A look back at the first episode of Robot Wars

With news about the return of Robot Wars after a last airing on TV 13 years ago on Channel 5, I decided to look back at the first series and see why people love watching people build robots only to see them get destroyed/burnt. In the seven series that ran originally we had two different presenters. First we had Jeremy Clarkson who is known mostly for driving around in fast cars and saying whatever he feels like. He was only there for one series as he was replaced by Craig Charles from series two until the show was taken off the air. Craig was mostly known at the time as Dave Lister in ‘Red Dwarf’. We also have pit reporters and a commentator. With all these in mind, let’s take a look at what robot fighting was like back in the late 90’s


HEAT A (aired 20th February 1998)
As all episodes of the show do, we open with our host Jeremy Clarkson who tells us, “Man may have tempered the spectre of nuclear evil. But tonight I have the unenviable task of reporting that warfare has been taken out of man’s hands. We’re now at the mercy of machines, and a battle, the likes of which we’ve never seen before, is about to begin. Outside the studio, women have lashed themselves to the railings. Britain is about to witness the birth…of Robot Wars, which is all about robots…fighting.”. Cut to Philippa Forrester and stock ‘look like you’re working on your robot’ footage with hammers, sparks and lots of metal. We then get the introduction of our house robots;
Shunt – A robot that can pull a Land Rover and has an axe and a scoop
Matilda – A robot with tusks and a chainsaw for a tail
Sgt. Bash – A robot with a flamethrower and a circular saw
Dead Metal – Last but not least, Dead Metal, a robot with a cutting arm and pincers.

Now lets find out who the first six robots are to compete in Heat A
Roadblock – A robot made out of road signs and has a circular saw in the rear and hails from Bodmin Community College
Killertron – A robot painted pink and has an axe and hails from Maidstone
Barry – A robot with a scoop and an F1 style spoiler and hails from Hagley Roman Catholic High School
Shogun – A box on wheels made by men who work at Rolls Royce and hails from Nottingham
Nemesis – A robot covered in fur and spiked and hails from Dublin
Grunt – A robot that looks like a door stopper and can reach speeds of 15mph and hails from Coventry

We then get details on ‘The Gauntlet’ by Philippa who tell us that there’s three routes to choose from.
First up… Roadblock who takes the right hand route and makes it to the end completing the course.
Next is… Barry who drive straight onto a grill and get stuck while Sgt Bash attacks them completing 2.93m.
Next is… Shogun who takes the central route with ramps. It’s crosses the first one with no problems but when they cross the second ramp, they fall out and complete 10.71m of the course
Next is… Nemesis who also takes the middle route with the ramps and completes the course in the fastest time out of the six
Next is… Grunt who speeds his way down the right route completing the course
Finally…. Killertron who take the middle route but gets knocked off the second ramp by Dead Metal into the commentator’s ‘Bent bed springs’ completing 11.02m of the course
1 – Nemesis (COMPLETED)
2 – Grunt (COMPLETED)
3 – Road Block (COMPLETED)
4 – Killertron (11.02m)
5 – Shogun (10.71m)
6  – Barry (2.93m) (ELIMINATED)

With Barry eliminated we get an update on some of the robots. Killertron suffered a flat tyre, Grunt is ok, Road Block claim they are the fastest wheelchair on earth and Nemesis make is sound like they are here on a bet with their mates.

Cut to Jeremy who explains our trail…. A sumo match with Shunt
First is… Shogun who gets shoved out the sumo ring after 21.51 seconds
Next is… Killertron who survive the time limit
Next is… Roadblock who knock Shunt out the ring driving themselves out in the process in a ‘death by glory’ moment
Next is… Nemesis who also knocks Shunt out of the ring but unlike Roadblock stays in the ring
Finally… Grunt who drives straight out of the ring after 4.15 seconds much to the surprise of the Shogun team. At least the driver owns up to his terrible driving
1 – Nemesis (SURVIVED)
2 – Killertron (SURVIVED)
3 – Roadblock (SURVIVED)
4 – Shogun (21.51 seconds)
5 – Grunt (4.15 seconds) (ELIMINATED)

Grunt is eliminated from the competition as it’s now time for combat. But first, we get a look at our judges incase the match reaches the time limit of 3 minutes. A robot veteran, a professor at Sheffield University and a man who broke a landspeed record

SEMI FINAL – Nemesis vs Roadblock
The match starts with Roadblock using it’s saw to shave some of Nemesis’s fur off  before driving into Matilda and gets stuck on the spikes. It escapes and lifts Nemesis with it’s ramp allowing Sgt Bash to light to torch on fire while Matilda saws off one of Nemesis’s eyes.


SEMI FINAL – Killertron vs Shogun
The match starts with Shogun cowering away from Killertron until Killertron attacks with it’s axe as Shogun drives onto a grill getting stuck. Sgt Bash tries to get involved with his saw but it flew off

We are told that Killertron’s axe is broken and might be unusable in the finals. Shogun says there speed controller died before the match

‘Straight in, straight out’ is the game plan for Roadblock heading into the finals while Killertron say admit that they don’t have a game plan

FINALS – Killertron vs Roadblock
Killertron attacks first with its axe but Roadblock scoops Killertron up and drives him into Sgt Bash. Killertron then drives on Roadblock’s ramp and gets flipped over

Roadblock are the winners of Heat A and advance to the Grand Final as Jeremy quickly ends the show with footage of the house robots attacking a defeated Killertron

Fun Facts about Heat A :-
There was a particular controversy over the actions of Grunt, the stock robot. Grunt was one of three stock robots to compete in Series 1, and, under the control of an experienced driver, it completed the Gauntlet with ease. This meant that Barry, one of the legitimate competitors, was eliminated at the Gauntlet stage. Grunt proceeded to dive off the podium in the Sumo. The Barry Team lamented on their website claiming that Barry would have been perfect for the Sumo.

At the end of the Roadblock/Nemesis match, a member of the camera crew tripped over the arena wall, landing a short distance from Nemesis and Matilda who had been caught on a grille. This incident was cut from the broadcast version, but shown in a compilation of highlights and bloopers

I hope you have enjoyed this. If so, let me know and I might consider looking at future episodes.


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