Robot Wars TV review: like cock-fighting, except with more moving parts

After 12 years off the air, Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon reignite the nerdosphere’s appetite for destruction


As Top Gear trundles off towards the scrapyard, a new assortment of metallic machines moves in to take its place. Robot Wars (BBC Two, Sunday) has returned after 12 years, with new presenters and a new array of deadly droids ready to do battle in the arena.

This time it’s an Irish takeover – Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon are the presenters on this rebooted, retooled and recharged show, with Jonathan Pearce returning to give his inimitable blow-by-blow commentary.

The format is pretty much unchanged: teams of geeky engineers pit their robotic inventions against each other in a purpose-built arena in Glasgow. There are no Queensberry rules – just the brute force of metal on metal, as the machines bash the bejasus out of each other, watched by a bloodthirsty (oilthirsty?) crowd.

It’s silly, pointless and metal-shreddingly good fun. The robots have names that sound like heavy metal bands: Terrorhurtz, Behemoth and Kill-E-Crank-E. The series’ original “house robots” – Sir Killalot, Matilda, Dead Metal and Shunt – have been upgraded to be bigger and more brutal than ever, and the arena features such hazards as Fire, Spikes and the Iconic Pit.

READ MORE

In the past 12 years, digital technology has evolved in leaps and bounds, but Robot Wars still relies on old-fashioned mechanical stuff – sawblades, chopping axes, and anything else with a capacity to mangle and mutilate. It's strange watching the robots inflicting such violence on each other – like watching a cockfight or hare coursing. You keep having to remind yourself that these are not living creatures, so it's all right to enjoy watching them heartlessly dismembering each other.

O’Briain and Scanlan are clearly enjoying themselves too, and nobody’s going around trying to pretend there’s some higher purpose here beyond bashing your way to the grand final. At the end of the show, the arena is littered with dead-droid detritus - and our primal, geeky bloodlust is sated until next week.