This review contains spoilers.
I’ll tell you who’s doing well out of the Robot Wars revival, those print shops you drive past on the outskirts of towns that make custom hoodies. You’re no-one on this show if you’re not wearing a lightweight, breathable polo shirt embroidered with a word that probably sounded like a good idea when you made it up in your shed. Those guys must be raking it in.
Viewers at home, as it goes, aren’t doing badly out of it either. The second episode of Robot Wars was just as much frivolous fun as the first, even if it did feature what judge Professor Noel Sharkey called “the worst fight I’ve ever seen on the whole of Robot Wars”.
That was a bout between Foxic (a sort of VHS player on wheels) and Mr Speed Squared (the father robot from Batteries Not Included), where both ambled around like residents of a Nursing Home for Elderly Confused Robots, nosing at the walls and panicking in corners. The Spinner failed to spin and the Flipper failed to flip. Commentator Jonathan Pearce pronounced it dreary and everyone looked a bit embarrassed. Even house bot Matilda, who took out some pent-up frustration by punting Foxic into the pit after “Cease” had been called.
Foxic deserved it. Its engineer/operator took an unnecessarily (and unjustifiably, judging by that performance) arrogant and jeering approach to the exalted art of battling robots. When he disrespected Angela Scanlon with his flappy hands and squeaky voice impersonation, he disrespected us all. Shame, sir. Shame. Take your WWE posturing and hit the road, Jack.
Posturing is beginning to creep in around the edges of Robot Wars. Teams can now be divided into those who choreograph their spotlight introduction like David Brent and those who grin awkwardly and give the audience a nice wave. Acute British Embarrassment syndrome (both congenital and incurable) dictates that I can only really root for teams doing the latter, though should anyone in the next four weeks come up with a truly excellent hand gesture, I’m willing to be persuaded.
Jason the builder from Northampton had a signature hand gesture that gave him the air of Gob from Arrested Development performing magic, but I’m not sure it did him any favours. What did help this self-described “one-man army” to the final battle was being utterly brilliant at driving his robot. A master tactician, Thor pushed his opponents into the pit, up walls, and into the clutches of the house bots, all the while hammering down a one-and-a-half-tonne-force axe blows on their exposed parts. Spinner Mr Speed Squared, who showed early promise, didn’t stand a chance against Jason’s merciless attacks.
It was a genuine surprise then, to see Thor vanquished in his second match against endearing father-and-son team Shockwave, who secured their place in the grand final with the victory. “Will the hammer beat the scoop?” asked the irrepressible Jonathan Pearce before their bout. No, Jonathan. The hammer will get driven into the pit by the scoop.
That was also the fate of Dutch imports Team Tough As Nails, whose robot could crush 1,200 kilos but, well, didn’t. “That’s not Dutch Delight!” screamed Jonathan Pearce, a phrase that only exists with this worrying definition as far as I can tell. Quite right, Jonathan, it isn’t that at all.
Team Draven, who all work at Dyson even though the BBC had to be all coy about it, suffered a similarly early defeat.
The pattern now established (fight, fight, fight, Tomorrow’s World bit with one of the judges where it’s safe to pop out and get a cup of tea, quick snoop around the contestants’ garages, fight, fight, fight), this barely changed revival has bedded in nicely.
The only real disappointment so far is the lack of variety in the overwhelmingly male, white teams. Though criticising a show about the world of highly specialised robot fighting for that seems like criticising a duck for having feathers, it feels as though more of an effort could have been made there by the BBC. There must be all sorts of people out there who’d want a bash at this. Come series two then, in the words of Delia Smith, let’s be having you.
Read our review of the previous episode, here.