So the series has ended and what a series of ups and downs it was. Tonight six robots entered; the previous winners Carbide, Shockwave, TR2, Apollo, and Pulsar, along with wildcard entry Thor who the judges chose as the best runner-up.
In the initial heats Shockwave and Pulsar left the show, with Carbide causing an arena wall breach that ended the fight after 30 seconds and during the reset Shockwave admitting it couldn’t fight after Carbide had destroyed its drive system while Pulsar once again just didn’t bloody move and was therefore stationary and eliminated.
After this we went to the head to head rounds which is where my problems with the episode really started. As those who have been watching the show this series will know a robot will fight 3 bouts during this part rather than just the previous semi-final phase. While on the surface this seems fairer (as everyone has the same fights) it fell apart tonight as anyone who faced Carbide early faced an unfair disadvantage in the later fights, most aptly demonstrated by Thor who was literally torn apart in the first fight yet was still allowed to continue, meaning TR2 easily won its fight with the crippled robot. Despite these problems however the most deserving of the non-Carbide entries went forward which was powerful flipper Apollo.
While the Grand Final started off well the other major problem that the head to heads cause, which is general fatigue and damage to the machines, reared its head with Carbide’s spinning blade failing in the first 30 seconds and Apollo’s propellant running out in just over a minute, leaving the last two minutes of the fight a Benny Hill scenario as the two chased each other around the arena and the end result being a judge’s decision to Apollo. While I agree this was the right call the situation it came from wasn’t a good one.
Overall my thoughts on the reboot series are as follows. Out of all the one-offs and series reboots done by the BBC recently, including the failures of Top Gear 2016 and the Are You Being Served? special, this was one in which the production company really understood not only what the show was about but also how to bring it back in a way that wasn’t reliant on nostalgia. Despite this however the series was clearly plagued with issues throughout, with the last two episodes feeling tired due to mechanical issues among competitors and it becoming increasingly obvious everything was filmed in a most likely 1-3 day window as robots in the final, Thor in particular, quite visibly still showed the injuries from their heats.
While the presenting was a bit haphazard in the first episode the presenting team of O’Briain and Scanlon worked well, with much more varied interviews both in the pit and on stage than previous series which saw Charles doing most of the work. Despite this however O’Briain probably best personifies the presentation problem the show had which was that it was good but fairly homogeneous with other BBC shows and lacking that distinct punk persona that made the original so loved.
Hopefully the show comes back for more, hopefully with a more distinct style for itself, and makes key changes to the fights such as spreading filming out over a longer period to allow robots a better chance for repair work after the heats and also getting rid of the head to heads in favour of the old ‘challenge’ style tests and the traditional semi-finals.