Late is the hour, and smoke rises from those holes in the arena floor where that set of spikes used to be. It’s time for Episode 5 of Robot Wars!
Round One: Expulsion vs. Thor vs. Coyote
Expulsion, like Track-tion, are a team of schoolkids. And, like Track-tion, they’re just about likable enough not to come across as precocious, unlike some roboteers I could name, possibly competing in this very heat. Team captain Georgina cuts a white meat babyface promo about wanting to encourage more women into engineering. Some say Georgina started the Women’s Revolution. There is also a clusterbot called Detention, which adds to the great gimmick, though as a former schoolteacher (one month before I jacked it in in a fit of utter desolation at facing the little cunts for a moment longer) I am bound to point out that Expulsion really should be called Permanent Exclusion.
Thor is back! This is very pleasing, as it’s one of the best-driven robots in the sport. Captain Jason, a builder by trade, is seen smashing masonry in a vignette, in the same way Thor: Ragnarok drove a big ol’ Mjolnir through the franchise’s existing characterisation of its cast. Yes, I will be making more jokes about Old Norse mythology, thank you for asking.
Jason says he spends 50% of his time thinking about Thor. Me too, mate. Me too.
Coyote’s captain says he works with tools all the time. I’m sure many of us know the feeling. This is definitely a team with style; the surface of the robot’s gripping weapon is covered in images of old timepieces, and the woman who serves as the team’s ace welder (who apparently has this skill despite not even being a professional engineer, kudos!) has amazing 90s AJW main eventer hair. Angela does some sort of Kris Wolf noise to send the squad off to battle. I think she was meant to be imitating a coyote, but it didn’t sound much like Johnny Cash to me.
Jonathan Pearce talks about the prospect of “kung fu kicking robots down the pit”. To be fair, he has seen a fine example of such a fighting technique up close.
Coyote immediately grips and rams Expulsion into the CPZ. “Oh no, it’s already stuck!” cries one of the kids, realising they’ve just suffered the Robot Wars equivalent of sharting yourself two minutes into a GCSE Physics exam. Detention, the clusterbot, winds up on the grille and is too diddy to drive off of it. It’s all very tragic.
Dario’s Dial of Doom is activated and Dead Metal is out for blood (or at least motor oil), but Thor escapes. The Asgardian deity’s lightning speed – See what I did? Eh? Fuck you – means the slightly unwieldy Coyote can’t get much of a grip on it, and when it does ram Thor up against the wall, Jason frees his bot with a huge axe blow. The two competitors go at it hell for leather, with the immobilised Detention rather bathetically getting squished in the middle, Dead Metal gets released again and runs over Detention, at which point Thor and Coyote team up to fight back on behalf of the kids, like a pair of parents who turn up at the school in the morning to harangue the head of year about how little Jared should be allowed to play with his 3DS in class because they wouldn’t have a problem with it at home.
After Dead Metal’s sent packing to write an aggrieved letter to the NUT, Thor and Coyote start scrapping again. A big strike from Thor renders Coyote’s grabber stuck with its head down much like your mum last night, and the clock expires with the two trading Big Japan-style shoulderblocks. Thor wins a unanimous judges’ decision, and Angela lauds Jason’s newfound aggressive style. She doesn’t want a Jason that gives her hugs. She wants THE OOOOOOOOLD JASON. ***3/4
Round One: Magnetar vs. Hobgoblin vs. Push to Exit
Magnetar is the latest creation from self-taught “boy genius” (get used to hearing that) Elliot, whose previous robot Pulsar was destructive in patches but struggled with its drive, much like me in 2016. The new name makes it sound like a Pokemon, maybe a next-stage evolution of Magneton, complete with a Pokemon card with something stupid like 180 or 200 HP because that’s the way society is going. I remember when I was a lad there were no Pokemon with over 120. Damn inflation, fuck the Tories. Elliot apparently dropped out of school at 15 to concentrate on robotics, like our Lord and Saviour Atsushi Onita. It had better be fucking good.
The captain of Hobgoblin is called Harry Hills. Hobgoblin does a better job of masquerading as a functioning robot than his near-namesake Harry Hill does of masquerading as a comedian. But only slightly. It doesn’t do very well this series to say the least, though in fairness young Hal used to work out how microwaves worked when he was a kid by taking them apart, so he’s definitely more practical than I’ll ever be. Dara says the best robot names are things Prince could shout before he drops the beat. Might I suggest “say my name”?
Push to Exit are captained by Crufts-winning dog fanatic Shane, aka Coffee Cunt from Dantomkia. He says there are similarities between Crufts and Robot Wars, in that you groom a dog for 8 hours and then you’re only out there for a few minutes. Pretty brave of a man to admit to grooming dogs on live TV but who am I to question people’s sexual proclivities? He says Crufts is “the pinnacle of dogs”. This is a great phrase.
Push to Exit flips Hobgoblin over, then is immediately whacked by Magnetar onto the arena flipper, which sends the pedigree hound arse over tit onto its back. This is literally the entire fight. More like the ocean floor trench of dogs.
“Magnetar didn’t even need to do anything!” exclaims Angela. Some battles are brief but offer a high enough amount of devastation per second to make up for it. This was not that. It was more like if a mighty god, upon finding a mortal picking a fight with it, were to lazily smite the human to dust, barely noticing it’s there. Like the Crusaders trying to take down Yu Yevon at the Mushroom Rock Road with a handful of chocobos and machina. You should have listened to Maester Kinoc you stupid shits. *
Quarter Final: Hobgoblin vs. Coyote
Hobgoblin has “BITE ME COYOTE” written on the front, which sounds like something that Kid Lykos would scrawl on his baking tray. The two teams say they’re very good friends out of competition. Stop exposing the business, guys, or Jim Cornette will do a tiresome rant at you on his shitty podcast.
Harry “The Good Doctor” Hills has apparently handed over the controls to a bloke called Matt Smith, which I believe is a mistake the Doctor Who producers made too.
Coyote’s clusterbot Road Runner, which is so insignificant that I didn’t even notice it in the Triple Threat match, opens the pit immediately. You’d think this would lead to a good fight but it doesn’t. Coyote tries grabbing Hobgoblin but it doesn’t seem like the arm is going down (real talk, has there ever been an effective crusherbot not called Razer?). Knob Gobblin’, meanwhile, is having trouble with one side of its wheels. Coyote pushes Hobgoblin into Shunt and a drivebelt goes on the apple-and-blackcurrant-coloured upstart, but Hobgoblin manages to slowly ease its way out of the CPZ. With that, Coyote sends it towards Sir Killalot’s grasp, and then back into Shunt’s corner, who decides to spare us any more of this tedium by axing Hobgoblin over and over again. Hobgoblin tanks a huge number of hits, which is legitimately impressive, so fair fucks to them.
It is then that Shunt’s weapon comes into contact with Hobgoblin’s spinner blade, and the tip flies clean off! Shunt flips Hobgoblin over in revenge as the time expires, and Coyote sees the opportunity to have some afters with the stricken house robot. I’m sure they won’t live to regret that. **, *3/4 of it for the Shunt bit.
Quarter Final: Expulsion vs. Push to Exit
Push to Exit is from Mablethorpe, in Lincolnshire. I think I talked about how awful Mablethorpe is last series, but indulge me once again if you will: Mablethorpe is fucking dire. My dad calls it Mabletripe, and the only way that sobriquet could be any more apt is if he could somehow include the phrase “suppurating polyp” in there somewhere. A Mad Max wasteland coagulated from tacky amusements, caravans, donkey rides, England football shirts, sticky floors and hostility to anyone darker than Tilda Swinton. The east coast of Lincolnshire is going to be one of the first parts of the UK to fall into the ocean when sea levels rise, and if humankind is destined to meet its demise in a hellscape of desertification, perforated ozone and rotting carcasses of livestock baked to death in the blistering sun, it will all be worth it to be shot of Mablethorpe.
The Expulsion team are shaving little bits of screw off the outside of their machine to make it easier to self-right. Meanwhile, the Push to Exit lads are cracking wise. Shane says that Expulsion have been expelled from school (presumably slander) and now they’re getting expelled from Robot Wars. A team-mate says that these roboteers will be crying “robot-tears”. The dad jokes are easily the squad’s biggest contribution to this episode.
Push to Brexit’s flipper breaks quite quickly and the transmission keeps cutting out, which is a good start. Expulsion rides up on P2E’s wedge, though, and can’t get off until P2E decides to start working again, upon which it gets launched by the arena flipper and ends up (in the) upside down, rotating slowly around with its spinner as a base, like a potter’s wheel but without anything as diverting as a dead Patrick Swayze. However, P2E, like Yokozuna circa 1998, is totally immobile, and although Expulsion can’t self-right it is still moving, so it’s declared the winner; twirling, twirling, twirling towards victory.
This was the Robot Wars equivalent of those pre-show dark matches indie promotions put on using their trainees. They’re trying very hard and it’s entertaining in a morbidly fascinating kind of way but they should probably spend a few more months working on their hammerlocks before you put them out there. *
Push to Exit have, well, exited, and Shane does a promo where he considers retiring to concentrate on his hounds. I hope this is a precursor to him turning up in a salmon blazer next series and then kicking the fuck out of a stationary Apollo.
Semi Final: Thor vs. Coyote
Jason says it should be an easy win, upon which the camera pans across to reveal that the Coyote team are in earshot. Excellent stuff. “I’m going to make Coyote ugly,” says Jason, getting in on the dad jokes. Deep in the dark, you surrender your heart, but you know, but you know that you can’t fight the Carbide.
Pearce refers to Jason as a “lone wolf,” and I imagine Baron Corbin telling Coyote to go back to Battlebots. The phrase also conjures up images of media coverage of a white-skinned terrorist, can’t think why.
There’s lots of weaving at first, but Thor is more agile and dominates until it gets into Dead Metal’s clutches. Coyote, seizing its chance, sets the rogue house robot loose and a gigantic flywheel hit from Matilda fucks Thor’s axe. The robot is pissing CO2 and for a moment it looks like it’s toast, but Jason’s excellent driving and pushing skills keep Thor in the fight, nearly getting Coyote flipped by Matilda’s tusks at one point. Some similarly intricate manoeuvring by Coyote narrowly avoids the arena flipper and spikes (twice!) but sadly the weapon’s bollocksed again and Thor wins on a decision.
The juice kind of went out of the bout with two weaponless robots, but it turned into an intriguing technical driving battle. Thor is like Floyd Mayweather, not much knockout power but invariably does enough to convince the judges. But unlike Floyd Mayweather, it’s not going to end up doing time for evading tax. ***1/4
Jason reveals in the post-match interview that he was so focused on Coyote he didn’t notice Matilda coming for him. Angela says Jason will have to keep his eyes on Matilda from now on. You’ll have to fight Jonathan Pearce and his raging lob-on for her first.
Semi Final: Magnetar vs. Expulsion
Expulsion are working on yet another self-righting idea, so that when the robot’s on top of its own spinner, as in the last fight, it’ll wobble back to vertical. Elliott from Magentar is just chilling. He knows what’s coming.
Expulsion immediately triggers the Fogs of War, but Magnetar hits upon the novel idea of just staying the fuck still (why doesn’t everyone do this?), and when the fog clears it bludgeons Expulsion with the spinner, knocking Expulsion onto the arena flipper and that’s all she wrote. This was Goldberg vs. La Parka in automaton form. ***1/2
Dara sticks the boot in after the match, asking the Expulsion team when they’re going to last more than four seconds in a fight. In fairness, that was at least eight. Elliott says he didn’t go in for the kill on the immobile Expulsion as he didn’t want to wreck it more than absolutely necessary, but then betrays his true nature by professing disappointment he couldn’t launch Expulsion higher than the arena flipper did. Kid’s two years away from becoming a Spiderman villain.
Third Place Play Off: Expulsion vs. Coyote
These two are playing off for the right to be marmalised in the Robot Rumble. I’m pulling for Expulsion just so we can get them vs. Track-tion in an inter-school contest even bloodier than the pitched battles my mob used to have against the comp down the road. You grew up tough at the King Edward VI Grammar School. Expulsion’s latest wheeze to avoid being flipped is to put some bars on the bottom of the machine. This is what happens when you build a robot more top-heavy than the UK’s wealth distribution.
Expulsion takes a chunk out of Coyote but then goes into the wall for some reason. The kids spend the entire fight driving around like they’ve had too many turbo shandies at the Year 11 prom, but Coyote experiences a cruel reversal of fortune, as every part of the bot apart from the weapon stops working. All Expulsion has to do to triumph is to remain in the centre of the arena and drive around until Coyote gets counted out. Instead it ends up in the CPZ again and is flywheeled over by Matilda. This lot are sabotaging themselves more than Matt Sydal in Japan. However, once again, an upended Expulsion are wiggling about a bit while the oppo is totally still, so they win! Fuck it. I’m all in on this. Expulsion to wait it out until the other nine competitors in the Robot Rumble fuck each other to pieces, and then slowly rotate on its axis until being declared the winner. Book it, Noel. **1/2
Expulsion’s teachers turn up to congratulate them and remind them their homework’s in for Monday.
Final: Thor vs. Magnetar
Elliott, realising Thor is a robot that might actually test him, is filing down the blade’s teeth like Freddie Blassie. Thor, with shades of Tornado in the Series 6 Grand Final, is now surrounded with cable in an attempt to stymie Magnetar’s deadly weapon. Will this be the first time entanglement devices actually work in this tournament? Will Magnetar be Thor’s Jormungand?
What do you fucking think?
Big Banter Jason says, “I am the lone wolf” then starts laughing. He’s way too nice to play heel. Elliott takes care of that for him, talking of his wish to “evolve the sport”. All right lad, calm down. You’re not Triple H.
A typically cagey start for a heat final, after which Thor uses its immense power to push Magnetar into the wall. Magnetar gets a big hit off and moves in to hack off more metal in the time it takes Thor to self-right. No mercy (for the N64). Thor gets flipped by the arena and Magnetar sets to work blasting through the anti-blade cables like an 80s WWF star through some somas. Another trip into the air courtesy of the arena flipper for Thor, and Magnetar executes one of the biggest strikes I’ve ever seen, sending so much gas jetting out of its opponent it’s like the fog of war’s been triggered. Thor ends up on its back and, with the axe shagged, can’t get up. Wow. What a performance. Thor ascends to Valhalla, and as far as I’m concerned, Magnetar can just go to Hel. ****1/4
Magnetar joins Behemoth, Carbide, Rapid and Nuts 2 in what is shaping up to be a stacked final, after which the Beeb show a preview of the Robot Rumble that makes it look like the greatest shit ever. David will guide you through that, in the meantime I have been George Thompson, thank you for reading my reviews this season, and I’ll leave you with this:
Do not go gentle into Dead Metal’s claws.
Matilda will fuck you up with her flywheel
In spite of Sgt. Bash’s absent jaws.
Though such a fate might stick in all your craws,
Shit driving must needs meet with pain, I feel.
So justice finds its mark on Robot Wars.
And if Shunt sticks one on you early doors
To let you know he’s there, to feel his steel
In spite of Sgt. Bash’s absent jaws,
You must have just ignored the huge crowd’s roars,
Been deaf to every shout and screech and squeal;
So justice finds its mark on Robot Wars.
Sir K will then loom in to do his chores.
He’ll spin you round for TV’s highlight reel
In spite of Sgt. Bash’s absent jaws;
So justice finds its mark on Robot Wars.