This review contains spoilers.
Series nine’s final heat had everything there is to love about Robot Wars: impressive engineering, scrappy underdogs, kooky newcomers with it’ll-never-work designs (they didn’t work), and at the centre of it all, a grudge match.
A real one, by the feel of it. Team Apollo may have been heavy on the bantz, but under the pantomime laughter appeared to be some genuine animus aimed at opponents Carbide. “Dave again, goes for his little tactics and tries to take away the wheels, same as he did last year, sly, sly,” needled Team Apollo after the pair’s first head–to–head.
“People want to see stuff getting smashed, that’s why we’re here,” replied Dave with the sagacity of a seasoned pro.
People do want to see stuff getting smashed, Dave. You only need to watch the audience close-ups to know that: a tiny child and his father roaring with violent delight as poor Coyote was flipped clean out of the arena; a pack of cub scouts laughing their woggles off at the wanton destruction of a group of people’s hopes and dreams.
Stuff getting smashed was exactly what we saw thanks to Carbide’s new and improved weapon which span at something like a billion miles an hour (I’m estimating) and emitted a death-hum that could be heard all the way from Glasgow to Hadrian’s Wall. It tore chunks off a weakened Apollo in the final and knocked the reigning champions out of the competition.
After a decisive win on Carbide’s part, Team Apollo woefully offered their congratulations and went away heads held low, an entirely different picture from the dancing, larking-about duo we met at the start of the episode. Overconfidence never plays well on British TV, especially when it gets the House Robots’ backs up.
A word on them. Each week, we talk excitedly about the roboteers’ creative design and driving skills without giving due praise to the people behind the House Bots. Those machines are so impressively made and driven that it’s hard to remember that there are people behind them. Tell me that herds of Matildas live out in the wild of the Russian steppes and flocks of migratory Dead Metals roam the savannahs of Africa and I’d believe you. A round of loud mechanical applause, please, for the regulars.
Some irregular designs shook things up this week including the glorious contraption that was Ms Nightshade, a metre-high spike bot with eight pneumatic hammer-clad petals (if that sentence doesn’t get you excited, then what are you even doing here?). After a hefty flip from Apollo, she didn’t quite deliver what was promised but that didn’t narrow the smiles on the faces of her creators any. “I LOVED it” grinned Mechanical Engineering student Jodie, clearly chuffed to bits about making it there in the first place.
Trolley Rage, another university team, faced defeat with the same unbreakable spirit. “Hopefully it inspired some people to say ‘we can build a robot’“ they concluded with admirable optimism after their early exit.
And as for Crackers ‘n’ Smash, those fellas were tops. Not only did they give their robot a name befitting a 1970s comedy double-act (“Ladies and jellybeans of Cromer Pier Pavilion Theatre, please put your hands together for Messrs. Dave Crackers ‘n’ Terry Smash!”), their robot was TWO ROBOTS. Talk about a curveball.
Elsewhere, Coyote impressively withstood a couple of Carbide attacks, while Crackers ‘n’ Smash gamely faced this heat’s winners with nary a weapon, having to rely more on their flight than fight instinct. Ms Nightshade flapped her petals like a starfish drying out on the beach and Meggamouse and Charles, “a small but deadly wedge of cheese“ (winner of this week’s ‘Phrases You’ll Only Hear On Robot Wars’ trophy) sadly, faltered too.
Rusty didn’t achieve a great deal in the arena, but the team behind it get points for having arranged a gymnastic intro in which one of their members was hoisted up by the others and displayed like a prize carp/1950s starlet.
Really though, episode five was a tale of two robots, and a study in hubris. Next week: bring on the final.
Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.