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Robot Wars: What on Earth has happened to you?

Let me preface this by saying that Robot Wars was a huge part of my life in primary school. Hell, I ran the Robot Wars Club in Year 6. I avidly followed the trials and tribulations of all the rubbish robots and also Razer for all seven series. But HOLY HELL WHAT HAPPENED?

I was so excited for the glorious return of my favourite series. I was so excited for Dara O’Briain as host. I was so excited for the fact that every heat featured at least one familiar robot – not just familiar, but legendary. How on Earth did they get it so wrong?

Firstly, the arena. It looks like someone won a fan competition to design it. I get that the old arena was sold on years ago, but there was really no need to change it up. You had twelve years to basically emulate or build upon it and it just looks so…drab. They talked-up the size of the arena, but it looks tiny. In addition to this, there’s been twelve years of evolution in terms of camera angles. Twitter shares my feeling on this – the camerawork was way too choppy and was slightly nauseating at times.

Secondly, the actual format – I get that, to gauge the opinions of the audience, they only invited forty robots to compete, meaning we’d only see eight robots per heat. However, the level of filler in the first episode was deeply worrying. I wholeheartedly approve of having four-robot heats to begin the episode, but turning the second round into basically a football quarter-finals didn’t work for me. It meant that the actual final battle was ridiculously underwhelming, as we watched two knackered robots try not to be destroyed, rather than destroy each other.

Yes, the round featured a shock – overwhelming favourite Razer accidentally pitting itself – but that is also really not good for the overall series. Razer caused so much panic from other roboteers, so much panic for anyone involved in operating the house robots, that it elevated the show immediately. The fact that the new format basically devolved legitimate Robot Wars legend, Behemoth, to a blubbering mess. Seeing new blood dominating is a great thing, but it being a side-effect of two legends basically self-evicting isn’t a fine way for a reboot to begin.

As a result of the arena being tiny, the house robots felt irrelevant, as they really didn’t have anything to do unless they were forced to. In times gone by, we would have seen House Robots actively bait competitors, or be baited (or destroyed, thanks to Razer) by competitors. The new CPZs are probably six feet square, leaving the new ridiculously huge Sir Killalot, Matilda, Shunt or Dead Metal to basically sit there any cash in the pay cheques.

I feel so bad for criticising the new Robot Wars, because I so badly wanted to enjoy it and see badass fighting machines entertain me and make me feel ten years old again, but there’s just so much that they changed for the worse that I just don’t see where they could go from here. Robot Wars did so much good for so many people – showing them careers in STEM and igniting their passions for how stuff works, but the new Robot Wars just limped across the line for me. I hope that the rest of the series is better, because this sort of underwhelming reboot can cease for me.

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