This review contains spoilers.
I think I finally get boxing. Endurance, tactics, grudge matches, underdogs coming back from the brink of failure to pound opponents into paste after their drive motor fails and they start venting CO2… No wonder Stallone made all those movies about it.
The final had a touch of the sports movie genre about it. The seemingly undefeatable champions—Team Carbide, who built a robot so tough it didn’t only tear through its competitors like tin cans but also through the arena’s much-vaunted steel walls—was bested by a plucky flipper. Apollo, star of episode four, concluded its sterling work by launching Carbide into outer space.
Not quite outer space admittedly, more a few feet off the floor. The hyperbole of the final is obviously catching. The presenters’ scripts were so liberally peppered with superlatives and impact-making Lists Of Three this week, you had to remind yourself you were watching souped-up remote-control cars being steered into each other in a chilly Glaswegian warehouse instead of a Caligulan gladiatorial death-match. Not even Caligula would have use for that many “epics”, “incredibles” and “brilliants”.
There was something brilliant about the result though, if only for the welcome surprise of it. Until Carbide’s first exhilarating defeat at the hands of TR2, the final was feeling distinctly predictable and ho-hum.
The hum arrived courtesy of Pulsar, the team with the air-raid siren weapon that controversially earned a place in the final after the judges chose it to replace the unrepairable Chompalot in the previous heat. (Why am I telling you all this? You were there. Oh, the tedious recapping habit must be catching too.)
Pulsar looked like the connoisseur’s choice of robot, attracting praise from competitors and judges all. It was less popular in my house. Thanks to it losing drive in the first seconds of its group battle, time was called on the bout.
That wasn’t the only curtailed match in the final. Health & Safety shut another down after Carbide’s wall-shredding number, while Apollo was immobilised after just seconds in one of its head-to-heads.
I’ll tell you what needs to go in Robot Wars series two – “links”. These little fellas have been responsible for more dull immobilisations than anything else this series. Free the robots from link tyranny I say, safety be damned. (Unless that would result in serious injury and/or death, in which case, it’s fine. We can put the kettle on during the boring bits.)
Thanks to the age it took to get started and the endless recapping in which we were reshown VTs we’d already seen and clips from old fights, there were a few boring bits in this final. As everyone on the show is already talking as if it’s been renewed, a format shake-up might be a first priority for series two. The old obstacle course gauntlet was never the most reliably exciting TV, but more variety and surprises of some kind would be welcome.
That worthy competitor Thor was the returning wildcard surprised no-one. After suffering repeated routings though perhaps Jason the builder rather wished that he hadn’t had the honour. Watching Thor have shards torn off and being flipped around like a dying vole under the paw of a cat was oddly emotional.
For a show about machines, Robot Wars is oddly emotional. At least two of the final bouts were gripping, leaning-forward-in-your-chair-shouting-they’re-actually-going-to-do-it stuff. Helped of course by the strange poetry of Jonathan Pearce’s “flip, flop and make them fly” commentary, without which it would all be nothing.
Another series please, BBC.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.