Robot Wars is a British television game show which was originally broadcast from 1998 until 2004, and will return to TV screens in 2016. The idea of Robot Wars came from a US-based robot combat competition which ran from 1994 until 1997. The show lasted for nine UK series, which included seven main championships and two series of Robot Wars Extreme before its cancellation, with the tenth upcoming. The show was originally broadcast on BBC Two on Friday evenings for the first four series, moving to BBC Choice on weekday evenings for the fifth and sixth series and both series of Extreme, with all four series being repeated on BBC Two in its regular Friday timeslot shortly after the original broadcast. For the seventh series, the show moved to Five and was broadcast on Sunday evenings. The rebooted series of Robot Wars will air, once again, on BBC Two.
Both series of Robot Wars Extreme have been repeated on the digital channel Dave starting in 2010 and 2011 and the first series of Extreme was repeated on Challenge from November 2015 to January 2016. The show's second series enjoyed a repeat run on Challenge in May/June 2014. Challenge showed repeats of the 5th Series in November 2015 and the 6th Series in January 2016. H2 started repeating the 3rd Series in January 2016.
The Robot Wars television show was based on a robot combat competition which ran from 1994 until 1997 in the U.S. This competition was created by Marc Thorpe, a designer working for the LucasToys division of Lucasfilm. The first competition was held in 1994 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco and three further competitions took place between 1995 and 1997. Approximately one month prior to the first event, Thorpe formed a partnership with New York based record company Profile Records, who provided additional funding for the competition.
In 1995, Profile Records partnered with production company Mentorn to produce and televise a Robot Wars event in the UK. Mentorn acquired the worldwide television rights from Profile later that year, and Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey created the television format from the original Robot Wars concept. The series was originally pitched to Channel 4, but it was rejected, so Mentorn approached the BBC instead. In 1996, Tom Gutteridge arranged a meeting with Michael Jackson, the controller of BBC Two, which would take the form of a live event featuring several stock robots built especially for the occasion and three US robots - Thor, La Machine and The Master - which would fly over to the UK to take part. Jackson was impressed with the event and the reaction of the live audience, and promised Mentorn some episodes. However, Jackson left his job at BBC Two to become controller of BBC One and was replaced by Mark Thompson, who was a friend of Tom Gutteridge. The previous controller of BBC One, Alan Yentob, had become the new BBC Director of Programmes, and he was not interested in the idea of Robot Wars. As a result nothing happened until 1997, when Yentob left this job to become the BBC Director of Television, which allowed Thompson finally to commission the series, which began filming later that year.
Mentorn used Marc Thorpe as a consultant on the show and the first series of Robot Wars in the UK was broadcast over six weeks in February and March 1998. It was an immediate hit, with more than 2 million viewers, and a further 27 episodes were commissioned by the BBC that year. 155 episodes were produced in total, and the show was seen in 26 countries.
In addition to the main series, two series of Robot Wars Extreme were produced, featuring various side competitions and one-off battles. Two seasons of Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors were produced in the US for the TNN network, and a version was also shown on Nickelodeon Robot Wars. Also produced were two series of Dutch Robot Wars and a single series of German Robot Wars, which were broadcast in their respective countries. All were produced in London by Mentorn, and executive produced by Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey.
In 2003, after six main series and two Extremes, the rights for the show were acquired by Five, which broadcast the seventh series. The final episode was broadcast in March 2004, after which the series was eventually cancelled, leading to over 11 years of time off-air.
Modern Live ShowsEdit
After Robot Wars ended, robot combat in the UK continued with a series of non-televised live events held across the country, mostly organised by Roaming Robots, Robots Live! and RoboChallenge, and featuring several Robot Wars veterans in addition to new roboteers. In February 2013, it was announced that Roaming Robots had agreed a deal with Robot Wars LLC to use the Robot Wars brand name and house robots for its live shows. The first official event of the new Robot Wars live show was held in Barnsley in February 2013, and a new Robot Wars UK Championship was held in July 2013, with Eruption winning the title.
Return to TVEdit
On January 13 2016, the BBC announced that Robot Wars would return to TV screens, with filming taking place in mid-late February. The series will be six episodes long, each an hour long, on BBC Two. The arena will now be situated in Glasgow, featuring new "bullet-proof" walls. Further details are currently unknown.
The first series was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, the pit reporter was Philippa Forrester and commentary was provided by Jonathan Pearce. Clarkson left the show after the first series and was replaced with Craig Charles, who presented the show until it ended in 2004. The role of Clarkson and Charles was to present each part of the show, announce the winners of each battle and talk to the teams after the battle ended. Forrester's role as pit reporter consisted mainly of speaking to contestants about their robots in the pits before and after battles. In the fourth series and the first Robot Wars Extreme, Julia Reed took over the job as pit reporter due to Forrester's pregnancy. Forrester returned for the fifth and sixth series and the second Robot Wars Extreme. When the show moved to Five for the seventh series, Jayne Middlemiss took over the role due to Forrester being pregnant again. Jonathan Pearce provided the commentary throughout the series.
The format for the first two series of the show consisted of six robots in each heat competing in a series of three challenges - the Gauntlet, the Trial and the Arena.
- The Gauntlet was an obstacle filled maze defended by house robots. Competitor robots had to make their way as far down the course as possible in the time allowed. The robot covering the least ground was eliminated, leaving five robots to continue.
- The Trial varied from heat to heat with games like, 'Sumo', 'British Bulldog', 'Stock Car', 'Labyrinth', 'Snooker', and 'Football'. The Second Wars added 'Skittles', 'Tug of War', 'King of the Castle', 'Joust', and 'Pinball'. Each trial had a specific goal and the worst performing robot was eliminated, leaving four robots to continue.
- The Arena was the point at which the robots finally entered the arena to do combat. The four remaining robots paired off and fought head-to head in the enclosed arena patrolled by the house robots. The two victorious robots then fought for the heat championship. The winner of each heat then went through to the grand final (series 1) or the semi finals (series 2).
In the First Wars, the six heat champions met in a single battle to determine the champion of the series. The Second Wars had two semi-final shows, each with six heat finalists reprising the Gauntlet and the Trial, followed by arena combat. The two winners from each semi-final went through to the Grand Final, where the four remaining robots paired off in two eliminator rounds and the two winners met for a final battle to determine the series champion.
From the Third Wars onwards, the Gauntlet and Trial were scrapped and the championship took the form of a straight knockout tournament with each heat champion progressing to the semi-finals and two robots from each going through to the Grand Final of the series.
In each arena battle, there were many ways in which a robot could lose:
- A robot immobile for 30 seconds would be counted out and turned over to the house robots for further punishment. Beginning with the Fifth Wars, the Refbot counted down the final 10 seconds.
- A robot flipped out over the arena railing into the space between the arena and the enclosure box was eliminated.
- A robot that fell or was pushed into the open 'Pit of Oblivion' was instantly eliminated.
- If none of the above conditions were satisfied, a panel of three judges scored the competitors on style, control, damage and aggression, with damage taking presidence in the event that the scores were tied.
Whenever a battle ended with no clear winner, a panel of three judges would decide on the outcome by scoring each competitor on style, control, damage and aggression. The original judges for the first two series were Eric Dickinson (the only British veteran of the original US competition), Adam Harper (then holder of the land speed record for electronic vehicles) and Professor Noel Sharkey (Head of Robotics at Sheffield University) who judged every series.
In Series 3, Dickinson was replaced by Martin Smith (Head of the UK Cybernautics Society). Series 4 saw Adam Harper replaced by Dr Myra Wilson (Head of Computer Science at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth). In Series 5, Mat Irvine (BBC Technical Consultant and House Bot designer) went from being the show's safety inspector to judge, and he, Smith and Wilson cycled throughout, with two of each acting as judges for Series 5 and Extreme 1. After this, Wilson left the show, and Irvine, Sharkey and Smith remained in the role until the end of the show's run.
In addition to the UK series of Robot Wars, other versions were produced for television networks around the world, featuring competitors from other countries. A US version of the show called Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors was produced for the TNN network, and ran for two seasons, with an additional series aired on the children's channel, Nickelodeon Robot Wars. There were also two series of Dutch Robot Wars produced for the BNN network in the Netherlands, and one series of German Robot Wars] produced for RTL II in Germany. All international versions of the show were produced in the main Robot Wars television studio in London and the battles took place in the main Robot Wars Arena and featured the UK's House Robots.
Besides original series, the UK wars were broadcast in other countries outside of Europe. In some countries, such as India, the programme was broadcast in English with regional subtitles. In select other countries, including Pakistan, the content was dubbed into the regional language, in this case using the Hindi and Urdu languages, and also having English subtitles. The most well-known foreign dub was Robot Wars: Grand Champions, an American dub of Robot Wars: The Fourth Wars, broadcast on TNN.
- Series 1: Roadblock
- series 2: Panic Attack
- Series 3: Chaos 2
- Series 4: Chaos 2
- Series 5: Razer
- Series 6: Tornado
- Series 7: Typhoon 2
- 2016 Series: Apollo