A jaunt down memory lane to the UK Robot Wars Season 1.
The year was 1998. A gallon of gas cost roughly a buck-and-some-change, Armageddon vs. Deep Impact had yet to inflict hours of needless debate, and it was the year the United States’ first black president (Bill Clinton) denied having “relations with that woman.” Across the Atlantic however, a war had begun raging; one rife with badassery and awesomeness.
That’s right, my fellow cog-heads, I speak of Robot Wars, Series 1 – also known as The First Wars. It’s true good ole R. Dubya will make its comeback later this year, and while I’m sure it will be more destructive than ever, I must pay homage to its humble beginnings. Side note: for those of you from across the pond, please excuse my “Americanness.” I admit it. I was born on the back of a brassy bald eagle wrapped in good Old Glory and was happily raised on MeeMaw Smith’s homemade apple pie. But I’ll try to behave and deliver the most relevant content on a sport (yes, a sport) that I am proud to be a fan of.
I also vow to keep the howdies and gun slingin’ to a minimum.
For all the diehards out there consider these recaps a jaunt down memory lane. For the newbs? I’ll give you the low-down so that you too can sound a pro come REACTIVATION DAY. We’ll talk winners, losers, strategy and such, with special segments highlighting the bots that I deem crush-worthy (in the romantic sense). Who knows, I may even predict the future. Question: does it still count if the future is now technically the past?
Anywhoo, let me quit intro-ing and get down to brass. <Cue dramatic music> It all began when 36 teams of robotics masterminds (aka nerds) from across Europe converged on one arena near the bustling heart of London. Their purpose? To compete for the title of Champion. Their task? To annihilate. Each week brought a new heat (A-F) featuring 6 bots who were pitted against one another tourney style in a set of disciplines (rounds): The Gauntlet (maze), a Trial (game of skill), and The Arena (face-off). Those not eliminated earned a spot in the final bout, which was broadcast on March 27th of ’98.
Much Ado About Format…
Not to sound lazy, but if you require a more in-depth explanation on structure there’s always Wikipedia. It’ll give you an overview of the show’s format and its resident players. I have, however, included this little tidbit for reference. You should know that there’s a host (aka The Douche, aka Jeremy Clarkson), a pit interviewer (aka The Eye Candy, aka The Chick, aka Ms. Philippa Forrester), a commentator (aka Movie Phone Guy Wannabe, aka John Pearce), and three judges (aka The Absentees of Series 1). Yeah they all do some stuff, but I have a line count limit folks.
HEAT A introduced us to the show’s playing field, as well as exhibited Sumo, a second wave trial in which competitors ‘wrastled’ with the glorious house bot Shunt. Killertron and Roadblock faced-off in the final, with Roadblock smacking the weak-armed wheelie bin lid to the ground. Yeah, I had to look wheelie bin up too…it’s a trash can lid, go figure. And yes, I must mention Barry. Everyone must mention Barry. This meaty muscle of a bulldozin’ machine majorly flubbed the dub in the first ever televised gauntlet by running himself into a grill and out of the competition in record time.
HEAT B brought the Recyclops vs. Scrapper debacle, where RW’s own Dead Metal catapulted Recyclops into Scrapper knocking that fool clear on his side. A fair fight? Not sure, but it made me wish I had instant replay. Oh wait, I did and I did it multiple times.
HEAT C saw the demise of Wedgehog at the hand of Robot the Bruce, the see-through box that kicked some cogged hide without all the frills other bots seemed to rely on. Other than that, this heat was pretty z-z-z worthy.
HEAT D The Demolisher proved that coming too quickly is never a good thing. Coming out of the Gauntlet starting gates, that is…. I’ll have to give the 10-year-old driver (Sam Rudgard) his due, though. He maneuvered that little speed demon quite smashingly until the trial round (Stock Car), where he literally smashed it against the track wall moments from winning the race! That poor kid learned a valuable lesson about life that day… it can suck.
This enthusiast’s favorite moment? Matilda’s epic breakdown! You know Matilda, right? The 256 lb. mutant alien boar house bot with a saw protruding from her arse (aka the perfect pet for any steam punk worth his/her… steam?). Seriously, she even smokes LIKEABAWSS. Check her out!
HEAT E was our first encounter with Bodyhammer who, in my humble opinion, stole the spotlight with the Ike-n-Tina treatment he gave Torque of the Devil. He slapped that Devil around like England got slapped with penalties during the 2006 World Cup. What? Too soon?
HEAT F highlighted another unique bot by the name Eubank the Mouse. Mighty? Not certain, but masterful? Sure. This rodent, much like his light-footed brethren, scurried across all obstacles, its speed its strength. While he didn’t make it past the trial, he warmed the hearts of many and put a smile on my face. Am I still glad the rodent was exterminated? Yes. Fucker deserved it.
The Grand Final
Bodyhammer vs. Robot the Bruce vs. T.R.A.C.I.E. vs. Road Block vs. Recyclopse vs. Cunning Plan vs. RIGHTEOUSNESS! This to-the-death melee was classic, exhibiting a level of aggression not seen in the previous heats. It was complete chaos from the get as every bot bee-lined for center ring. T.R.A.C.I.E. tried to wedge Recyclops, but all she got was a little cold, hard tongue. Shockingly, she was the FIRST to get pinched by (ahem) Cunning Plan…. Not to fret, T.R.A.C.I.E. saw immediate retribution as C.P. was immobilized by its own trickery. Next up, Robot the Bruce vs. Recyclops. That old recycled junk heap ended up literally riding rather than extinguishing his opponent — and yet, both (perplexingly) survived. Not for long, though! Recyclops was the next to go as he tried to take on Roadblock…. Idiot move. Death via chain dislodging = well, death (think a bicycle jamming but, you know, on a bot). Looks like tonguing the competition can only get you so far. With Recyclops out of the picture, Roadblock turned to The Bruce and flipped him to the curb. Bodyhammer, knowing he was about to get MURDERED, fled for his life but eventually turned to face the music. I guess his operators realized they were lookin’ like a bunch of nancies – or as we might say in the U.S., pussies.
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A minute and a half. That’s the time it took Roadblock to dominate. The first ever cog trophy, in all its bronzed glory, was presented to the boys in powder blue (team color), and was raised by scrawny arms to the sky. Never had a group of social misfits been so glorified, and never would they be again… except in seasons 2-6 and, of course, in high school math competition clubs around the world….
Now that you know the whole story, let’s talk A.C.’s perspective. The following sections detail some “stuff” I feel worthwhile. The delectable dessert, if you will.
Notables… Or, Are They?
You could tell who DIDN’T spend all their time crankin’ a Ham radio or playing Dungeons & Dragons…. Chris & Toby Marsden (father & son team), that’s who. Their bot Psychosprout, literally a huge green fiberglass brussel with red eyes, would roll around and bump its foes? This bot (if you can call it that) had, get this, an RC car with a Hoberman sphere-like structure attached. In other words, their “engine” was a hamster in a jerry-rigged hamster wheel…. sigh. It still had one of the better names… and looks, if you count Sat’arn (the Barber’s ugly mooing pig bot) or Killertron (no explanation necessary).
I guess I should mention Bugs here, but I don’t want to. I didn’t get the fascination with the little lady-bug lookin’ freak then, and I don’t get it now. The end.
I typically don’t condone bullying, but T.R.A.C.I.E.? Deserves a damn medal for her ability to subjugate. Like a scorpion, she stealthily scuttled up to her opponent and then BAM! pierced them with her deadly precision. T.R.A.C.I.E. (Terrestrial Robotic Artificial Computerised Intelligent Engine) deflated many a robot dream with this tactic — their tires too. Oh, you don’t believe me? Check out her heat semi-final against The Prince of Darkness (She’s a straight BEEEAAAAST!).
However, she did have one fatal flaw…. Which leads me to this next section…
Remember the story of David and Goliath? You know, the biblical tale of a mere boy dominating a giant. The moral: don’t throw stones at a person’s head; it hurts… bad (the dead kind of bad). But more importantly, just because something may be extremely small (puny really) and shaped like a wedge of aluminum cheese does not mean that it can’t debilitate a beast such as T.R.A.C.I.E. The fearful yet zippy bot, Cunning Plan, flipped that bitch… literally. I had high hopes for T.R.A.C.I.E., as her operator Oliver Steeples, outmaneuvered, out-strategized, and out-executed most of the previous competitors she faced. Sadly, a little pebble of a bot schooled her. Ah well.
Cunning Plan was Season 1’s most undervalued, but that little spit-fire really rained down some mischief. Between being cast off as the little robot that couldn’t, he’d zip his way out of tight spots and (rightfully) flee at any signs of trouble. While this technique didn’t win any points for aggression, it did ensure his spot in the final bout.
Did anyone else feel that Roadblock was… well, a snooze? I’m not sure why, as this glorified speed bump weighed in at 178 lbs. Maybe it was its hall monitor attire? It just goes to show that judging a book by its unassuming shell is futile. This sleeper took the first ever televised title of Robot Wars Champion. His creators, Hender Blewitt and Peter and Chris Kinsey, exhibited him masterfully in the final bout against the five other contestants, and (clearly) won based on killing ability and aggression. I’d have to say that my appreciation for him really grew over the course of the final bout.
All in all, the Robot Wars Season 1 proved that the awesomeness of robots fighting robots cannot be measured and left its viewers a) wanting more, and 2) wanting more. It brought a new niche (a nerd niche if you will) to light — mainstreaming a highly unique forum formerly unknown to the masses. Kudos to Gutteridge and Carsey, the show’s creators, for seeing the gold in the grease (shout-out to Marc Thorpe for developing the original competition concept!). Apparently they knew televising what some would call useless robotic violence would be extremely popular and profitable… well, at least somewhat profitable.
The show’s success in the U.K. definitely paved the way for American televised competitions and ultimately lead to a healthy rivalry.
Ahhh, rivalry. I’m sure it’ll no doubt rear its wonderfully ugly head in the near future, seeing as a counterpart here at Third Law Sports seems to have taken a fancy to BattleBots. You know BattleBots, right? The red-headed step child of robot battle broadcasting? The annoying little brother who follows you around but is always a step behind? That guy who rides his bike without using the handlebars and pedals along smirking all big like he’s daring you to challenge his ‘coolness?’ I flippin’ hate that guy.
Enough of my bias for now. Make sure to check out the upcoming recap, Robot Wars: The Second Coming, for an entertaining look at The Second Wars, and as promised you will find my season 2 prediction below.
I foresee Mr. Clarkson getting canned! Okay, so we already know he left the show after the first season (ahem, in 1998) because of his multitude of outside “commitments,” but I’m just not buying it. Hopefully, Craig (season 2 host) brings a greater deal of wit and pith to the game…. It’s always telling when you fast-forward through the chatter, as short lasting as it may be….