Robot Wars episode 5 review

The final heat in the revived Robot Wars doesn't quite live up to last week’s excitement…

This review contains spoilers.

It strikes me that the Robot Wars arena would be a good place to weather a nuclear apocalypse. While the outside world poofs into hot dust, the collective engineering expertise inside that Glaswegian warehouse could probably whip up a new civilisation inside the timeframe of a two hour repair window.

That thought was prompted by a sound, specifically the siren whirr of Pulsar’s spinning weapon, the sort of powerful noise you could imagine being used to signal the four-minute warning and just the thing to psych out your opponents. That, or hypnotise the judges. Either way it worked and Pulsar was eventually awarded the place in next week’s grand final.

Being awarded a victory isn’t the same as winning one outright. So much being left to the judges’ decision this week left episode five feeling flat. Where’s the fun in a vote? We tune in to Robot Wars for knock-outs and pit death, not democracy.

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The judges were called upon time and again this heat, barely able to enjoy a cup of tea at their desk before it was time to decide another match. In one dramatic scene, they marched three abreast into the pits, coming off like the world’s brainiest, least aggressive street gang, to hand-deliver the news of Pulsar’s reprieve from round-one.

“We’re here to tell you you’re back in the game” said Professor Noel Sharkey.

“Amazing” said Team Pulsar.

That was about as exciting as things got.

The lack of thrills was nobody’s fault. Stalwart Jonathan Pearce made his customary effort to jazz things up. “This could be smashy and not too nicey” he said at one point, a reference so outdated it must have been recycled from the original 90s series.

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The truth is that after last week’s exhilarating flip-fest, anything outside a robot flinging open its armour to unleash a live puma would have been a relative disappointment. That wouldn’t be allowed anyway, which is probably for the best. They’d be picking lumps of puma out of that lighting rig for weeks.

One lively moment occurred courtesy of Chompalot bursting into flames, an event that sent a frisson around the arena audience that registered around a six on the scale of exciting things that can happen (five: a pint glass being dropped in a busy pub; seven: a dog running into the school playground). The poor Chompalots consoled themselves with a teary hug as their dragon-styled robot was declared unrepairable. Never mind. As Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote, Tis better to have fought robots and lost than never to have fought robots at all.

There were more public displays of affection this week. It was handshakes and hugs all round from this group of decidedly pleasant, helpful teams. Unholy creation Gabriel, a puzzlingly effective two-wheels-and-an-axe job, even held off when given the opportunity to obliterate an immobilised opponent. “I don’t want to be a totalitarian kind of a person, that’s not my style” said Captain Gabriel, a sentiment undermined to some extent by him next locking eyes with the camera and declaring “Fear us!”

It wasn’t to be Gabriel’s day, nor that of Thermidor 2, which can lift a rhinoceros but didn’t so why even get our hopes up. Ironside 3 also lost out, along with Beast, Crazy Coupe 88, Inferno and Infernal Contraption.

Each of the above though, along with every losing robot from the past heats, now has a chance of returning. It seems the judges will be choosing a ‘wildcard’ returnee for the grand final. The mighty Thor is the obvious choice, though wouldn’t it be fun to see something a bit more ramshackle? Something, how best to put it, a bit… nuts?

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

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