After several series of robots weighing up to 100kg going at it, the last episode of Extreme 1 treated the audience to a melee of robots small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, where relative physics worked very differently. Buzzing around the arena like insects, the little antweights could throw each other all over the place, even fall into the arena hazards – this melee was a joy to watch.
Many teams in Robot Wars brought an extra level of fun with their personalities and behind-the-scenes antics. The Sir Chromalot team had a smart dress code and even brought their own cheerleaders. The Nemesis/Diotoir team from Ireland dressed their robots in polka-dot fur, which had a tendency to catch fire in the arena. But my favourites were always the Plunderbird team. With their tough-guy act, musical talent, and cool shades, they were always very entertaining to watch, even if their robot itself didn’t tend to get terribly far – with the exception of Series 2 where they got to the semifinals.
When Razer didn’t break down, there were times when its fights could seem a little too easy – fights that consisted almost entirely of it sinking its claw inexorably and repeatedly into its opponents, sometimes picking them up and parading them, while the other robot was helpless to do anything. That was pretty much how Razer’s first fight with Firestorm 3, in Extreme 1, played out.
However, when the two robots met again in the Series 5 Grand Final, in the battle before the championship decider, it was a different story. Even though Razer disabled Firestorm’s flipper early on, Firestorm fought on with real ferocity, and the battle turned into a hard and evenly-balanced tussle. Razer won the judges’ decision on damage, but this was one victory it really had to work for.
Series 4 saw the appearance of a new kind of robot: the clusterbot. Gemini, as the name suggests, was not one robot but two, splitting once the fight began to attack opponents from two directions. With effective flippers inspired by Chaos 2, the Gemini twins showed that they might only be half the weight of conventional robots, but they could still compete on their level.
Their opening melee in Series 4 also saw the first appearance of Tornado, a powerful pusher that would go on to have a long and successful Robot Wars history. Gemini and Tornado met again in the heat final, where Tornado exploited one of the rules regarding clusterbots: if 50% of a clusterbot was immobilised, it counted for the whole machine. Thus, Tornado won the fight by immobilising just one half of Gemini. Sadly, Gemini underperformed even more in Series 5, where both twins immobilised themselves by getting stuck on their backsides.
Now the last of the aforementioned Big Three, after Chaos 2 and Razer: Hypno-Disc. It first appeared on the scene in Series 3 and amazed everyone with just how incredibly destructive its spinning disc weapon was. After finishing as the runner-up in Series 3, it came into Series 4 and proved that it was no less dangerous; pieces of The Predator, V-Max and Raizer Blade were left scattered across the arena in its qualifying heat. In the semi-finals, you might think that the opposition would be tougher – but that wasn’t the case with Splinter, who was on the receiving end of one of Hypno-Disc’s most punishing and entertaining victories ever.
“Very close fight – we’ll have to go to the judges on that one,” said Craig Charles afterwards. “Only joking!”
This was undoubtedly Robot Wars’s ultimate flip; not even Chaos 2 or Gravity could top what Wheely Big Cheese did when it encountered Axe Awe in its heat. With one flip, a robot weighing close to 100 kilos was catapulted 16 feet into the air and landed outside the arena when it wasn’t even close to the barrier. It would be scary if it wasn’t so awesome.
By the end of Robot Wars, flipped robots were self-righting all over the place, or else running upside down – at least when they weren’t flipped out of the arena. But when it actually happened successfully for the first time in Series 2, it came as quite a surprise. The robot that pulled it off was Cassius, the eventual Series 2 runner up. Cassius had a lot of character; fast, agile, armed with a strong flipping ram, and often taking on the House Robots – but its most glorious moment came in the Pinball event in the semi finals. Caught by Sir Killalot and turned on its back, it looked like Cassius would score no more points – until Cassius activated its ram and somersaulted back onto its wheels, proving that srimechs were possible, and doing so with great flair.
Hypno-Disc’s destruction of Splinter was impressive, but for historical value, it can’t top the spinner’s first ever Robot Wars battle against Robogeddon. Up until this point, there had been robots with spinning weapons before, but none had been terribly impressive. Hypno-Disc’s arrival brought not just spinning weapons, but all of Robot Wars, to a whole new level. Never before had a robot so utterly destroyed its opponent without assistance from the House Robots.
In Hypno-Disc’s next battle, it left Stealth similarly trashed, and while it wasn’t quite as dramatic against later opponents in the series, it still got to the final where it fell foul of Chaos 2’s flipper. It then came fourth in both Series 4 and Series 5, but by that point with robots’ armour getting stronger, its best days were behind it, and it “only” got to the semifinals of Series 6. Sadly, the much desired matchup between Razer and Hypno-Disc was one fight we never got to see.
Over seven series, quite a few robots managed to leave their mark on the House Robots, either flipping them or damaging them in some other way. But nobody so totally crushed a House Robot as Razer did at the end of the Southern Annihilator, filmed as a side competition to Series 4.
The competition started with six robots from the south of England – Razer, Atilla the Drum, Behemoth, Onslaught, Spawn of Scutter and Vercingetorix – all fighting each other in the arena, with one robot being eliminated in each round until only two were left for the final. Those two were Razer and Onslaught, and after Onslaught had been dispatched and Razer had clinched victory, it decided to celebrate by mercilessly annihilating Matilda, to my great delight when I first watched it. Matilda, at this point, was generally considered the weakest of the House Robots, with flimsy armour and an ineffective chainsaw – after being so humbled by Razer, however, the chainsaw was replaced with a far more dangerous flywheel. But nobody could blame Matilda for steering clear of Razer even with an upgrade.
Series 6 saw two truly worthy finalists come together in the final battle to decide who would win the Sixth Wars. On the one hand, Razer, the defending champion, who had dispatched another long line of opponents in its usual style. On the other, Tornado – from its first appearance, this robot was known for being aggressive and having formidable pushing power, but in Series 6, it also came equipped with interchangable weaponry, modified to suit different opponents.
When the two robots met previously in Extreme 1, Tornado came off worse; low box-shapes were ideal for Razer’s crusher. So for this final, the Tornado team pulled out their modification designed especially for Razer: a frame around the robot that made it physically impossible for Razer to reach the main body. The Razer team’s response was to fit a hook to the end of their robot’s claw, in the hopes of lifting Tornado up by its frame.
The resulting battle was, in my opinion, the best Robot Wars fight ever – not just because of how it reflected the builders’ ingenuity, but because of how supremely thrilling it was. The pace never slowed down; there was just constant action, constant aggression, neither robot willing to give in right to the end. Throughout most of the battle, Tornado was on top, slamming Razer all over the place – until the end, when Razer actually succeeded in trapping and lifting Tornado with its hook. Razer triumphantly attempted to drop Tornado down the pit – only to find that thanks to its frame, Tornado wouldn’t fit. Some saw this as controversial, though Tornado’s builders pointed out that the frame’s size was perfectly within the rules.
The final went to a judges’ decision, with Tornado as the deserved winner, and new Robot Wars champion.