - Night Raider got absolutely flattened by the hammer of Thor, while Niterider managed to spear a television and hold it in the air. Maximus didn't work, but it was necessary in demonstrating the accurate potential of Roobarb; a solid robot, just don't expect an OotA. While looking for weak melees, I instead found the opposite. There was the humour of Mute nearly bottling it after already beating Terror Turtle. Bash Gordon actually bottled it after beating Pressure. Chopper drove so poorly in its melee that you'd think it was trying to bottle it, and still emerged victorious. Storm II left a huge impression in its debut, and even Doctor Fist caught fire in the worst melee of the series. Heat B was the weakest heat, but still offered us quality overhead smacks from both Thor and Edge Hog. The Grand Final did feature three poor battles, but ended with an extremely close final with only one point in it, and a lot on the line for the potential winner. Matches didn't go the distance? I count seven judges decisions, with four from the heats, and almost all of them were close enough to go either way. Mute vs Mr Nasty gets hardcore Alex Brown syndrome, where we are supposed to remember it as a bad battle because Sgt. Bash and Refbot were 'forced to live up the proceedings'. What I saw was a good fight with big flips from Mute, before the comedy from the House Robots only added to the experience. Mute's huge flip on Roobarb lives on in my mind forever, Storm II's big slam on Chopper was marvellous, Cedric Slammer caused lots of damage... what I see here is a great experience from start-to-finish.
Allow me to maintain my point of every criticism with Extreme 2 having a retort, and let's look for the worst aspects of Extreme 2.
- The Minor Meltdown was a free win for Bigger Brother - this is true, yet it was redeemed by Dead Metal's saw falling off, the chatter from Killer Carrot 2's team, and Bigger Brother's stylish win over Lambsy.
- The Commonwealth Carnage was heavily weighted in favour of Firestorm IV - I agree, yet along the way, it flipped two robots out of the arena and even toppled Mr. Psycho! Over on the other end, Crushtacean made a worthy finalist of itself, with only the last battle of the tournament holding the episode back.
- The Iron Maidens saw Shunt beat Behemoth unfairly, and most robots were badly driven - of course there is a case that Behemoth should have beaten Chompalot, as it already had done, but at least a completely unexpected winner in Chompalot then pitted the legendary Pussycat, ending the narrative of the tournament idea with some good driving when it mattered the most.
- All of the good robots in the University Challenge lost in the first round - but now we find ourselves with a true proving ground for the previously underrated Tiberius III, while Infinity beats Infernal Contraption in a classic example of how two weak robots can create a fun fight.
- The inclusion of the Typhoon Twins was arguably unfair - yes it probably was, but in the end they had no impact on 259's defeat, which would have happened regardless, and don't let that overshadow 259's brilliant opening battle.
- The European Championship was ultimately won by the reigning champion Tornado - and while I admit its victories over Snake Bite and Philipper II were boring, I loved seeing Razer end its career on a win (for twelve years), while every battle featuring Black Hole was magnificent.
So what is even left to complain about in Extreme 2? The only thing I can't really defend is Philippa Forrester, who ended her Robot Wars career on a sour note with some unnecessarily condescending interviews, but I don't want to move a series down in the ranking just because of one person not doing their job like they used to. All we have left is an endless stream of positives. I make no secret of the fact I started watching Robot Wars during the re-run of Extreme 2, with the latter half of the New Blood Championship being my gateway to the show, but by the end of this, I hope you can understand why I think Extreme 2 is worthy of the top three.
The negatives are done now - it's all positives from hereon out. The Annihilator was superb, with a very balanced cast. What should have been a romp for Typhoon 2 or the experienced Thermidor II turned into a shock win for the previously underrated Kan-Opener, in controlling fashion throughout, with the final itself being a wonderful head-to-head in its own right. The Robot Rampage was absolutely nuts, a little bit hard to keep up with at times, but the absence of the heavyweight 259 in Extreme 2 was completely redeemed by its stunning middleweight counterpart, and the Lightweight Championship presented one of the funniest matches I've ever seen, and by a huge margin it was the best battle where one robot never moved.
The Challenge Belt was one of the best episodes of Robot Wars, period. After opening with Dantomkia truly asserting itself as an All-Star by disposing of Hypno-Disc in rapid fashion, before Matilda rockets Sir Chromalot out of the arena, the House Robot collects another OotA on Vader in the following round. This battle also saw Terrorhurtz impress massively, as it did in the following round with probably the most terrifying and emphatic win in the show's history; those hits on S.M.I.D.S.Y. hit me on a personal level. Dantomkia throws Iron-Awe 2 out, before losing a fight to Terrorhurtz fair and square after a good start. We'll just ignore the nineteen-second final, eh?
The aforementioned points have to be brought up again. Whereas Extreme 1's list of event champions included Pussycat (twice), Razer (twice), Diotoir (undeservingly) and the ever-present Tornado, with only Disc-O-Inferno claiming an interesting win, Extreme 2 upgraded Chompalot, Tiberius III, Kan-Opener, Bulldog Breed and Robochicken, and sort of Terrorhurtz to trophy-winning status, joined only by a slightly uninteresting Razer, Tornado, Firestorm IV and Bigger Brother. All of this makes Extreme 2 a fully enjoyable experience as a series in its own right, and you didn't have to look far to find its highlights. But alas, the top two of the list did have to be reserved for true UK championships...
2: UK Series 10
Falling right at the final hurdle is the final series of Robot Wars. The third series of the reboot, and tenth series overall, had all the makings of an awful series. Its predecessor, Series 9, fell far below expectations and created a champion which looked impossible to stop. Series 10 starts filming, and we learn that rather than expanding the series with more episodes, we instead lose ten of the already limited forty robots, for the smallest number of competing robots in any UK series, equal even with Dutch Series 1.
So how come Series 10 was absolutely phenomenal? The key was its consistent quality. Every single episode of the main series was fantastic, and even the weakest episodes among the bunch were still hugely entertaining, and better than a huge number of episodes from all other series. Let's take Magnetar's heat for example - clearly the least entertaining heat episode, but gave us a full hour of team banter, narrative flow, seven fights, and big hits in most battles. Compare that to some of the best heats from any series you like. Can you say it had all of those points?
In general, can you say that any other series had narratives like Series 10? Every episode had several, and they hit the nail on the head. Behemoth's conquest for the first heat win in nineteen years. Dave's awkward brother joins the Apollo boyband. The contrast between Dr James Davies and President James Davies. Carbide fear for their future. Aftershock drowns in a hugely disproportionate heat. Rapid's 'cocky' rich team attitude laid onto them by everyone except for themselves. Vulture is "doing it for the lads". The Track-tion kids pick up new lessons as the heat progresses. The Kegs spreads environmental messages. Androne 4000 is cobbled back together. Team S.Tek's barrage of jokes and shoes. Ellis 'I don't like to be called a boy genius' Ware is constantly called a boy genius. The Expulsion team's coach driver breaks into tears for them. Nuts 2 continually defies expectations. Michael Oates loses his heat, before winning the whole tournament to achieve his childhood dream.
The narratives go beyond just the individual stories behind each team, but covers the story of the whole episode. It's something that mystrsyko2 brought up which really resonated with me. This is the only series of any robot combat show where we actually see robots being repaired, and teams are interviewed in the heat of the moment between battles. Series 9 started to head that way, but lacked those connecting interviews to help everything flow. Only in Series 10 would you see Jason Marston discussing his anti-Coyote tactics, with Jamie McHarg and his team casually listening in and bantering straight back. Angela Scanlon reacted to every fight wonderfully, and was truly invested in the show. Series 10 genuinely tells the whole story of the event, and not just the battles. I can't see BattleBots or King of Bots taking this approach any time soon, so Series 10 of Robot Wars truly has its own feel.
Every episode in the main series was an absolute pleasure from start-to-finish, and not one failed to include at least two stand-out moments in the combat. It would be careless not to list them.
- Apocalypse bursts into flames just two fights into the series.
- Behemoth pulls off a mind-blowing upset against Apollo.
- Gabriel 2 holds Carbide off for three whole minutes and very nearly defeats it.
- Eruption throws three robots out of the arena in one fight.
- Big Nipper's tiny disc rockets a robot into the ceiling and out of the arena, before vanquishing Aftershock.
- Apex disassembles in mid-air and smashes through the arena wall.
- Rapid displays a tactical win over Terrorhurtz, using the arena like never before.
- Tauron and Androne 4000 offer one of the closest matches the show has ever seen.
- Nuts 2 smashes wheel hubs and hydraulic lines to pull off unprecedented victories.
- Hobgoblin shatters Shunt's axe.
- Magnetar activates the Fog of Thor.
- The reigning champion is felled by the joke entry.
- Rapid departs in a true blaze of glory.
- A new champion is crowned, after a close tussle against a robot that had easily defeated it three times prior.
And all of this happened just within six episodes! If that doesn't display amazing consistency in a show's level of quality, I don't know what does. Of course, Series 10 actually had eight episodes, thanks to the World Series. There's no great need to go into this, as much like Series 9's Battle of the Stars, it presented one very entertaining episode, and one fairly poor episode. Overall, it's still more content that we would otherwise not have, so it does nothing but help Series 10 overall.
My woes over the show decreasing to thirty competitors were completely erased when I realised that Series 10 had by far the greatest format of any televised robotics show. All of the Group Battles were competitive, with the placements of first, second and third all making a difference towards a robot's campaign. Every single robot fought at least two battles guaranteed, with the promise of four whole fights just for amassing a single victory. The third place play-offs had a genuine purpose, because it granted a place in the magnificent 10 Robot Rumble at the start of the Grand Final. We shaved off only one fight compared to Series 8-9, and filled that time with relevant interviews and better fights. Less fights were dedicated to the consistent winners, and more were dedicated to the robots just shy of the top tier. This was the only Robot Wars Grand Final where any robot could lose their first fight and still become the champion. Smashing stuff, and although I think this format needs to remain a one-time thing if a Series 11 were to rise from the ashes - there are simply not enough robots you can cut from the roster to run only thirty teams again - it was the best Robot Wars ever had.
Something I truly value from a TV show is comedy, and that's mainly why the second season of Extreme Warriors is so high on the list - and still, Series 10 managed to be the funniest series yet. Sorry Stuart McDonald, but the new announcer made me laugh far much more than I care to admit with his damn SPINNAHHHHS and FLIPPAAAAAAHS. The spinners of Apex, Diotoir and Sabretooth (World Series) made me absolutely die. Diotoir was back - that in itself is guaranteed to be funny. Dave Young was on form. James Davies had me in stitches for the entire duration of his run in Heat 1. Bucky the Mascot was completely out of place and the show benefited as a result. Many people declare Push to Exit vs Expulsion the worst fight of the series, but I thought it was so bad, it was comical in a very good way. Even if you disagree, Push to Exit's team was outstandingly entertaining. If you can make me laugh, you're onto a winner, so well done Series 10.
Looking at the reception of the audience, Series 10 seemingly holds the new mantle of the most popular series of the show, and it's clear to see why. The flaws are so limited, with only the Fog of War (indefensible) and Iron-Awe 6 receiving any sort of regular criticism. Can I be extremely controversial? I enjoyed all of Iron-Awe 6's wins. Treating it not as a flipper but purely as a wedge, you at least need a high top speed, an invertible drive or srimech, and a low ground clearance to be effective in that category. Iron-Awe 6 had none of those things, but still pulled off wins through pure fundamentals and experience. Even when I look through my own nitpicks with Series 10, most are redeemed somewhere down the line. Carbide's Heat Final victory over Eruption sucked, but it set up a killer Grand Final. Heat 3's confusing second round draws were bizarre, but a robot named "Rapid" got to claim the quickest KO in the show's history. Sabretooth was useless in most of its heat fights, but worked at full form in the Rumble and World Series. Vulture withdrew from its battle with Track-tion, but we got to see Afterflop take part in the 10 Robot Rumble. The second episode of the World Series was a steaming pile, but the first episode of it receives far too little credit.
I simply find it impossible to rank Series 10 outside of the top two in this list. The only major flaw is the Fog of War, and its resulting lack of the pit, which still hurt the previous series more. That such a short series would outrank almost every single series from the classic era completely defied my expectations, but what is truly better - sixteen 40-minute episodes of varying quality, or seven (out of eight) hour-long episodes of consistently amazing quality? Why, in order to beat that, you'd need a series with sixteen or more episodes of consistently amazing quality...
1: UK Series 7
A conclusion which was very obvious for those who know me well, but an unprecedented choice for Number 1 in the eyes of the wider fandom tops the list on my list AND Nweston8's list. Why is it then, that I don't think any series even comes close to besting Series 7 for the title of the best series? I genuinely have to wonder if the Robot Wars community watched the same series that I did, because I absolutely cannot understand why it has been criticised for nearly fifteen years, scarcely with any praise outside of the campaigns run by myself and Nick? In order to try and put my feelings into words, I'm going to break this segment down into five sections: genuine problems with Series 7; the things I like the least about Series 7; common criticisms with Series 7 that I disagree with; things I like about Series 7 on a personal level; things that are absolutely a good thing about Series 7. Prepare for a long read, starting with the things that I accept caused a problem in Series 7.
The Genuine Bad - Let's admit some faults
- Storm II controversy - And straight away, in the very first point, I'm already on the defensive. I've included everything surrounding the Storm II controversies here, because they were quite knowingly a wrong-doing. Producers trying to forcibly eject a robot they disliked from the competition isn't acceptable - however, this controversy has been blown far out of proportion. For starters, Storm II received an actual seeding, and then won its first four battles with no complications whatsoever. The attempt to eliminate Storm II after its win over Firestorm V was dumb, but had no bearing on the televised episode whatsoever - it was just a few producers trying to get their own way, and even in-house, it was vetoed. Raising the pit for Tornado quite visibly skewed the televised edit, but please excuse me if I take Team Storm's claim that "Tornado went all the way down" with a grain of salt. If Tornado truly descended to the very bottom of the pit, its position should have been different when it was brought back up. In recent years, Ed Hoppitt has become quite a controversial figure himself on the Internet - I wouldn't be surprised if he exaggerated this claim, or just blatantly couldn't see how far the pit lowered due to him standing in an awkward viewing position while cheering in delight. Let it also be said that Refbot activated the pit, not Storm II or Tornado, which shouldn't really have happened with that timing. The loss to Typhoon 2 is highly disagreeable, but this was not the fault of the producers, or even really the Judges, now that we know Typhoon 2's slipped belt was caused in a prior battle. This was merely a problem with the Robot Wars scoring criteria - something that was present in every single series prior to this one. The business against Supernova is a little sketchy, but if the producers truly wanted to remove all forms of Storm II screentime, they didn't even have to include it in the Third World Championship at all.
- The House robots murdered the featherweights - No point in me trying to defend this one, because as John Reid would say, 'that's not right'. Adam Emmett's reaction to Micro-Mute's sorry end was truly dispiriting to watch. The featherweight fights were hugely enjoyable in every aspect other than the House Robot attacks, though, especially through Rip and the floor flipper.
- Thunderpants and Terrorhurtz - Yes, they should have been replaced by a reserve. Little more than a minor qualm though, it's not as though the entire battles were cancelled as a result of two withdrawals.
- Bulldog Breed vs Hard - I have already run out...
- Middleweight Championship - ...of objectively bad points...
- Spartacus II vs Flippa - ...to bring up.
Things I don't like - There must be some points!
- Tornado - In the interest of fairness, I'll bring up something that genuinely bugged me throughout Series 7, and that was its reigning champion Tornado. Its heat win was for me, the least enjoyable in the series, and then in the semi-finals it knocked out two of my favourite robots in Raging Knightmare and especially Gravity, in typical seen-it-before fashion. Gravity would have made a wonderful Grand Finalist, and this was the main thing we missed out on with Series 7, but even in spite of that, Tornado's two successive losses to Storm II were wonderfully gratifying.
- Heat B, Round 2 - My Heat B VHS was specifically labelled "don't watch", because I always thought it was the worst episode of the series. In later years, I realised that the melee and Heat Final between The Grimreaper and Big Nipper are terrific fights, alongside the best floor flip of all time in the featherweight melee. It was just the painfully drawn out battle between The Grimreaper and Gyrobot, and the over-before-it-begun matchup of Big Nipper and Jackson Wallop, which was followed by far too much House Robot attacking, that brought the heat down.
The Perceived Bad - Allow me to defend the common criticisms
- Intro spoilers - With the first two sections quickly finished, we move into the common complaints of Series 7, all of which I think are redeemable. The "spoilers" in the intro and just before an ad break are somewhat noticeable to an avid, older viewer, I admit. For the young audience watching the show, however, I certainly know I remained oblivious to every "spoiler" shown, and it was nowhere near the painful levels of spoilers shown in Series 6 and 10, never showing clips from a Heat Final under any circumstance unless it was the ad break directly before the Heat Final. These montages don't benefit dedicated viewers like us, but are a necessary evil for the general audience.
- TWENTY THOUSAND POUNDS - I've seen one or two complaints about the show constantly hyping up its CASH POT OF OVER TWENTY-THOUSAND POUNDS, and people are welcome to think of it as a bad thing if that is their opinion. I disagree, though - I thought it upped the stakes in a positive way, and gave me more reason to cheer for the new teams that I liked. In the modern day, the CASH POT OF OVER TWENTY-THOUSAND POUNDS is just a wonderful thing to exclaim and deserves to be a Robot Wars meme.
- Active weapon rule - If there is any one point in this section which should be moved to the first section, then it would be this one. The reason? We are now clearly aware that Stinger was unable to enter Series 7 because of this rule, and it likely affected Tanto too. This is bad, but on the whole, I genuinely believe the active weapon rule was a fully justifiable decision to make. Just imagine if Extreme 2's version of Storm II entered the Seventh Wars - so many of its battles would have automatically become less exciting, particularly the title fight. T-Wrecks receives flack for qualifying despite lacking a weapon. To that I say, Team Stinger should have just been slightly less honest about their lack of an active weapon. The final thing that convinced me that the active weapon rule shouldn't be used to bring down Series 7 is this - the Seventh Wars is one of four series to prohibit weaponless robots, and it is a larger problem with the three series of the reboot, as those robots couldn't take part in a qualifier battle and prove themselves. Even with the most sacrificial weapon applied, any Series 7 robot still could get in the series if they won a qualifier.
- Jayne Middlemiss - Our new pit reporter Middlemiss had the most obvious teething problems of all the presenters, with the infamous "what does it do" to a robot named Gyrobot being the most painful, but absolutely everyone out of Julia Reed, Angela Scanlon, Dara Ó Briain and Rebecca Grant had teething problems, even if it was to a lesser extent. The only UK pit reporter who fit in straight away was Philippa Forrester, and by Series 6 and Extreme 2, she was the WORST pit reporter the show had ever seen. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, Forrester was excellent in Series 1-3, and decent enough in 5, but was condescending and annoying in her final two series. Considering this, then, Jayne Middlemiss was actually a step in the RIGHT direction! She at least displayed genuine interest in the sport, looked the part, and added a lot to the storytelling of the Grand Final.
- Forgettable robots - This is one of the most unfair comments about Series 7, and I'm stunned to have heard it more than once. It has been claimed that Series 7 loses credit for its large number of "forgettable robots" which lost in the first round, such as Jabber, Mobot and Xenomorph. Firstly, your own personal memory is something that is not something that can be said objectively, it will always be an opinion. I tried to stress the same opinion as you guys with the way I've forgotten Series 3 competitors, and that was immediately refuted, so you really can't win. In response to the claim, I can say three things. One, this was not an entirely controllable factor, as every robot to win a qualifier received an automatic place in the series. Two, EVERY entry in the classic series had robots that are easy to forget, scroll up to my Series 5 entry in this blog for a huge list of examples from just one series. Three, of course there will be a large number of robots you can't remember! The reason for this is simple - there were ninety-six robots in Series 7, the highest number of robots in any series ever, joint with the Third Wars. Not being able to recall the whole cast is natural, and due to Series 7's huge cast, it and the Third Wars should be the easiest to forgive of this supposed complaint.
- Bad robots - Those who are quick to defend Series 5 will also state that series such as the Seventh Wars deserve to have their weakest robots brought up when this problem is finally coming to light with the Fifth Wars, but there is a key difference here. If Series 7 had a 'bad' or uninspiring robot, it drops out in the first-round melee, which then continues regardless. If Series 5 had a bad robot, the entire first-round battle was bad.
- Poor camerawork - A complete fallacy. Nick goes into greater detail on his end of the blog, but the camerawork is not a valid complaint. Almost every single attack we saw in Series 7 was captured clearly, every robot got a good establishing shot, and the use of wider angles in melees meant that we didn't miss the action. All we needed was Series 3's cheesy close-ups of axes for it to be perfect.
- Lighting - This is a relatively new complaint that I had not heard until this year. I'll concede that Series 7's lighting is not the best out of every series, but it is far from bad. The use of the blue arena and spotlights created atmosphere, at the cost of just the occasional blip in colouring a robot. A minor, subjective claim at best.
- Lack of returning All-Stars - Now I can completely understand the idea of a fan losing their favourite robot in the transition to Series 7, as we lost a huge number of familiar faces. For me, the biggest loss would be S3, and if some magical genie gave me the ability to retrospectively insert S3 somewhere into Series 7, I'd take that risk. If you're among the large fanbases of Razer, Hypno-Disc and Chaos 2, then of course this is going to deliver a hit. Ultimately though, I believe that Series 5 and 6 were starting to stale the show, with the same seeded robots winning again and again without fail. I don't even know HOW robots like Wild Thing and Spawn Again kept consistently winning, but this wiped the slate clean, and put everyone on a level playing field again. No more chances of Razer dominating its opponents without letting go for five minutes, all the way to the Grand Final. No more of Dominator II narrowly clutching out the heat when it seemed ready to fail. No more discussion of the 'declining' Hypno-Disc. Instead, we had room for strong newcomers to make an impact, while other returning robots which had previously never had an open heat, such as Bulldog Breed and X-Terminator, were able to flourish. I don't expect to change people's minds with this, but I want to open up the possibility of why an even contest can be enjoyed - certainly I believe Series 7 would still be criticised even if the veterans did return, because now they'd be lost in continuous rematches, winning heats all over again.
- Too many flippers - This is another personal opinion deal. You could tell me Series 7 had too many flippers, I could tell you Series 5-6 had too many All-Stars throughout. Flippers are my favourite weapon, and I adored seeing this many throughout, with only The Grimreaper being the one I'd trade. It's not as though they were all similar: M2 had a rollover design and was a total newcomer; St. Agro to this day remains a unique design, with its weird double-flipper; Gravity was the most powerful flipper in the show at that point bar only Wheely Big Cheese; Atomic was a big bugger-off bulldozer which forced its foes around; Bulldog Breed became an established force in Extreme 2 and deserved the win; Mute was a frantic front-hinged flipper with crazy self-righting; Raging Knightmare showed that lower pressure can work, and combined it with an invertible design; Dantomkia and Firestorm tend to escape the criticism because they were returning finalists; and Thermidor II remains one of the most likeable machines ever. It is a lobster.
- Cassius Chrome - This is probably the most controversial opinion I will ever state. I think Cassius Chrome was perfectly adequate, and dare I say, a good addition to the series. The Cassius Chrome hate has gone beyond opinion. According to the Robot Wars community, it is concrete fact that Cassius Chrome was a bad House Robot, and negatively impacted Series 7. People don't even feel the need to justify it anymore, they just say "Cassius Chrome, enough said". I may as well be as brazen as possible, and state that Cassius Chrome had the best debut out of every House Robot, ever. In its very first fight, it punched away the back panel of Mechaniac, ripped out its batteries, and set the robot on fire. How do you get better than that? Cassius Chrome didn't have too many moments after this, but I will always firmly remember the time it smashed Pussycat into the arena wall, making even Mike Lambert cringe. In only one series, alongside a cast of seven other House Robots, Cassius Chrome was never going to have many more chances than that, but it still punched Scraptosaur into the pit, and broke up three conjoined crushers with fists alone. His terrifying speed and weight, in combination with the OK fists which were very much the secondary weapon of Cassius Chrome, made this robot far more threatening than robots like Shunt and Sgt. Bash were at this stage. So what's the problem? He was far from the least effective, had a good design for comedy, still got flipped by Gravity, I don't know what else he could have done to earn respect.
Personal Praise - The things about Series 7 that appeal to me, but I can't call them objectively good
- Out of the Arena - We now move onto the factors about Series 7 that I love more than the average fan would, starting with something which receives enough complaints to be in the above section, but I just want to be directly positive about this. I think it's absolutely fantastic to see a robot thrown out of the arena, especially if it's by a robot you never expected to pull it off, and Series 7 had this in spades. Of course I agree that the new arena walls for the reboot were necessary to maintain balance, but in a final flourish for flippers, and even vertical spinners, it was an absolute joy to watch all of these robots tumble out of the ring.
- Seeding upsets - I've already established my opinion that the dominance of the seeded robots in Series 5 and 6 left a stain on those Wars, but Series 7 didn't just get around this by culling many of the All-Stars. All seven of the returning Heat Finalists from Series 6 performed worse in Series 7 - only three of them even managed to win a heat at all! This is absolutely magnificent, because the semi-finals were truly thrown open, and it meant that every heat was exciting, with upsets occurring at all stages of the competition, rather than in just the last three episodes. Alarmingly, there were more robots in the semi-finals without a seeding than there were robots WITH a seeding, which was such an unlikely possibility at this stage, but it was incredibly pulled off. It has to remain a personal opinion at best, but the surge of unseeded heat winners is the thing I like the most about the Seventh Wars.
- Mute - While we're still in the personal praise section, Mute brought absolutely everything to the table. Comedy in its self-righting antics, power in its sudden flip on Judge Shred 3, discussion in the form of its close Heat Final win, and even managed to make a Firestorm semi-final win thoroughly enjoyable to watch. My second-favourite robot with good reason.
- Typhoon 2 - Let's put aside the fact that Typhoon 2 didn't really deserve to beat Storm II in the final - as I've said, that was the fault of the judging criteria, not Team Typhoon. With that ignored, Typhoon 2 was the best robot to fill the role of champion since Panic Attack. It was a complete newcomer to the competition, the only unseeded robot in the final, left a trail of destruction with huge wins along its path, and became the very first robot after seven whole wars to win the championship using a spinner as its primary weapon.
- Almost every heat - I've been through all of the Series 7 heats so many times, and I genuinely struggle to find any that I can call bad. Tornado's Heat E was predictable, but was saved by the prominence of the highly improved Tetanus, and a good featherweight fight. Bulldog Breed's Heat K was straightforward, with one of the only poor fights in the entire series thanks to Bulldog Breed vs Hard, but we still gained a first-time heat winner, while enjoying two solid opening melees, and a close battle between Kat 3 and Mantis. Thermidor II had a complete free-ride in Heat J, but if you can give a free-ride to anyone, why not Thermidor - the fact that Mighty Mouse made a Heat Final is hilarious. None of the other heats are even worth mentioning here - I don't think there's a single bad heat in Series 7, unless you want to be really critical of Heat E.
The Objective Good - The final stretch to truly state why I think Series 7 is the best series
- Melees - This is an absolutely critical reason as to why Series 7 is the best series, in my opinion. Think about the first round in every UK series of Robot Wars. Series 1 and 2 didn't even use battles, they had the Gauntlet. Series 3 had a bunch of robots show up for a Gauntlet, and as a result, they couldn't fight. Series 4 was completely solid, with excellent melees, yet they still had three robots when there was room for four. Series 5's first round was miserable, filled to the brim with awful robots losing awful fights. Series 8 saw a shocking number of removable links fall out, and Series 9's melees were terrible for a myriad of reasons. Series 10's three-way melees were completely necessary for the format, but when there's only ten of them, I can't say at least 80% were great. Series 6, much like Series 7, had four robots involved which made for an almost complete set of great fights, but still with some weaker ones. Here's a practical activity for you - look through every opening melee in Series 7, and find me a bad one. I don't want to hear Iron-Awe 2.1's melee, that was a perfectly adequate battle remembered as a bad one because of Craig Charles' out-of-place comment. The melee lost by Pinser and Cobra was the weakest, and the melees from which Terrorhurtz and Thunderpants withdrew undoubtedly left a stain. That's it. Out of 32 opening melees, I can think of a mighty two battles which weren't that great, and that's after several attempts looking for a weak point. Does that not mean we automatically have thirty good fights? I can't see any reason why not.
- The Heat Finals - The heat semi-finals were already good enough, with such a limited number of poor fights, but the ratio of amazing Heat Finals was even more grossly unbalanced. Imagine being at filming, and sitting through sixteen Heat Finals in a row, almost all of which were superb. I am aware that Nweston8 is planning to do a fight-by-fight breakdown of Series 7, so I'll leave the details to him.
- Series Length - This series has twenty-two episodes! Everyone reading this blog loves Robot Wars. Can you think of a single reason why having a whopping 22 episodes could possibly be a bad thing? The only viable reason is that a series can drag if it lasts too long without entertaining massively. I can see why this would apply to Extreme, for example. Series 7, however, was consistently entertaining throughout, meaning its length, which includes sixteen heats, can only be a good thing.
- Side Events - There are two ways to define 'side event' in Series 7. The first is the three episodes after the main competition, containing: an absolute rumble of an Annihilator made truly special by Ripper; an All-Stars tournament which opened with one of the best matches of all time, allowing four well-known robots to rebel against the House Robots before somehow Firestorm V loses to Panic Attack; a full-blown World Championship for only the third time in the show's run, with true variety offered by every robot in the top four. The other way to look at it is the special events in each episode. The producers didn't need to give us special events - we certainly didn't have them in Series 6. Regardless, we got an extra fight in every episode, including glorious featherweight fights (House Robots aside), chances for redemption from Shredder Evolution, Mantis and Hydra (kinda). I even included Spartacus vs Flippa as an objective bad point in the opening section, yet that's still better than the literal nothing you would get out of a Series 6 heat in its place. If we lost anything to make room for the special events, it was post-match interviews in Round 1 – fair trade, I think you will agree.
- Largest cast of robots - This was touched upon in the 'forgettable robots' section, but how can it be a bad thing for 96 robots to compete? It's remarkable that this was even possible after so many veterans didn't return, but Series 7 must be praised for assembling a roster this large with such a limited number of duds.
- Seeding - So Ming Dienasty was a little questionable, and maaaybe X-Terminator should've been above Behemoth, but beyond that, the seeding was absolutely perfect. They couldn't have done it any better. Swap out Ming Dienasty for PulverizeR, Disc-O-Inferno or Supernova, and you have a flawless ranking.
- Heat A - Heat A was the best start to the series that I could have asked for. It opens with a completely unexpected double-OotA from a newcomer, followed by the wooden Brutus Maximus falling apart while still trundling on for four and a half minutes, all while Pussycat nearly loses to the Dutch Twister. Pussycat then DOES lose to M2 in a fight no different from the ever-praised Chaos 2 vs Pussycat, dropping a seed within the very first heat, while Tiberius III immediately establishes itself as the new Razer with a stylish and commendable win over Roobarb. The heat concludes with one of the greatest comebacks of all time, which never fails to make me smile - I would change nothing about that battle. Heat A, absolute bliss.
- Heat D - No robot made a debut like Gravity. These guys were introduced as mere Heat Finalists from the Dutch Wars, and yet they entered foreign turf to absolutely rocket an impressive Heat Finalist around the arena, squash the wall, and toss it into a camera to break it! The seventh seeds were no trouble for the wonderfully exciting new flipper, but quietly, another newbie in Lightning had crept its way into the Heat Final with one of the most stylish pittings ever seen, disposing of Thor (one series before it would claim fourth place). After proceeding to blast Lightning into space, Gravity even did the double, throwing over Shunt with more power than any previous robot displayed, and became the first competitor to ever topple Dead Metal. This heat was CLASS.
- Gravity in general - ...Then Gravity continued, throwing out the trifecta third seed Dantomkia in six seconds. It gave Tornado the air worthy of its namesake, fought its closest battle to date with Tough as Nails, and closed out the entire production of the show with seemingly impossible flips on Growler and Cassius Chrome.
- Atomic - There was absolutely no robot more deserving of a Top 8 finish than Atomic. This poor thing had truly been through the ringer, finding itself against Chaos 2 twice in one series, to receive its reward of a mullering by Hypno-Disc in the next series. No Annihilator for you, not even a Sixth Wars for you! Atomic comes back with a vengeance, and expertly deposits four robots out of the arena in a row!! This was a long time coming for Atomic, and its demise felt like we'd gone right back to its original style of losing, but the mark it left on Robot Wars will never diminish.
- Heat F - I think this might be the best heat of all time. It was never a one-horse race, with the seeded X-Terminator making mincemeat of Diabolus while Tsunami chucked Major Tom 3, and then indeed Diabolus, out of the arena in thirty seconds. Two favourites were immediately established, and even the presence of Fluffy threatened to make a crowd of three. One hilarious performance from Scarey-Go-Round later, X-Terminator becomes the first competitor to spin a robot out of the arena in the main competition, while Tsunami truly asserts itself among the top two flippers of the series so far with a massively impressive win over Constrictor, to set up possibly the most contentious Heat Finals ever. Both robots deserved to win the heat, but one had to go, and trying to make a prediction would take longer than the process of watching the episode. Perhaps I would say that Tsunami seemed more likely to win... but it certainly didn't! What was undoubtedly one of the best fights in the whole show saw X-Terminator progress in worthy fashion.
- The Semi-Finals - I've said so much about how good the roster of the semi-finals were, yet I've barely mentioned the quality of the semi-finals themselves. Well they were magnificent. X-Terminator carried on devastating its foes, Bulldog Breed won an 'upset' despite being the seeded machine, Mute lifted my spirits, Storm II pulled off a miraculous upset against the seemingly unstoppable Firestorm V, and Atomic fought M2 in a battle of the ages. Even if it was likely a coincidence, I loved that every single match saw a seeded robot fight an unseeded robot, the only exception being the aforementioned clash between Atomic and M2, where the most experienced robot without a seeding fought the total newcomer.
Would you believe this is actually a condensed list of the positives regarding Series 7? I could harp on about Robochicken, Iron-Awe 2.1, Raging Knightmare, Ripper, Supernova, St. Agro etc, but I think this has gone on for long enough. Across its twenty-two episodes, Series 7 is a premium ride from start-to-finish, littered with good fights, while being extremely sparse of bad ones. Its negatives are mostly defensible, making all twenty-two episodes a thoroughly worthwhile experience. It fills me with despair to know that this blog will change approximately 0 minds, and Series 7 will collect undeserved hate for the rest of time, but I will always firmly believe it to be the best series of Robot Wars, ever.
I can think of but one more thing to say to close this blog series - Robot Wars has a remarkable habit of being discontinued directly after its best series...