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Media Essays: The Career of Apollo

Title card

And now we're here with something different for a change. I've tackled robots that have appeared in both the classic and reboot eras and robots that have only appeared in the classic era. Now here's a robot that only appeared in the reboot era, and personally my favourite robot of the reboot era. That robot is the almighty flipper from outer space itself...Apollo.

Apollo

Named and themed after the famous Apollo space programmes by NASA, Apollo is one of the most famous and recognizable machines to come out of the Robot Wars reboot. It's easily among the Top 3 alongside Eruption and Carbide in terms of combat success, popularity and achievements and was also the first new UK Champion to be crowned after Robot Wars returned in 2016, succeeding Typhoon 2 after it was the last UK Champion to be crowned at the end of the classic era. Interestingly enough, Apollo has a history in the classic series of Robot Wars to some degree with it being a distant predecessor of Kronic the Wedgehog (yes really) and two of Apollo's teammates, Dave and Alan Young, actually competed in both seasons of Robot Wars Extreme in the antweight and featherweight divisions and even entered one of Series 7's featherweight melees. Talk about starting out small and making your way up to the big boys. XD


And so here we are to talk about Apollo's big name career in Robot Wars. What were the highs and lows of its time in the reboot? What were its biggest wins and biggest losses? And what's life like for it outside of Robot Wars? Let's dive in as I tell you all the story of Apollo's Robot Wars career...


Apollo's Career Launches Successfully

Apollo Series 8

Apollo first appeared in Heat D of Series 8, the first series of the reboot and the fourth episode. Apollo is a wedge-shaped robot coloured white and black with a chequered deco on the flipper, once again referencing NASA's Apollo space programmes and the colour of NASA's space shuttles and was warmed with a pneumatic flipper running at 1000psi. To go with the space theme, the team would even refer to the flipper as a "launcher". In this case, they could say their robot "launches" its opponents into outer space. Now that'll be the day if that literally happens for real, am I right? XD In all seriousness, the flipper is still powerful, able to launch a 100kg heavyweight six feet into the air and it had a half-power setting so it could self-right more effectively.


Apollo's design initially consisted of 6mm HARDOX steel at the front and 3mm HARDOX elsewhere and was also modelled after Chronic, a robot Alan Young built to enter the series BattleBots with. It had large buffer tanks that necessitated Team MAD to make Apollo's proportions larger than most of its opponents while also keep it to the 110kg heavyweight limit that the reboot introduced. Its ground clearance was around 3mm, the thickness of a pound coin.


Its first round melee saw it up against veterans Kan-Opener and PP3D (the machine was new but the team were from previous series, namely Gary Cairns from Team Typhoon) and new machine Sweeny Todd. It was a rocky start for Apollo for PP3D ended up slicing off one of its wheels and its mobility was impeded as a result, but it still managed to win the melee by knocking out Kan-Opener with one mighty flip and Sweeny Todd conked out from damage sustained by PP3D. I must also remind you guys that this marks the fourth series IN A ROW where Kan-Opener failed to get past the first round. Yep, even in the reboot it STILL can't win the first round. Some things never change, am I right guys?


After that melee, Apollo entered the Round Robin stages in where they faced PP3D first. Despite PP3D giving them trouble in the melee, Apollo were able to enact their revenge by flipping PP3D and the impact knocked out its safety link. Also ironically, Apollo ended up ripping off one of PP3D's tyres during the fight with their flipper. Talk about turnabout is fair play here!


The next round saw them facing the Series 7 runner-up, Third World Championship winners and New Blood Championship winners Storm 2. Now on paper, you'd think Storm 2 would win this with ease given what an unstoppable juggernaut that thing was in the classic era and even flipper bots could barely put up a fight against it. But I remind you, we're talking about SERIES 8 Storm 2, not Series 7 Storm 2. Series 8 Storm 2 was pretty much a shadow of its former self, being much slower and the new arena meant it couldn't really get off the big arena slams that it was able to do in the classic era. Still, it gave Apollo a tough tussle but Apollo were able to flip them over several times despite having drive problems, and also...

Dead Metal is flipped

...flipped over the House Robots for good measure. Not just Dead Metal as you see here...

Matilda is flipped

...but Matilda as well. You better believe that were funny to watch back in 2016 when it first aired. This fight also marks the first time the House Robots were flipped over by a contestant in the reboot. Apollo is also the second robot in Robot Wars history to successfully flip Dead Metal with Gravity being the first in Series 7. What's amazing is that even Gravity required several tries to actually flip Dead Metal over but Apollo pulled it off in one flip, and this is an upgraded and improved version of Dead Metal no less, so that was even more impressive! Anyway, Apollo was able to survive to a judge's decision, even narrowly avoiding being pitted by Storm 2 at the end and they won the match, giving them two victories out of three in this Round Robin match-up.

Their final battle was against Eruption and they ended up losing, though it didn't matter in the end as Apollo had enough points to secure a place in the Heat Final while Eruption lost its other two matches against Storm 2 and PP3D. So the Heat Final saw Apollo against Storm 2 and...

Shunt is flipped

...they flipped Shunt over, thus making it three House Robots they've flipped over in the same episode. They only need to flip Sir Killalot over and they've done all four, but that never happened as we'll get into later. Anyhow, Apollo flipped Storm 2 around a few times and eventually flipped them clean out of the arena.

Storm 2 is flipped out

I never thought I'd see the day where Storm 2 gets flipped out of the arena but here we are. Never doubt what can happen in Robot Wars! And so Apollo made it to the Grand Final on their first try, but they had some stiff competition to face there...


Apollo's Grand Victory

Apollo vs. Carbide vs. Shockwave

Their Grand Final reign started in a first-round melee with Carbide and Shockwave. And it wasn't a fight that lasted very long either for Shockwave pushed Carbide into the arena wall and Carbide's blade tore a piece of it away. Apollo's only contribution was getting a flip in on Carbide at the last minute before "Cease" was called for health and safety reasons. Shockwave took too much damage from Carbide so they couldn't participate in a rematch, hence Apollo and Carbide were through.


The Round Robin matches were next with Apollo starting off against TR2. As a battle of the flippers, both opponents got some flips in on each other but Apollo easily dominated the match, even nearly flipping TR2 out at one point, and they won when TR2 tried to self-right but got stuck on their backs with their flipper open because they didn't have enough CO2 left.

Next they fought Carbide...and died in literally four seconds when Carbide knocked the removable link out. Yeah, that one sucked. What sucked even more was that Carbide decided to be jerks and attack Apollo while it was immobilized, thus causing an unnecessary amount of extra damage. Geez, did anyone ever teach you about restraint, Carbide?


Luckily, Apollo wasn't too damaged and were able to fight one last time against Thor, whom Carbide had also mangled up in an earlier fight. It was clear Thor was still reeling from Carbide's attacks for Apollo merely flipped it a few times and then a piece fell off of Thor and they ended up stuck on their backs thanks to the Floor Flipper and couldn't get up again.

Apollo Champions

And thus the Grand Final was Apollo vs. Carbide, and this time Apollo were able to last longer than four seconds. In fact, Apollo were able to just keep ramming into Carbide head on until the latter's blade stopped working and thus Carbide weren't able to do anything as Apollo flipped and pushed them around several times and even when Apollo's flipper stopped working, the space bot was still on top by the end. As a result, the judges rewarded the victory to them and Apollo became the reboot's first UK Champion and the first robot to win Robot Wars since Typhoon 2 in Series 7. It was also the first robot in the show's history to win the series while also losing battles at the same time, a feat only made possible because of the format of the reboot. It was a well-earned victory and they fought so well for it, but sadly their reign was very short-lived...


Carbide Claims Vengeance

Apollo Series 9

As the reigning champions, Apollo returned for Series 9 to defend their title. Humorously, in February 2017, the official Apollo Twitter account said the machine wouldn't be returning due to "problems"...and then it turned out to be just a prank and they were coming back after all. Heh, gotta love guys with a sense of humour, eh readers?


The Series 9 incarnation of Apllo gained a new 100mm bore ram for the flipper that produces five tonnes of force, as well as new speed controllers from VEX Robotics. The official Robot Wars website entry listed its armour as a composite of steel, hardened steel (HARDOX) and HDPE. Other than that, Apollo was largely unchanged from last time, even bearing some of the original model's battle scars. Yeah, that totally didn't bite them in the ass for this series. Nope, not at all! =P

Apollo vs. Carbide

Apollo appeared in Heat E, the last episode of Series 9 before the Grand Final, and for some incredibly weird reason, it was in the same episode as Carbide. Just...WHAT?! Who's the crazy guy who thought that was a good idea? Surely you'd want Apollo and Carbide to be in different episodes so they could potentially rematch each other in the Grand Final? I can't begin to fathom why this decision was made and why it was allowed to go ahead. You know the classic series never would've done that.


Still, Apollo started off strong by dominating their melee against Rusty, Ms. Nightshade and Coyotye but come the Round Robin section, they ended up against Carbide first...like...I can't even comprehend this. It's like the producers were determined to screw with Apollo and make sure Carbide won the episode. X( It was this moment that really messed up Apollo's chances of another Grand Final for they got mauled by Carbide and never really recovered from the damage. Sure they still managed to win their fights against Coyote and the clusterbot Crackers N' Smash but it was clear Apollo weren't going to be at their best by the end and as a result, they lost rather easily to Carbide again without even getting to fire a single flip on them. And so Apollo became the first ever robot, and even now is still the ONLY robot in the show to lose a heat in the same series it was the reigning Champion in. But it wasn't over yet. Apollo won the wildcard vote so they still managed to get to the Grand Final, making it the only Champion in Robot Wars to reach a Grand Final in this manner. So Apollo had a second chance at the title. Did it succeed? Eh...

Aftershock kills Apollo

...nope.


Their eliminator melee against Aftershock and Eruption saw the arena floor get damaged and Apollo get stuck at one point, which let them open for Aftershock to attack. The floor was fixed and the fight was resumed...only for Apollo to get knocked out by Aftershock in one titanic hit that left it a battered mess. As a result, Apollo's reign as Champion was over and they left Series 9 in a very sorry state. Not a grand run for the Champions...


Apollo's Shocking Exit

Apollo Series 10

Apollo were back again for Series 10 and this time, they were properly upgraded. A brand new version of the robot was built to replace the original after it was wrecked by Carbide and Aftershock. It was designed in CAD over a few weeks and adopted a laser-cut HARDOX chassis with plating varying in thickness from 3.2mm to 6mm. An overhauled visual design brought about a revised colour scheme, LED lights and side panels with mock thrusters, with the robot's logo now being cut into the top flipper panel. Apollo's flipper received further upgrades, including revisions to its pneumatics for increased flow and a suite of interchangeable arms to combat a variety of different spinner types. Its most significant upgrade was a new drive system, replacing the original 750W motors with two Ampflow A28-400 motors running at 48v through the VEX Victor BB speed controllers. Top speed for the Series 10 Apollo was increased over the Series 8-9 build from 12 to 20mph, with 17kW (approximately 22.8bhp) of drive power available over the previous 2hp. So yeah, it was proper looking stronger for this series.

Apollo vs. The Swarm vs. Apocalypse

Apollo returned in the very first heat of Series 10 with much promise and a chance at redemption after Series 9. They wasted no time showing off their upgraded machine by dominating their melee against Apocalypse and The Swarm. Apocalypse's weapons didn't work and it sort of just died on the flame pit while The Swarm couldn't even do anything to Apollo because of how tiny they are. Apollo even managed to launch one of them out the arena! And yet shockingly, they NEARLY got disqualified after winning! Why? In a sequence not shown on TV, Apollo tried to flip Sir Killalot over as he was carrying Apocalypse away. He wasn't attacking Apocalypse, he was carrying it back to the entrance gate for removal so Apollo shouldn't have been attacking Sir Killalot. Thankfully they were let off and remained in the competition. Would've been interesting if they did keep that in the episode for a bit of drama though...


After an easy melee, they were up against Sabertooth and had no real trouble dealing with them, even managing to flip the yellow robot out of the arena. Their Heat Final was against Behemoth. Now Behemoth's never been the best at handling powerful flippers so this match looked like an easy win for Apollo with their Grand Final position all but assured...

Apollo is pitted

...oh right, that happened.


Hard luck Apollo but eh, Behemoth were owed a victory like this after so many unlucky losses so it's hard to feel bad for Apollo. I know I was happy for Behemoth when this was over. :D


So...yeah, Apollo had a shockingly early exit, which gives it the rather unfortunate record of being the second Championship winner other than Panic Attack to lose two heats in a row.

Apollo loses the 10 robot rumble

It had another chance at getting back into the competition via the 10 robot rumble. It fought against Eruption, Concussion, Explusion, Thor, Big Nipper, Sabretooth, Terorhurtz, Track-tion and Iron-Awe 6 but unfortunately, it was defeated at the last minute by Eruption. Apollo was the last robot to be knocked out in the fight, surviving right to the end until Eruption flipped it over and it couldn't self-right as it ran out of gas. Thus Apollo was eliminated from Series 10 completely while Eruption would go on to win the series. The 10 robot rumble is complete chaos and you have to see it for yourself. This YouTuber even uploaded an extended cut so you can see more of it!

Apollo World Series

Despite an early exit from Series 10, Apollo weren't finished yet. They competed in the World Series, the last tournament the reboot ever hosted as it would be prematurely cancelled afterwards. And yes, I AM still bitter about that! XP But anyways, Apollo would be the captain of Team UK and the machine was decorated with Union Jack paintings to emphasize that it was part of Team UK.


They alongside Gabriel won their melee against TMHWK and Cobra on a judge's decision and the battle also saw them flip Dead Metal over (again). Then they battled against the fan-favourite Diotoir in a battle that saw them claim the World Championship crown for Team UK after the fluffy Irish machine was set on fire and flipped onto its side where it got stuck. After that, Apollo would proceed to try and flip Sir Killalot over again.

Failed flip on Sir Killalot

I did say they "tried". They got quite close though! But no, Sir Killalot can still proudly boast about how he's never been flipped.


And that's the end of Apollo's story. They ended the reboot era on a high note despite a lot of unfortunate losses and in a way, concluded their run as a Champion once more. Pity the reboot was so short-lived as I bet Apollo could've won another series but what are you gonna do...


Nowadays, Team MAD still compete in robot battles with Apollo and made appearances at RoboNerd in 2019 and 2023. They also were NOT pleased when a machine called Soaring Shell appeared in the Chinese series Clash Bots and the machine clearly plagarized Apollo's design.

I mean look at this crap! It's like if you asked an AI to generate an image of Apollo and this was the result! No wonder they weren't happy about this obvious rip-off! It clearly wasn't a good rip-off either since it lost its only battle! Serves them right for copying I say. Goes to show a rip-off can never match up to the real thing. XD

Apollo Robots Live! 2019

I also must tell you about how I actually saw the real Apollo in person and even met the team. No joke, I attended the Robots Live! event at Grantham in 2019 and had a VIP pass so I could go backstage and see Apollo up close and even get a feel of it. I even took this picture of the machine when I was backstage. I even had a picture taken with Apollo's team captain, Dave Young!

Yep, that's me right there with Dave Young of Team MAD. He was a really nice guy too. ^^ If you're curious, Apollo only had a whiteboard match with a machine named Vulcan, they didn't compete in the actual competition itself. Most of its Robots Live! event appearances are like this apparently. They did compete in a Featherweight Melee with Rocket, a miniature version of Apollo. They got flipped out by the arena flipper. Yeah, talk about taking off like a rocket. XD


Conclusion

Team Mad

Apollo is the Panic Attack of the reboot era: it won the first series it appeared in and then never managed to win the title again and would crash out in the heats in its last two seasons. As is, Apollo is a machine that always looked good in the arena and gave everyone watching a good show with their powerful flipper and driving skills. The reboot wouldn't have been the same without Apollo and I'm glad that as short-lived as the reboot was, we got this machine in it. Apollo deserves to be hailed as a modern legend for Robot Wars and I always loved watching it onscreen whenever it was in an episode. And the fact I saw the real thing makes it even more special to me. If Robot Wars miraculously returns in the future, I hope Apollo will be there to launch opponents into outer space once again...


And that's it for this essay. I hope you enjoyed hearing about Apollo and its career in Robot Wars. Do feel free to share your thoughts down below. Do you have any favourite Apollo moments? What was their best fight in your opinion? Do tell me.


Next week, I'll be counting down my Top 10 Favourite Bon Jovi Songs. See you then media fans!


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