Review: Robot Wars (Season 8, Episode 1)


A slick, sharp reboot of a beloved classic, with the right element of nostalgia and plenty of promise. Take note BBC, this is how you reboot a show.

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When you consider the recent track record of the BBC in regards to rebooting and relaunching classic TV shows in recent years, it is safe to say the record is mixed at best. Certainly, one obvious one would stand out as being poorly redesigned and over-tampered with by executives (clue: it rhymes with ‘Lop Shear’).

Thankfully, Robot Wars has not suffered from unnecessary changes, and has been made with one intent in mind: to entertain. The prospect of robots slogging it out to the bitter end in a custom-built metal arena is one that will entice, at least, most adolescents and young boys; but thankfully the show’s fan base is much larger, including girls and boys, males and females – fans from the old days.

In addition, the reboot is clean, cut and slick. The more mechanical, custom-built arena pays homage to the older days, with the classic flamethrowers, drop pits and flippers, not to mention the deadly House Robots prowling in their corner. With their new coats of paint, sharper weapons and brooding attitude, they are as menacing as ever, and will still remain an iconic element.

Equally sharp are the presenting team. Although the charismatic Craig Charles has not returned, so we have to say goodbye to his outlandish and at times comical reactions in competitor interviews, but he has been replaced by Dara O’Briain, whose acidic witty tongue is perfectly off-played by his underlying intelligence and strong knowledge regarding robotics. The nostalgic will say Charles is still a long way ahead of O’Briain, but his debut performance did show an awful lot of promise, especially when you consider recent presenter debuts for BBC reboots.

Jonathan Pearce remains a faithful figurehead from the glory days of before, and as usual his mastery of the microphone is superb. Although he has been more focused on sports commentary, mainly Match of the Day, in the last few years, his commentary felt as if he had never been away, cutting straight to the point and keeping a keen eye on the action.

Finally, we have the warm and softer-spoken Angela Scanlon, who has great banter with the robotics teams in the backstage area. The addition of the segments discussing the development of the teams and the robots is a welcome touch which brings you closer to the action. Although it isn’t exactly the technical analysis that the old show had, it is more akin to family audience, with a minimal amount of complex language and technical statistics. After all, we are watching a show about robots battling, not a documentary of automation.

The trio make a great combination between them, and certainly a lot of promise came from their interaction in the first episode; albeit that it was minimal. Although it is early in the series, the general format has been kept the same, and this is a winning formula. The robots are more powerful, the mechanics are more sophisticated, but the Battle Royale-esque action is still the same. And that is the most important thing. We still have a long way to go to match the glory days of Charles, and reaching the level of that iconic television. But this new show certainly wasn’t “In the Pit”.

Robot Wars will continue to air its six-part season Sundays on BBC Two, at 8pm.


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