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Media Essays: Robot Wars At Christmas

Title card

This title likely has you scratching your head so much you've peeled all the hair off the top of your head. What does Robot Wars have to do with Christmas you may ask? And you're right to wonder but trust me, it all makes sense later.


One time in the classic era and one time in the reboot era, Robot Wars did legitimately air Christmas specials, although of course these specials didn't have much to do with Christmas and was still about robots kicking the crap out of each other. As is, even this show managed to have Christmas specials and that's what this essay is all about. I'll be giving a retrospective of these Christmas specials in favour of the upcoming holiday and given I love Robot Wars and Christmas, how can I not do this? Also I'm pretty sure I'm the only content creator on the internet who's ever written anything like this so yay, I get points for originality! XD


Without further ado let's celebrate Christmas by diving into the Robot Wars Christmas specials...


The Classic Era

Celebrity Special

The original series only ever had four Christmas specials and they all came at the end of Series 4. Funny enough, despite being "Christmas" specials, they all aired after the holiday itself with them airing on December the 27th all the way to December the 30th. Still it is in the post-Christmas period before New Year's so I guess they still count.


The first of these specials was a Celebrity Special. This episode saw various celebrities teaming up with Robot Wars contestants in a straight knock-out tournament that consisted of eight contestants competing in one-on-one matches with first round knockouts, semi-finals and a final match. For this special, the robots themselves were given a bit of a dress-up to further reference their celebrity partners. For the contestants we had:

Shauna Lowry and Wild Thing

Wild Thing with Shauna Lowry (TV presenter best known for Animal Hospital)

Vic Reeves and Diotoir

Diotoir with Vic Reeves (comedian and artist, one half of Reeves and Mortimor)

The Turner Sisters and Gemini

Gemini with Anthea and Wendy Turner (both TV presnters)

Chris Eubank and Killertron

Killertron with Chris Eubank (former heavyweight boxing champion in middleweight and super middleweight class)

Shane Lynch and Sir Chromalot

Sir Chromalot with Shane Lynch (singer, member of the band Boyzone)

5ive and Disc-O-Inferno

Disc-O-Inferno with 5ive (English boy band)

Adam Woodyatt and Pussycat

Pussycat with Adam Woodyatt (English actor known for being in EastEnders)

Natalie Cassidy and Iron-Awe

Iron-Awe with Natalite Cassidy (English actress also known for being in EastEnders)


Funny how this is a celebrity special and yet I've personally never heard of any of these people except for maybe Shane Lynch and possibly Chris Eubank too. That's Britain for you, their celebrity specials always consists of celebrities that nobody's actually heard of. XD


Anyway, to fit in with the Celebrity Special gimmick, the rule was that the celebrity themselves had to control the robot for at least a minute before passing the controls back over to the team they were partnered with.


Broadcast on BBC One on December the 27th 2000 (and it was the ONLY episode of the series to ever air on BBC One), the special itself is...not good I'm sorry to say. I'd even rank it as among the worst Robot Wars episodes ever made. What could've been a fun gimmicky episode was utterly marred by terrible editing that made the fights confusing to watch at times and there's far too many times where we cut to shots of the celebrities when we should be focusing on the fight itself and the House Robots just got way too trigger-happy. I really have no idea what was going on here but they kept interfering with the fight for whatever reason and unfairly eliminating competitors. Wild Thing especially got dumped in the pit by Sir Killalot despite it clearly not being out yet. The fights themselves often came off as rushed or hard to follow, again thanks to the terrible editing, so the whole thing felt more frustrating than fun to watch. If the House Robots just stayed put and not kept interfering so much then we might've had a better episode.


For the winner, we had Adam Woodyatt and Pussycat coming out on top because it's Pussycat, that thing wins nearly every side-competiton it gets into. XD Amusingly enough, Natalie Cassidy joined Adam on the team after Pussycat beat Iron-Awe. Talk about "joining the winning team". XD On paper you'd think Wild Thing or Gemini might've had the best chance of winning and yet somehow, both of them lost to Diotoir. Yes, THEY LOST TO DIOTOIR! Of all machines! In a proper battle, Diotoir wouldn't have stood a chance against either of them but thanks to House Robot interference and stupidity of the Turner sister's parts (seriously, they flipped Diotoir over numerous times and kept self-righting it! So dumb!) they ended up losing. But hey, Diotoir is a robot that's full of surprises as we all know. They did beat Tornado in Series 5 after all. ;)


Still, this was not a good episode and even as a die-hard Robot Wars fan, I just can't recommend this to anyone, not even to someone who wants to watch the show for the first time. The next special thankfully is a step-up from this.

Tag Team Terror

Ah yes, the Tag Team Terror. Always one of my favourite side competitions in Robot Wars. We was meant to get one in Series 3 but a long series of behind-the-scenes shenanigans put the kibosh on that idea but Series 4 got to see it brought to life at last.


The gameplay is simple: two robots are paired up together and one can fight at a time. They have to tag their opponents if they want to switch out and let them fight for a while. Yeah...as any Robot Wars fan can tell you, they NEVER follow that rule. XD Unlike other Tag Team Terror tournaments, the arena was marked with red and blue areas to designate where each team would be stationed. It was again a straight knockout tournament with two knockout rounds, a third-place playoff and a Grand Final. The teams were:


(Apologies for the bad quality photos, I couldn't get any better ones.)

Firestorm and Scorpion

Firestorm II and Scorpion

Bigger Brother and Plunderbird 4

Bigger Brother and Plunderbird 4

X-terminator and Inverterbrat

Inverterbrat and X-terminator

King B3 and 101

King B3 and 101


The teams are overall a mixed bag here. Nearly every team has one really good robot and one really bad robot, almost as if to make the fights more balanced or something. The only exception is King B3 and 101, both of whom are good robots so it's no surprise that they're the ones who won the tournament in the end. I mean imagine being the Firestorm team right now. You have this really cool looking robot that's got a powerful flipper and a good wedge shape to get under robots easily to flip them over...and you get teamed up with SCORPION. Of all machines! You get paired with the crappy joke bot that has a chainsaw for a weapon! If I was in their shoes, I'd demand another partner! XD


And yes, I know, it's weird how 101 and King B teamed up as they're rivals. King B beat 101 in Series 2 and 101 beat King B in Series 3 so how they ended up teaming up is anyone's guess.

King B3 vs. 101

Not that the alliance last long anyway. After they won they just turned on each other because of course they did. Best of enemies forever I guess. XD


As I say, this episode is better than the Celebrity Special but is it actually good on its own? Absolutely! Not only is the editing much better here but the fights are genuinely fun and chaotic to watch at times and even have their funny moments such as X-Terminator's epic fail when it drove into the pit at the end of the playoff and the cameras actually focus ON the fighting unlike the last one! The House Robots also don't interfere with the battles either so the knockouts are more genuine here. We also have some unusual turnouts here what with this being the only time Firestorm EVER lost a fight by breaking down. That's so unusual to see as the Firestorm machines are usually very well made and never breakdown yet Firestorm II just conks out unceremoniously and its partner somehow lasts longer. Weird isn't it? XD


Overall this was a damn fun episode and a great first Tag Team Terror Tournament for the series. Airing on BBC Two on December the 28th 2000, the special managed to rake in 1.7 million viewers and was ranked joint 24th alongside Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (not the Gary Oldman movie) in the Top 30 programmes that week. Pretty good showing for a late Christmas special I'd say.

Annihilator

The last two specials are pretty much the same tournament just with a different theme so I'll cover them both here. On December the 29th and 30th 2000 respectively, we had the Northern and Southern Annhiliators. The names speak for themselves. The tournaments would feature six robots in a straight knockout tournament but the sturcture here is that we have six back-to-back battles with one robot less in each round. For example we start with six robots but then one has to lose so the next round has five robots, then four, then three and so forth. The winner is the last robot standing by the end. For the Northern Annihilator we had:

Chaos 2

Chaos 2

Spikasaurus

Spikasaurus

Suicidal Tendencies

Suicidal Tendencies

Killerhurtz

Killerhurtz

Stinger

Stinger

Dominator 2

Dominator 2


Pretty good line-up I'd say. ^^ Now on paper, you'd think Chaos 2 or Dominator 2 would ace this tournament...but neither of them did. Chaos 2 went out in Round 1 when everybody pretty much ganged up on it. Poor thing really got a good bashing and walloping from the axes everywhere! For the rest of the machines, Stinger went out next, then Suicidal Tendencies and then Killerhurtz. Dominator 2 made it to the final against Spikasaurus.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND...they lost. No I'm serious. =P They broke down during the fight so Spikasaurus of all robots ended up being the winner. Hey, Annihilators are full of surprises with who ends up winning in the end. Still, it's pretty impressive that the unimpressive spike robot of all things ended up winning in the end. At least they can claim they won something. Not even Hypno-Disc can make that claim despite a far better track record!


For the Southern Annhiliator, we had:

Razer

Razer

Behemoth

Behemoth

Atilla the Drum

Atilla the Drum

Onslaught

Onslaught

Spawn of Scutter

Spawn of Scutter

Vercingetorix

Vercingetorix


This too was a good match-up of bots with a variety of designs and weapons on display. Unlike the Northern Annihilator, there's no surprises with this one. Razer (obviously) won in the end which makes this one less interesting to watch as a result because who won was so obvious. For the order of who lost, Vercingetorix went first, then Spawn of Scutter, then Behemoth and then Atilla the Drum with Razer vs. Onslaught as the final. The outcome was predictable as all hell...

Razer destroys Matilda

...but it's still insanely memorable for the fact that after Razer won against Onslaught, it spent the rest of the fight eating Matilda alive. Don't take that the wrong way. XD What's interesting is that this moment was suspected to have been done on purpose because they were planning to rebuild Matilda in the next series and make her stronger so it might explain why the House Robots barely put any effort into stopping Razer and why Matilda seems to just let Razer start biting into her. There's no official confirmation on that but the theory has merit so it does make you wonder...


Both Annhilators are great to watch with the Northern one being the most enjoyable for the less predictable outcome of it while the Southern one is the most memorable. Still, I consider them both to be among the best Annhilators in the show and probably the best episodes of all the Series 4 Christmas Specials. It seems the audience agrees too for at the time, both were the most viewed of all four specials with the Nothern Annhilator getting 2.74 million viewers and the Southern Annhilator getting 3.96 million viewers and it even ranked FIRST in the Top Thirty highest rated BBC Two programmes that week! If only Robot Wars could enjoy viewing figures and ratings like that these days then maybe the BBC wouldn't keep cancelling it BUT I'M NOT BITTER!!!! X(


Ahem, so there you have it folks. That's all four of the Series 4 Christmas Specials. One was a dud but the other three are classics and highly recommended watches for any Robot Wars fan and for anyone wanting to get into the show for the first time. Maybe you can check them out for a new and unusual way to celebrate Christmas this year. ;)


Sadly, the next time we had Christmas specials didn't go so well. Enter...


The Reboot Era

Battle of the Stars

It wouldn't be until the reboot era until we got another Christmas special. We only got two in this case with the World Specials technically being New Year specials rather than Christmas specials so I'm not covering them for this retrospective.


The two specials are pretty much the same as the Series 4 Celebrity Specials, these ones titled "Battle of the Stars". The difference here is that the robots are all brand new and custom made for the specials and we don't have celebrities paired up with pre-existing robots. That really sucks because it would've given us a more entertaining pair of episodes but I'm getting ahead of myself. It is rather neat that they went more creatively here and built new machines. Also the machines WERE built by Robot Wars veterans such as Team Carbide, Team Danby and more. The machines and their celebrity partners are:

Arena Cleaner

Arena Cleaner with Scott Mills and Chris Stark (both Radio DJs known for The Scott Mills Show)

Interstellar MMR

Interstellar MMR with Dr. Maggie Aderin-Peacock (scientist)

JAR

JAR with Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee (triathletes known for competing in the Olympic Games)

The Cat

The Cat with Suzi Perry and Dallas Campball (both presenters known for The Gadget Show)


For Episode 2 we had:

Kadeena Machina

Kadeena Machina with Kadeena Cox (Paralympian who competed in the Rio 2016 Paralympics)

Soldier Ant

Soldier Ant with Neil Oliver (TV presenter, archaeologist and author, known for Vikings)

Robo Savage

Robo Savage with Robbie Savage (retired footballer, once played for Manchester United)

Dee

Dee with Jordan Stephens (rapper, one half of pop duo Rizzle Kicks)


Aside from Robbie Savage, these are once again celebrities I've never heard of and I doubt even people from the UK know who these people are either. XD What's interesting is that some of these machines got recoloured and reskinned into other robots for the World Series later on, most notably Kadeena Machina who became the newest version of Diotoir.

Looks good as Diotoir, doesn't it? ;)


These episodes are pure embarassment and if you ever want to humilate a Robot Wars fan, you look to these episodes. They're easily the worst of the reboot with very short and boring fights that are over way too quickly and feature junky robots that break way too easily. And of course, the overpowered spinners are the big problem with why these episodes were so boring to watch. Spinners are just too powerful nowadays so it often gets to the point that one hit from a big spinner can kill the robots stone dead instantly. The ONLY highlight I can think of from these episodes is that in Episode 1, in what was clearly meant as a match to fill-in time because the episode would've been too short otherwise, we get to see the hosts Dara O'Brien and Angela Scanlon have a battle together controlling TR2 and Behemoth respectively. That was pretty funny. XD


As is, if you want to give people a reason NOT to watch the show then these are the episodes to show them. They're embarassing and all they did was likely harm the reboot's reputation going forward for people probably thought Robot Wars was like this and didn't want to watch anymore. I'm not saying these episodes are the reason the reboot failed of course but I imagine they played a small part in it. I wouldn't recommend these episodes to anyone, not even someone who is as obsessed with Robot Wars as I am. Just don't watch them, you're saving yourselves a big waste of time...


And that was it for the reboot. Just two medicore celebrity specials with nothing memorable about them other than how they're memorably bad episodes of the show. Not the merriest Christmas one could have with Robot Wars am I right? :/


Conclusion

Sir Killalot Claus

Robot Wars didn't have many Christmas specials but for what they had, at least three of them are good pieces of entertainment and in the case of the Annhiliators are absolute classic episodes of the show while the celebrity specials are some of the worst episodes of the show. A very hit-and-miss track record for sure. Still I can recommend both the Annihilators and the Tag Team Terror episodes and if you want a new way to celebrate Christmas this year and also see some fun, action-packed episodes of Robot Wars, then give them a watch. If Robot Wars ever comes back again (fat chance), I'll be curious to see if they decide to do another Christmas special. Who knows what they'd do if that ever happened again...


And that's it for this essay. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you to share your thoughts down below. Do you enjoy these specials? Do you not enjoy them? Are you interested to check them out? Feel free to comment away.

Next week I'm reviewing Arthur Christmas. See you then media fans!


Marc Thorpe

Dedicated to Marc Thorpe

For the man who invented the sport of robot combat and made Robot Wars possible

Rest In Peace


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