Robot Wars (TV series)

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Robot Wars
New Robot Wars logo.jpg
Also known as Robot Wars Extreme
Genre Robot competition
Created by Tom Gutteridge
Steve Carsey
Directed by Stuart McDonald (1998-2004)
Nikki Parsons (2016)
Tim Van Someren (2017)
Presented by Jeremy Clarkson (1998)
Craig Charles (1998–2004)
Dara Ó Briain (2016–)
Angela Scanlon (2016–)
Starring Philippa Forrester (1998–2000, 2002–03)
Julia Reed (2000–01)
Jayne Middlemiss (2003–04)
Judges Noel Sharkey (1998–2004, 2016–)
Eric Dickinson (1998)
Adam Harper (1998–99)
Martin Smith (1999–2004)
Myra Wilson (2000–01)
Mat Irvine (2001–04)
Sethu Vijayakumar (2016–)
Lucy Rogers (2016–)
Voices of Stuart McDonald (1998-2003)
Narrated by Jonathan Pearce
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 9 (Domestic)
2 (Extreme)
11 (Overall)
No. of episodes 139 (Domestic)
30 (Extreme)
169 (Overall) (as of 16 April 2017)
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 30 minutes (1998–99)
45 minutes (1999–2003)
60 minutes (2003–04, 2016–)
Production company(s) TV21 (1998–2001)
Mentorn (2001–04, 2016–)
Distributor Passion Distribution
Original network BBC Two (1998–2003, 2016–)
BBC One (2000)
BBC Choice (2001–2003)
Five (2003–04)
Picture format 4:3 (1998–2001)
16:9 (2001–04, 2016–)
Original release Original series:
20 February 1998 (1998-02-20) – 28 March 2004 (2004-03-28)
Revived series:
24 July 2016 (2016-07-24) – present
External links

Robot Wars is a robot combat competition that was broadcast on British television from 1998 to 2004 and later since 2016.

The show was first broadcast on BBC Two from 20 February 1998 to 23 February 2001, on BBC Choice from 8 October 2001 to 7 February 2003 (later repeated on BBC Two), on Channel 5 from 2 November 2003 to 28 March 2004 before being revived in 2016 and broadcast on BBC Two from 24 July 2016. A celebrity special was shown on BBC One on 27 December 2000.

The show was originally presented by Jeremy Clarkson for the first series. Craig Charles took over until the seventh series. Philippa Forrester co-hosted the first three series, the fifth and Extreme 2. Forrester also hosted the spin-off series Robot Wars Revealed from 1998 to 1999. The fourth series and Extreme 1 were co-hosted by Julia Reed and the seventh by Jayne Middlemiss. Jonathan Pearce provided commentary for all series. The new presenters for 2016 are Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon.

Additional series were filmed for specific sectors of the global market, including two series of Robot Wars Extreme Warriors with American competitors for the TNN network (hosted by Mick Foley with Rebecca Grant serving as pit reporter), two of Dutch Robot Wars for distribution in the Netherlands, and a single series for Germany. The fourth series of the UK Robot Wars was shown in the US on TNN as Robot Wars: Grand Champions in 2002, and hosted by Joanie Laurer.[1]

The series, centred on the sport of robot combat, involved teams of amateur and professional roboteers operating their own constructed robots to fight against each other in both friendly and tournament matches, whilst also avoiding arena hazards and more powerful "House Robots", which were not bound by the same weight or weapon limits as the contestants. Earlier series included assault and trial courses for competing robots before they were ceased from the first "Extreme" series onwards.

Its merchandising was commercially successful, being one of the most popular selling toy ranges in 2002. It included a mini arena, pullback toys and radio-controlled versions of Shunt, Matilda and Sir Killalot.[2]

In 2003, the roboteers themselves formed The Fighting Robot Association and with their associated event organizers, carry on participating in competitions for new audiences. In 2013, Roaming Robots purchased the rights to the Robot Wars brand from Robot Wars LLC and now operates their travelling robotic combat show under that name.[3] The use of the name Robot Wars ceased in early 2017, with the shows being renamed Extreme Robots.[4]

With a peak audience of 6 million viewers in the UK during the late 1990s, the format went on to become a worldwide success, showing in 45 countries including the US, Australia, Canada, China, India, Germany and Italy. In March 2003, it was dropped by BBC Two after eight series and Mentorn announced it was making 22 episodes for Channel 5,[5] concluding with The Third World Championships broadcast in March 2004. Channel 5 later axed the show after one series due to low ratings.

In July 2016 the show returned to BBC Two with a new arena, house robots and presenters. The first episode was well received becoming the top trending topic on Twitter that evening and having 2 million viewers, more than the last episode of the 23rd series of Top Gear in the same 8pm Sunday slot just a few weeks earlier.[6] After the success of the relaunch, it was confirmed that future series would be filmed and broadcast for the next three years.[7]


US Robot Wars events[edit]

Robot Wars was the brainchild of Marc Thorpe, a designer working for the LucasToys division of Lucasfilm.[8] In 1992, Thorpe had the initial idea for robot combat sport after unsuccessfully attempting to create a radio-controlled vacuum cleaner.[9] In 1994, Marc Thorpe created Robot Wars and held the first competition at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Approximately one month prior to the event, Thorpe formed a partnership with New York-based record company Sm:)e Communications, later Profile Records, who provided additional funding.[8]

Between 1995 and 1997, three further Robot Wars events took place in America and, in 1995, Profile Records partnered with production company Mentorn to produce and televise a Robot Wars event in the UK. Mentorn acquired the worldwide television rights from Profile in 1995 after Tom Gutteridge (the head of Mentorn) had seen an amateur tape of a San Francisco event.

Original television series[edit]

Original Robot Wars logo from 1998 to 2003

Gutteridge and one of his producers Steve Carsey created a television format based on the Robot Wars concept. They produced a live event opposite BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, Shepherd's Bush, London and hired Derek Foxwell to build 3 combat robots, 2 of which were named The Mouse and Grunt who would eventually take part in the first UK series of Robot Wars, to take on three American robots, Thor, La Machine and The Master, all of which were veterans of the original American competition. The Controller of BBC Two, Michael Jackson, attended the event, which was not filmed, and he promised to commission a series. However, it wasn't until 1998 that a subsequent Controller of BBC Two, Mark Thompson, fulfilled Jackson's promise and actually commissioned 6 episodes. Gutteridge and Carsey were producers and Foxwell was the technical supervisor and senior technical consultant. He drafted the rules and regulations and was in charge of the pit area and the technical team, which scrutineered the robots, got them on and off stage and helped the contestants prepare and repair their robots. Mat Irvine, initially a member of the technical team, served as member of the judging panel in 2002 and 2003.

The three person judging panel consisted of Noel Sharkey (head judge on every series: 1998–2003, 2016–), Eric Dickinson (1998), Adam Harper (1998–99), Martin Smith (1999–2003), Myra Wilson (2000–01), Mat Irvine (2001–03), Sethu Vijayakumar (2016–) and Lucy Rogers (2016–).

On the first day, I was in the dressing room and looking in the mirror, and looking down at the arena. And they were pulling the robots into the arena on an invisible twine because nothing was working. And I was thinking: "Oh my God, what have I done with my career?" And you know, within the blink of an eye, it was the most watched show on BBC2.

— Presenter Craig Charles on the success of Robot Wars in the late 1990s and early 2000s which aired at 6:30 on Friday evening and attracted over 6 million viewers, [10]

Profile sought no input or consent from Thorpe before doing this, and this aggravated the already troubled relationship between Thorpe and Profile Records and indirectly spurred legal disagreements surrounding the ownership of the Robot Wars concept. The legal proceedings surrounding these would last until 6 February 2002.[9] Mentorn used Thorpe as a Consultant on the series, however, and the initial series of Robot Wars in the UK was broadcast over six weeks in February and March 1998. It was an immediate hit, with more than 2 million viewers, and a further 18 episodes were commissioned by the BBC that year. 155 episodes were produced in total, and the show was seen in 26 countries. Two series were produced in the US for the TNN (now Spike) network, and a version was also shown on Nickelodeon. Series were also produced in many European countries. Although the series had various directors and producers, all were produced in the UK by Mentorn, and executive produced by Tom Gutteridge and Steve Carsey. The initial series were staged in various film studios around London but the stage and pit area became too large to fit into any of the conventional studios, so filming was later moved to an aircraft hangar at RAF Newton.

Viewing figures dropped significantly in the early 2000s, reaching only 1.2 million in the sixth series - the final to be broadcast on BBC Two. Following its move to Channel 5 in November 2003, the show first began airing in a new Sunday night slot and launched with 1 million viewers; however ratings fell quickly to 800,000 resulting in the show moving to Saturday nights after just three episodes.[11]


On 13 January 2016, the BBC confirmed that it would be rebooting the show for a six-part series.[12] On 3 February 2016, BBC Press Office confirmed via Twitter that Dara Ó Briain would host the new series, with Angela Scanlon serving as pit reporter and Jonathan Pearce returning as commentator.[13] In early July 2016, following the release of several "coming soon" trailers on air and online, it was announced it will return on 24 July at 8pm, the same slot as Top Gear. Some robots from the original series returned, including Storm II, Razer and Behemoth, as well as four of the original House Robots, which have been upgraded to be heavier, faster, better armed and with new looks.[14] The 2016 series was filmed in a warehouse at Westway Park in Renfrew, Scotland.[15]

The first episode received about 2 million viewers and was the top trending topic on Twitter with over 20,000 tweets.[16]

A second rebooted series was commissioned with a first celebrity special in 16 years, in which celebrities, such as Olympians Kadeena Cox and Alistar & Jonathan Brownlee, TV Presenters Suzi Perry, Neil Oliver, and Maggie Aderin-Pocock, singer Jordan Stevens, and radio presenters Scott Mills and Robbie Savage had bespoke robots designed for them by 8 major roboteers, who mentored them during the specials.[17]

During its original airing, the first rebooted series was sometimes referred to as 'Series 1', presenting itself as a completely new show. Starting in 2017, however, the BBC began referring to it as Series 8, with the following second series appropriately dubbed Series 9, acknowledging itself as a continuation of the original show.[18][19]

Battle rules[edit]

A robot could lose a match in several ways during the knockout format of the show:

  • A robot that was immobile for 30 seconds could be counted 'out' and turned over to the house robots for further ‘punishment.’ Beginning with Robot Wars Series 5 and Extreme 1, the Refbot counted down the final 10 seconds. In the eighth series, a robot is eliminated when it is immobile for 10 seconds.
  • A robot flipped out of the arena lost the battle.
  • A robot that fell or was pushed into the ‘Pit of Oblivion’ was out of the battle (from series 2 onwards).
  • If none of the above conditions were satisfied, a panel of three judges scored the competitors on style, control, damage, and aggression. The judges for the First and Second Wars were Adam Harper, Eric Dickinson and Professor Noel Sharkey. The other judges for the show's original run were Professor Martin Smith, Dr Myra Wilson and Mat Irvine. The 2016 judges are Professor Noel Sharkey, Dr Lucy Rogers and Professor Seth Vijayakumar.
The judges' decisions are based on the following categories:
  • Aggression: The extent to which the robot was on the 'front foot' against the opposing robot as opposed to staying out of trouble.
  • Damage: The amount of damage inflicted on the opposing robot.
  • Control: The ability of the driver to push opposing robots, avoiding the arena hazards and if they're attacking how they're meant to.
  • Style (original series only): The extent to which the robot demonstrated its abilities such as self-righting. For the revived series, the style category was omitted.[20]
In the original series, the Aggression, Damage, Control, and Style points were weighted 3:4:2:1 respectively. In the 2016 series the weightings for Aggression, Damage, and Control were 3:2:1,[21] with "Style" no longer a judged criteria.

Although the format changed several times over the years, these rules remained the same across all series and competitions.



Series Competition Format The Heats The Semi-finals The Final Side and Trail Events
1 Six robots in six heats. The winners met in a single melee fight to determine the champion. All six robots took on the Gauntlet with one eliminated. The remaining five took part in a trial with a further one eliminated. The final four took part in one-on-one Arena battles in a knockout format. There was no Semi-Final held The Final was held as a melee at the end of the final heat. 'British Bulldog', 'Football', 'Labyrinth', 'Snooker Octagon', 'Stock Car' and 'Sumo Basho'.
2 Six robots in twelve heats. The winners of each heat went into one of two semi-finals. Two robots from each semi-final reached the final show. All six robots took on the Gauntlet with one eliminated. The remaining five took part in a trial with a further one eliminated. The final four took part in one-on-one Arena battles in a knockout format. Arena battle knockout of two rounds plus a third place playoff. 'Joust', 'King of the Castle', 'Pinball Warrior', 'Football', 'Skittles', 'Sumo Basho' and 'Tug of War'.
3 Eight robots in sixteen heats. The sixteen heat winners reached one of two semi-finals. Two robots from each semi-final reached the final. Arena battle knockout of three rounds. Arena battle knockout of two rounds. 'Pinball Warrior', 'Football', the 'Middleweight Melee' and 'Walker Battles'.
4 Six robots in sixteen heats. The sixteen heats winners reached one of two semi-finals. Two robots from each semi-final reached the final. Three-way Arena melee first round before two Arena knockout rounds. 'Pinball Warrior' and 'Sumo Basho'.
5 Eight robots in twelve heats. The twelve heat winners reached one of two semi-finals. Two robots from each semi-final reached the final. Arena battle knockout of three rounds Arena battle knockout of two rounds, with the three losers of the first round having competing in a second-chance three-way melee for a place in the second round.
6 Arena battle knockout of three rounds. The first round as a four-way melee with two qualifiers.
7 Eight robots in sixteen heats. The sixteen heat winners reached one of two semi-finals. Two robots from each semi-final reached the final. Arena battle knockout of two rounds. Qualifying bouts for the World Championships and fights from other weight classes
8 Eight robots in five heats. The five heat winners would move on to the grand final along with a wildcard robot chosen by the judges. Round 1 was done the same way as series 6 and 7, but the two winners of each group battle go into a mini league where they fight its three opponents once each, with 3 points for a knockout win, 2 for a judges' decision win, and 0 for a defeat of either form, with the top 2 promoted into the heat final and the bottom 2 relegated out of the competition. In the event two robots are tied for a qualifying position, the robot who won their bout against the other proceeds. There was no Semi-Final held. The final works the same as the heats except the group battles feature three robots as opposed to four, with one robot being eliminated in each melee, similar to the heats of series 4.


There were also two series made for the UK, Robot Wars Extreme, which did not focus on a single championship.

Extreme 1 and 2 Events These tournaments and themed battles continued over the entire series
All-Star Tournament Knockout tournament featuring the most well-known competitors.
Annihilator Six-way battles with one robot eliminated per round.
Challenge Belt Where robots would try to defend their honor for the challenge belt.
Mayhems Three-way battles to progress to the series annihilators.
Tag Team Terror Two robots team up and fight tag-team style (though usually all four robots were out).
Vengeance Battle This allowed robots with unfinished business or grudges to settle things once and for all.
Wildcard Warriors Newcomers take on established robots.
Extreme 2 Added Events This series followed one theme over each episode
New Blood A new robot tournament.
Iron Maidens Women took control.
Minor Meltdown Children took control.
Robot Rampage A tournament with robots in lower weight classes such as antweight, featherweight, lightweight and middleweight.
University Challenge All robots were entered by Universities.
Commonwealth Carnage All robots were from teams based in the Commonwealth.
European Championship All robots were from teams based in Europe.


Main presenters
Jonathan Pearce, commentator
Craig Charles (1998–2004)
Ó Briain
Dara Ó Briain (2016–present)

The first series of Robot Wars was presented by Jeremy Clarkson and co-hosted by Philippa Forrester. In keeping with his edgy persona established on Top Gear, Clarkson frequently made tongue-in-cheek jokes about competitors and their robots, such as remarking that a contestant robot called "Skarab" looked like "cheese on toast".[22]

Clarkson left Robot Wars after the first series and was replaced with Craig Charles.[23] Charles, well known as playing the character Dave Lister in the science fiction-themed sitcom Red Dwarf,[24] was seen as taking the programme and its contestants more seriously than Clarkson, and was more enthusiastic while presenting it.[22] Charles would close each episode with a four line poem ending with the words "Robot Wars". Charles presented Robot Wars until it ceased production in 2004.

"My son, Jack, was a fan of the first series and said I should get involved. So I made a few phone calls and the rest is history."

— Craig Charles speaking on how he got involved with Robot Wars.

In comparison to Charles' background in science fiction, Philippa Forrester was best known as co-host of the science and technology programme Tomorrow's World.[25] Her role on Robot Wars was as the pit reporter[26] who would speak to contestants about their robots before and after battles. Forrester was pit reporter for six of the show's nine series; Julia Reed took the role for Series 4 and Extreme 1 since Forrester was unable to participate in the programme due to pregnancy, but Forrester returned for Series 5, Series 6 and Extreme 2. When the programme moved to Channel 5 for the seventh series, Forrester did not return for unknown reasons, so Jayne Middlemiss took over the pit reporter duties.[23]

Jonathan Pearce was the show's commentator throughout its entire run. He commentated in the same loud and enthusiastic manner as his football commentaries.[27] The programme was well known for phrases such as "Roboteers, stand by", "3. 2. 1. Activate" and "Cease!". These phrases were announced by the director, Stuart McDonald and became a recognisable part of the series for the entire duration of its run.[28]

In 2016, Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon were announced as the hosts of the eighth series, with Jonathan Pearce returning as commentator. They reprised their roles in the ninth series.

House robots[edit]

Throughout the series, house robots acted as obstacles to competing robots in battles and challenges. House robots were permitted to attack robots that were in the Corner Patrol Zones at the corners of the arena or upon the submission of a competing robot. The house robots were an intrinsic part of the programme's success and merchandising of these robots was highly successful.[29] Furthermore, the house robots were not subject to the 100 kg (220 lb) weight limit or weapon rules that contestant robots had to adhere to, the most notable example of this was Sergeant Bash's flamethrower.

From the Fourth Wars, a non-competitive "Refbot" was present during fights. This robot conveyed officiating signals (such as counting out immobile competitors) on the arena, gave occasional nudges to help battles along, and could deploy a fire extinguisher where necessary.

For Series 8, new versions of Matilda, Shunt, Dead Metal, and Sir Killalot have been constructed. They are considerably heavier with improved weaponry. All the house robots are over 300 kg (661 lb) in weight, and Sir Killalot now weighs 741 kg (1,634 lb). Visually, all four look similar to their predecessors, but with significant differences: Dead Metal's head has been enlarged with glowing eyes, Matilda's back-mounted fins have been replaced with smaller crocodilian scales, spikes appear on her frill, her eyes are now red and her whole head section now flips up; Shunt has enlarged wheel protectors and metal chimneys replacing the smokestack; and Sir Killalot's armour and helmet has been entirely redesigned. The other house robots did not return for this series.[30]

Bold text indicates house robots that returned for the new series.

Note: The house robots returning now have new statistics

House robot First competed Weight
kg (lb)
km/h (mph)
cm (in)
cm (in)
cm (in)
Power Weaponry Strengths Weakness Method
Cassius Chrome Seventh War 250 (550) 32 (20) 85 (33) 130 (51) 100 (39) 2x24V magnetic drive motors Two rotary driven interchangeable "fists" and front shovel. Fastest house robot Requires attack time, high ground clearance High speed ramming
Dead Metal First War 112 (247) (original)
343 (756) (revival)
21 (13) 70 (28) 160 (63) 100 (39) Battery driven motors CO2 power driven 1.4m wide pincers with 300 kg (660 lb) grip and 4000rpm magnesium circular saw which spins at 340 km/h (210 mph) Synergy of weapons Poor manoeuvrability Grabbing a competitor robot and engaging the saw
Growler Sixth War 375 (827) 27 (17) 76 (30) 152 (60) 130 (51) Six batteries and two electric motors 3,000 psi (21,000 kPa) front jaws; occasionally active rear-mounted flamethrower Speed and sheer destructive power Unpredictable Grabs with jaws to push
Matilda First War 116 (256) (original)
350 (770) (revival)
23 (14) 66 (26) 140 (55) 66 (26) Battery driven engine 800 psi (5,500 kPa) pneumatic tusks that can lift 1.5 t (1.7 tons) and vertical 35 kg (77 lb) Hardox flywheel spinning 25 times per second; formerly a chainsaw tail (S1-4) Tough exo-skeleton Lacks self-control Lifts with tusks or hits with rear weapon
Mr. Psycho Sixth War 750 (1,650) 13 (8) 150 (59) 163 (64) 145 (57) 12 batteries 30 kg (66 lb) hammer and grabbing claw of 5 t (5.5 tons) force Biggest and tallest house robot Disabled power source Hammer strike or claw grab
Refbot Fourth War 120 (260) 11 (7) 130 (51) 140 (55) 90 (35) Battery power Front and rear scoops; electric countout; fire extinguisher and coloured card lights Non-competitive Non-competitive N/A
Sergeant Bash First War 120 (260) 13 (8) 90 (35) 140 (55) 90 (35) Four Batteries Propane fueled flamethrower and front hydraulic pincers (s3 onwards); ramming spike and rear grinding disc in S1-2. Long-range weaponry Limited fuel capacity Engage flamethrower or grabbing with jaws
Shunt First War 105 (231) (original)
327 (721) (revival)
18 (11) 70 (28) 130 (51) 110 (43) Prototype electric motor Rear ramming plough, Front lifting 300 psi (2,100 kPa) scoop that can lift 350 kg (770 lb) and titanium-tipped axe that can strike at the speed of 0.25 seconds High pushing power Lightest and has no side self-righting mechanisms Hit with axe or push
Sir Killalot Second War 280 (620) (original)
741 (1,634) (revival)
16 (10) 130 (51) 120 (47) 120 (47) Petrol engine Hydraulic claws with 2.5 tonnes (2.8 tons) of crush force and rotating drill lance (S3-S7); non-rotating spike lance for S2 Heavy with powerful weaponry Unpredictable Spike with lance / grab with claw

Arena and hazards[edit]


There were numerous arena incarnations used during the original run of Robot Wars on the BBC. These arenas were also used by international versions such as Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors in the United States. The arena was approximately 32 by 48 feet (9.8 by 14.6 m). For Series 1 to 3 the arena was not enclosed as such, as the audience were raised above the arena. The increasing sophistication of weaponry from contestant robots - most notably demonstrated by Hypno-Disc in Series 3 - as well as arena hazards prompted producers to enclose the arena entirely in a perspex box 20 feet (6.1 m) high from Series 4 onwards, to protect the audience and production team from debris.[citation needed]

Although the perspex screen mullions and transoms impaired the live audiences' view as well as external views of the arena on television, on numerous occasions it proved to be necessary. The floor flipper would send lighter robots (such as featherweights) out of the arena and straight into the perspex box. Furthermore, items from the drop zone were often unpredictable, most notably when Matilda obliterated a television screen with her flywheel sending shards of glass strewn across the arena.[citation needed]

In early 2004, the Robot Wars arena was purchased from the television production firm Mentorn by a company called Robot Arenas Ltd., based in the UK, an organization set up by a past competitor in Robot Wars to continue the sport of robot combat in the UK. The arena - valued originally at £11,000 - was sold for scrap in 2005 for £250 by the new owners of the former RAF Newton air base, where the arena was housed. A suit filed against RAF Newton by Robot Arenas Ltd. found that RAF Newton had acted reasonably in the matter and owed no compensation to Robot Arenas Ltd.[31]

In 2016, a new arena was constructed in a warehouse in Renfrew, on the outskirts of Glasgow, for use in the rebooted series. This arena is 15 metres (49 ft) square, with a 6 mm (0.24 in) steel floor[32] and higher bulletproof walls, making it harder for robots to be thrown out of the arena.


Throughout Robot Wars' run, arena hazards were introduced and amended. Generally, hazards which proved ineffective were omitted in later series, however some hazards proved to be a success (such as the Pit of Oblivion, Floor Flipper, and the Drop Zone) and were retained. The assorted hazards in the arena that changed from one series the next included:

  • Arena Sidebars - The First Wars Only - These were parts of the arena side fence that were on the floor. These trapped robots and potentially immobilised them if they could not drive off.
  • The Patrol Zone/PZ - The First Wars only - Four large squares in the corners of the arena marked with striped tape, each occupied by one House Robot and a hazard. Once a competitor robot entered one of these zones, it was open to attack by the House Robot within. The Patrol Zones were much like the CPZ's that appeared in later series but were much larger.
  • Floor grilles - The First Wars Only - Grille floor panels that, like the arena sidebars mentioned above, were designed to trap robots and not allow them to drive off. Proved much more effective than the sidebars.
  • Floor spikes - The First Wars to The Third Wars and Series 8 onwards - These were pneumatic spikes located in several positions on the arena floor that came up whenever a robot drove over them. They trapped robots and on occasion flipped them. They were removed for Series 4 after causing many upsets during The Third Wars, where robots currently winning battles would be overturned and then lose. This most notably happened during Heat B when Behemoth was flipped, couldn't self-right and its opponent Pitbull won by default. For Series 8, a group of five large spikes forms one of the four main hazards of the arena. They are powerful and large enough to lift and trap robots for a brief moment (as happened to Bonk in the opening episode), but are not as fast as their predecessors. In theory, this will avoid the sort of upsets seen in Series 3. One spike 'hole' is capable of emitting sparks.
  • The Perimeter Patrol Zone (commonly known as PPZs) - The Second Wars only – A narrow band around the perimeter of the arena that replaced the Patrol Zones. A competitor robot that entered this area was open to attack by any or all of the House Robots stationed there.
  • The Pit of Oblivion - The Second Wars onwards - Arguably the arena's most iconic feature, this was a 4-foot (1.2 m) square hole in the arena floor, painted black on the inside and partially filled with old tyres. If a robot drove, fell, or was pushed into the Pit, it would be instantly eliminated. In The Second Wars, pits were added to both lanes of The Gauntlet. For The Third Wars the Pit was open during the first two rounds of each heat, then covered during the heat final and following matches. In The Fourth Wars, the Pit was redesigned, with a yellow-and-black chevron-tape outline, and was covered until halfway into a battle, whereupon it would "descend". From its very first appearance in The Second Wars, the Pit included a small pyrotechnic "explosion" that formed a large ball of white smoke. This would activate when a robot fell into the Pit, primarily used to show that a competitor had fallen in. This was changed to a small firework explosion for The Third Wars but the smoke returned for The Fourth Wars and remained until the end. From Extreme 1 onwards there was a device on the arena wall that competitor or house robots could use to activate the pit opening. In Extreme and The Fifth Wars that device was a tyre. For The Sixth Wars the tyre was replaced by a metal bumper. The tyre returned in Extreme 2 and remained for the remainder of the shows' run. The pit was enlarged and given an LED decoration on the inside for the eighth series, with the pyrotechnic no longer used. Since Series 9, the pyrotechnics have been added back to the Pit.
  • Flame Pit - The Second Wars onwards - A large square grill located close to the right bottom corner of the arena. Used to set fire to flammable robots and damage electronics. For the eighth series, this was moved to the upper left corner of the arena.
  • The Corner Patrol Zones (commonly known as CPZs) - The Third Wars onwards - the House Robots were now confined to the four corners of the arena much like in The First Wars. Which house robot was used in which battle was defined by a rota system but would also sometimes depend on if a house robot was being repaired. In The Fourth Wars, the house robots switched to a rota system of Shunt, Matilda, Sgt.Bash, and Dead Metal. Sir Killalot consistently appeared every round excepting battles 3 & 4 of the War of Independence. From The Fifth Wars and Extreme 1 onwards only two house robots were allowed in the arena at a time, and this moved in a rota through all of the machines. However some House Robots didn't appear in a show or on some occasions missed several shows before making an appearance. For Series 8, the CPZs are larger and L-shaped. The house robots no longer attack competitors who enter any CPZ, but stick to guarding their own.
  • The Floor Flipper - The Third Wars onwards - A powerful pneumatic flipper set into the floor, capable of throwing a robot across the arena. It was generally only used on robots that had already been defeated, but was occasionally fired during events such as the House Robot Rebellion. When originally introduced, it just looked like a part of the arena floor. For The Fourth Wars the flipper was given a yellow/black paint scheme similar to the redesigned Pit of Oblivion. For Extreme 1/Series 5 the power of the flipper increased, allowing it to hurl even the heaviest robots into the air, and flip featherweight robots out of the arena. For Series 8, this is no longer used as a coup de grace for defeated robots, but fires independently during a fight. It is positioned diagonally on the floor, and is capable not only of launching robots into the air but also trapping robots as it closes.
  • Angle Grinders - The Third Wars and Extreme 1 to The Seventh Wars - Abrasive grinding wheels built into the arena railings. The grinders were replaced with small pneumatic spikes in The Fourth Wars but brought back from Extreme 1 onwards.
  • Pneumatic Spikes - The Fourth Wars only - As mentioned above, they replaced the Angle Grinders but proved ineffective so were omitted after one series.
  • CO2 geysers - The Fifth Wars and Extreme 1 onwards - High pressure CO2 outlets designed to cause internal damage to robots, but were more useful for extinguishing fires.
  • The Drop Zone - The Fifth Wars and Extreme 1 to The Seventh Wars - A square on the arena floor where heavy objects (television sets, ocean buoys, refrigerators, washing machines, etc.) fell from the top of the arena. Like the Floor Flipper, it was only used robots that were already immobile. It first appeared in Series 6 and Extreme 2, although the spot where the object would fall, a black square with a yellow 'X' shape across it, first appeared in The Fifth Wars and Extreme 1. Viewers did not know the purpose of this at the time. It is believed it was due to be used in Extreme 1 but technical difficulties meant it was abandoned.
  • The Disc of Doom - The Sixth Wars and Extreme 2 only - A circular spinning panel set into the arena floor activated by a buffer similar to the pit release. This hazard was used to disrupt a robot's driving and worked well on lighter competitors, but proved ineffective against Heavyweight robots. It first appeared in both The Sixth Wars and Extreme 2 but was removed for The Seventh Wars.
  • The Dial of Doom/Doom Dial - Introduced in The Ninth Wars. A dial that will activate when the arena tyre is pressed. If the dial swings left, it will open up the pit and if the dial swings right it will activate "Rogue House Robot" which allows a house robot to leave the CPZ and attack a competitor robot for up to 10 seconds.

Competitors and results[edit]

Chaos 2 was the only robot to be British Champion twice, and the first to flip opponent robots over the fence and out of the arena.
Domestic Championships results
Series Winner Grand Finalists
1 Roadblock Bodyhammer, Robot The Bruce, Recyclopse, Cunning Plan, T.R.A.C.I.E.
Series Winner Runner-up Third Place Fourth Place
2 Panic Attack Cassius Roadblock Killertron
3 Chaos 2 Hypno-Disc Firestorm Steg-O-Saw-Us
4 Chaos 2 Pussycat Stinger Hypno-Disc
5 Razer Bigger Brother Firestorm 3 Hypno-Disc
6 Tornado Razer Firestorm 4 Terrorhurtz
7 Typhoon 2 Storm 2 Tornado X-Terminator
Series Winner Grand Finalists
8 Apollo Carbide, TR2, Thor, Shockwave, Pulsar
9 Carbide Euruption, Ironside 3, Aftershock, Concussion, Apollo
Special Championships Results
Championship Winner Runner-up
International League Championship Razer
(Republic of Ireland)
Championship Winner Runner-up Semi-Finalists
First World Championship Razer
(Republic of Ireland)
First Celebrity Special Championship Pussycat
(Adam Woodyatt)
(Vic Reeves)
(Anthea Turner & Wendy Turner)
Sir Chromalot
(Shane Lynch)
Championship Winner Runner-up Third Place Fourth Place
Tag Team Terror King B3 & 101 Firestorm 2 & Scorpion Bigger Brother & Plunderbird 4 X-Terminator 2 & Invertabrat
Championship Winner Runner-up
Annihilator North Spikasaurus Dominator 2
Annihilator South Razer Onslaught
Championship Winner Runner-up Semi-Finalists
War of Independence Mortis
Ming 2
Panic Attack
Second World Championship Razer (UK) Drillzilla
The Forces Special Anvil
(Royal Air Force)
(Royal Navy)
(Fire Brigade)
Championship Winners Semi-Finalists
UK vs. Germany Fluffy
Das Gepäck
Championship Winner Runner-up Semi-Finalists
First European Championship Tornado (UK) Philipper 2 (Belgium) Razer (UK) Black Hole (Germany)
Championship Winner Runner-up
Annihilator Kan-Opener Ripper
Championship Winner Runner-up Semi-Finalists
All Star Championship Pussycat Dantomkia Kat 3 Panic Attack
Third World Championship Storm 2 (UK) Supernova (Sri Lanka) Crushtacean (South Africa) Tough As Nails (Netherlands)
Championship Winners Runners-up
Second Celebrity Special Championship Arena Cleaner
(Scott Mills & Chris Stark)
Kadeena Machina
(Kadeena Cox)
The Cat
(Suzi Perry)
Robo Savage
(Robbie Savage)



A Sir Killalot toy

Pullback and friction toys were made of all the House Robots, with the exception of Cassius Chrome as the toys had stopped production when he was introduced for The Seventh Wars. There were also pullback and ripcord toys of Chaos 2, Dantomkia, Firestorm, Hypno-Disc, Panic Attack, Pussycat, Razer, Stinger, Tornado, Wheely Big Cheese and X-Terminator 2. Each came with an accessory.

There were remote controlled versions of Shunt, Matilda, Sir Killalot, and Growler. There also were smaller remote control battlers, which had "immobilisation spots" on the rear of the toy. Sgt. Bash, and the competitor robot Tornado were the only two made. These were smaller than the other remote control robots mentioned above.

There were customisable kit toys of the House Robot Matilda, and competitors Hypno-Disc and Panic Attack. A Sergeant Bash pitstop kit was prototyped but never released.

Minibots were a series of small die-cast replica robots. The range included all of the Series 5 House Robots along with competitor robots Chaos 2, Dominator 2, Firestorm III, Gemini, Hypno-Disc, Mega Morg, Panic Attack, Plunderbird 5, Pussycat, Razer, Suicidal Tendencies, Tornado, Wheely Big Cheese, Wild Thing and X-Terminator 2. They had an interactive replica arena and two additional playsets.

Home media[edit]

Several VHS videos were released of the show. These included "The First Great War" a look at the making of Series 1, "The First World Championship" which was released exclusively on video at the time and the "Ultimate Warrior Collection" featuring exclusive access to the teams of Chaos 2, Hypno-Disc and Razer, along with footage of their battles. Along the same lines a "Ultimate Archive Collection" was released showing exclusive footage of the House Robots and their operators along with some of their greatest battles and most embarrassing moments.

The Ultimate Warrior Collection, Ultimate Archive Collection and First Great War were also released on DVD. The footage and content remained the same as the VHS releases. Series 8 was released on DVD on 29 August 2016, making it the first full series of Robot Wars to be released on home media. It was later released digitally.

Video games[edit]

Robot Wars: Metal Mayhem is the first game based on the show, released on Game Boy Color in 2000. It was followed in 2001 by Robot Wars: Arenas of Destruction on PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Windows and Robot Wars: Advanced Destruction on Game Boy Advance. After the first three titles sold over 250,000 copies, a fourth and final game, released on Game Boy Advance, Microsoft Windows and Xbox in 2002 was called Robot Wars: Extreme Destruction.[2]


A huge array of other merchandise was produced due to the success of the show. Items available included mugs, glasses, mobile phone covers, toiletries, stationery, clocks, watches, bedding, curtains and clothing. The show even produced an unsuccessful single, which peaked at number 51 in the UK singles charts in December 2000, called "Sir Killalot Vs. Robo Babe - Robot Wars (Android Love)".[33] A custom made game officially licensed under Robot Wars LLC was started on in October 2013, using the Robot Arena 2 video game as the base. It featured many robots from the TV series as well as robots competing in the newer live events. It also included the original Robot Wars arena and various live arenas. It was released to the public in September 2015 and an updated version which included more robots was released in February 2016. A one-time update was released in January 2017, adding 2 new robots. It is only available for Microsoft Windows.


All episodes were announced by Jonathan Pearce.

Domestic series[edit]

Series Start date End date Network Hosts Judges[note 1] Episodes
Original series
1 20 February 1998 27 March 1998 BBC Two Jeremy Clarkson Philippa Forrester Noel Sharkey Eric Dickinson Adam Harper 6
2 6 November 1998 5 March 1999 Craig Charles 15
3 3 December 1999 21 April 2000 Martin Smith 19
4 22 September 2000 23 February 2001 Julia Reed Myra Wilson 19
5 6 May 2002 27 May 2002 BBC Choice Philippa Forrester Martin Smith Myra Wilson Mat Irvine 15
6 16 September 2002 4 October 2002 Martin Smith Mat Irvine 15
7 2 November 2003 7 March 2004 Channel 5 Jayne Middlemiss 19
Revived series
8 24 July 2016 28 August 2016 BBC Two Dara Ó Briain Angela Scanlon Noel Sharkey Sethu Vijayakumar Lucy Rogers 6
9 5 March 2017 16 April 2017 6
10 TBC TBC 6

Extreme series[edit]

All Extreme episodes premiered on BBC Choice.

Series Start date End date Hosts Judges[note 1] Episodes
1 8 October 2001 26 October 2001 Craig Charles Julia Reed Noel Sharkey Martin Smith Myra Wilson Mat Irvine 15
2 13 January 2003 7 February 2003 Philippa Forrester Martin Smith Mat Irvine 15


Date Entitle
31 December 1998 The Making of Robot Wars
12 March 1999 The Grudge Matches
19 March 1999 The Best of Robot Wars
15 September 2000 International League Championship
27 December 2000 First Celebrity Special Championship
28 December 2000 Tag Team Terror
29 December 2000 Northern Annihilator
30 December 2000 Southern Annihilator
31 December 2000 War of Independence
16 November 2001 The First World Championship
14 December 2001 The Second World Championship
21 December 2001 The Forces
10 January 2003 UK vs. Germany
14 March 2004 Annihilator
21 March 2004 All-Stars
28 March 2004 The Third World Championship
28 December 2016 Second Celebrity Special Championship (Part 1)
29 December 2016 Second Celebrity Special Championship (Part 2)

US Robot Wars[edit]

A forerunner to the UK series, the 1994 Robot Wars in San Francisco, California featured three different 'games' for each of three robot weight classes:

The FACE-OFF paired robots to battle through an elimination tournament. A robot won a match by immobilizing its opponent, either by damage or by pinning. If both robots were still mobile at the end of ten minutes, they both advanced to the next round of the tournament.
The MOB SCENE was a free-for-all melee fight amongst multiple robots. There were two Mob Scene fights: one for lightweight robots, and a never-repeated 'all weight classes' melee.
The ESCORT event had a single competitor robot escort a defenseless "drone" robot across the arena while a "house robot" attempted to attack the drone. The successful escort with the lowest time was declared the winner. The Escort event was contested only in 1994.

Weight classes for the first event were:

Lightweight: 10 to 40 pounds (4.5 to 18.1 kg)
Middleweight: 41 to 70 pounds (18.6 to 31.8 kg)
Heavyweight: 71 to 100 pounds (32.2 to 45.4 kg)
Superheavyweight 101 to 170 pounds (45.8 to 77.1 kg)

The competition format remained much the same through 1997. Additional safety regulations were implemented each year, match length was trimmed to 5 minutes, a 'featherweight' weight class was added, and weight allowances crept upward; by 1997 the heavyweight maximum was 170 pounds (77 kg).

The 1997 judging criteria removed pinning an opponent for 30 seconds as an automatic win and required such immobilization techniques to be limited to one minute. The 1997 judging criteria also removed 'audience applause' for selection of a winner when a match ended with both robots still mobile. Robots were judged by a panel based upon a point system that took into account three factors: damage, aggression, and control. Of these three factors, damage was the primary criteria for determining a winner.

Nickelodeon Robot Wars[edit]

In 2002, the American television network Nickelodeon created Nickelodeon Robot Wars, in which children operated combat robots provided by American teams.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b For series 5 and Extreme series 1, Martin Smith, Myra Wilson and Mat Irvine took it in turns.


  1. ^ "Robot Wars: Grand Champions". Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  2. ^ a b "Robot Wars Activated on Xbox". BBC. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  3. ^ "Home - Robot Wars". Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  4. ^ "History". Extreme Robots. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  5. ^ "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Robot Wars leaves BBC". BBC. 25 March 2003. 
  6. ^ John Plunkett. "BBC2's Robot Wars attracts more viewers than Top Gear reboot finale | Media". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  7. ^ "Twitter: Mentorn Media". November 25, 2016. Retrieved November 25, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "Robot Wars History". Marc Thorpe. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  9. ^ a b "Robot Wars History". Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  10. ^ "Interview with Craig Charles". Retrieved 2016-03-07. 
  11. ^ "Saturday night switch for Robot Wars". The Guardian. 21 November 2003. Retrieved 30 July 2016. 
  12. ^ "Robot Wars rebooted for BBC Two". Retrieved 2016-01-13. 
  13. ^ "BBC Press Office on Twitter". Twitter. 
  14. ^ Graeme Virtue. "There will be shrapnel: the return of Robot Wars | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  15. ^ "VIDEO: Robot Wars set to return to our screens ... filmed in a warehouse in Renfrew°". Herald Scotland. 7 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-21. 
  16. ^ "Robot Wars 2017: Is new series winning over critics? | The Week UK". 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  17. ^ Harrison, Ellie (2016-12-02). "Robot Wars: Battle of the Stars line-up: Robbie Savage and the Brownlee brothers join Christmas show". Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  18. ^ "BBC Two - Robot Wars - Episode guide". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  19. ^ "BBC Two - Robot Wars, Series 9: Teaser". Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  20. ^ "The Show - Robot Wars". Retrieved 2016-07-16. 
  21. ^ "Robot Wars Press Pack" (PDF). BBC Two. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  22. ^ a b "Robot Wars". SphereTV. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  23. ^ a b "The Presenters". Robots Rule. Retrieved 2006-11-18. 
  24. ^ "Dave Lister Biography". The SadGeezers Guide. Archived from the original on 2006-10-21. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  25. ^ "Philippa Forrester". BBC Radio Bristol. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  26. ^ "Philippa Forrester". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2006-11-19. 
  27. ^ "Jonathan Pearce | Metro News". 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  28. ^ "Robot Wars is Finally Coming Back to BBC After 12 Years". 13 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-03. 
  29. ^ "Robot Wars returns: How well do you remember the House Robots?". Metro. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 2016-03-01. 
  30. ^ Gill, James (23 June 2016). "The first proper look at the upgraded 2016 Robot Wars House Robots". Radio Times. Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  31. ^ "Robot wars battle arena case decided". The Daily Telegraph. London. 8 February 2010. 
  32. ^ "BBC Robot Wars - Page 9". Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  33. ^ "Trading Robot". Trading Club. Retrieved 2017-05-13. 

External links[edit]