What do you know about Christmas in January? Hopefully quite a bit because that’s what you’re getting here on The Update now that I’m finally able to sit down and write about the two-part Robot Wars “Battle of the Stars” special that aired at the end of December last year. This mini event is technically its own thing but was taped alongside the show’s ninth UK series so for the sake of organization these articles are just going to be dumped into the “robot-wars-uk-s9” category on this website so I don’t have to worry about hard logic. The focus of these two specials is simple: Mentorn rang up 8 UK “celebrities”, told them they could build robots, and then paired them up with competitors from last year’s event. For reasons unknown the whole thing was Christmas-themed too. I’m guessing this was because it aired in December, but why bother unless someone on the production team had ulterior motives and just really wanted to see Matilda in a Santa hat?
Anyways, here’s the first half of The Update’s coverage on the “Battle of the Stars” (which acronyms out to “B.O.T.S.” because BRANDING).
“Four teams are about to have a Robot Wars Christmas dream come true,” Dara O’Briain says as what I can only describe as literal children’s drawings are shown on screen. Real talk, this is the kind of shit my brother drew on construction paper when he was seven. Understandably I was kind of hoping these doodles would correspond to, you know, a goddamned kid but fuck me it looks like all of the celebrities are grown ass adults posing like badasses when we’ve literally just seen their preschool-tier first ideas for a bot. Most of the robots shown from cut to cut look like absolute trainwrecks but there’s a couple of solid hits from maybe like one robot that’s more than likely going to be the winner since the editors seem to love it so much. Not all hope is lost?
Dara welcomes us to the show and for a moment I can’t seem to figure out where his voice is coming from. This is because he’s delivering his opener from some random catwalk in the abandoned warehouse where they tape this show and needs a spotlight put on him so we can figure out where the fuck he is. Angela Scanlon is in a more reasonable location, the middle of the arena, and basically reiterates everything we already know about how Robot Wars works before handing the show off to the Mysterious Voice who introduces the four special guests in this episode. Now, I’ll admit I don’t know a goddamned thing about UK celebrities and media because I live in the United States and we have our own problems, so I’ve had to use this guide from Robot Wars News to understand who the hell these people are and why they are famous.
SCOTT MILLS and CHRIS STARK are two hosts from Radio One whom the author of that aforementioned article seems to explicitly hate because they managed to get their own article where the author calls them “D-List”. I can’t seem to figure out why other than the fact that he doesn’t like their sense of humor, Scott Mills’ specifically. From what I’ve gleaned from Wikipedia Mills’ biggest sin was hosting a pilot for an absolutely cringeworthy game show called Reverse-A-Word, a show that’s so bad part of me believes it’s sketch comedy because otherwise god damn. MAGGIE ADERIN-POCOCK has the hardest name to spell, and while trying to figure out what’s she’s known for I came to the conclusion that her extensive background in the sciences qualified her for a judge’s position with the show but she got snubbed and this is the producers’ way of making up for it. That’s probably not correct, but whatever. JONNY and ALISTAIR BROWNLEE are brothers who just so happen to be Olympic athletes. They entered the international spotlight when Alistair intentionally threw a triathlon race to help his injured brother finish. That’s pretty rad, can’t say I’d do the same for my brothers because I’d win and then go back and make fun of them for “pussying out because they knew they were gonna lose”. SUZI PERRY is the last of the four guests and is basically the final evolutionary stage of Philippa Forrester; she’s a TV personality and presenter who’s work includes shows about cars and technology. Sounds cool I guess, but the guy from Robot Wars News is pissy because she tweeted photos of her wedding? Doesn’t like, literally everyone do that these days though?
Man, and you people think I get upset over the dumbest shit.
ARENA CLEANER vs. INTERSTELLAR: MML
Scott Mills was apparently the person who drew the robot shown in this article’s opening paragraphs. The one armed with what appeared to be a neon yellow penis. He’s apparently gay, and while the asshole comic in me wants to blurt out “WELL GEE WHIZZ THAT EXPLAINS A LOT” instead I’ll say as a fellow gay man that at no point have I ever drawn a robot whose weapon was meant to be a penis. Of any color. Scott drew this abomination and then turned in his homework to Dave Moulds (of Carbide fame) who reviewed it and “built a robot as close to the original drawing as possible”. Instead he just built another Carbide and gave it to Scott while saying “trust me”. I wish there was more to say about Arena Cleaner but that’s pretty much it, it’s another Carbide except this one is painted like a fucking Minion.
Dara shows up to call bullshit on Dr. Aderin-Pocock’s robot because she’s an engineer and “that’s cheating”. She’s sent things into spaaaace! So many things that she’s lost count! Clearly her robot is going to be capable of surviving atmospheric re-entry and funded by the government, that’s why when Dara pulls the sheet off and unveils Interstellar: MML I was left waiting for the fucking punchline. Instead of comedic payoff, Maggie confirms that this is indeed her robot. This stupid ass blue fucking wedge that isn’t even invertible is her entry; this was designed and built by someone with a PhD in mechanical engineering. There’s actually a flipper inside the wedge that fires in reverse (think Firestorm), but that’s kind of beside the point. I don’t really know how much time these people had to build their robots but I’m kind of… surprised… that the best these legitimate professional engineers could do was a blue wedge with white paint splattered on it because they were either too lazy or too rushed to paint some goddamned stars.
Interstellar: MML leads the attack at the start of the fight by charging toward Arena Cleaner and juking left and right even though their opponent hasn’t moved an inch. Whatever “strategy” was in play here was a good one because it pays off for Interstellar: MML by means of getting its right tire torn off on the first blow. PhD, folks. Just a reminder. Arena Cleaner rips a gash in Interstellar: MML’s wedge before finally making the damage even and blowing its remaining wheel to fucking pieces while Jonathan Pearce shouts out “causing danger”. Interstellar: MML gets clowned so hard that Pearce can’t even form a coherent fucking thought. I mean normally he can’t do that regardless but still, “causing danger”?
Space Wedge is dead and counted out and I’m pleased to say that the producers are finally letting the house robots extract their pound of flesh from fallen competitors once more. Shunt pushes Interstellar: MML into the wall and drops its axe down into the robot’s face while — and I swear to god here — a sound effect from that Robot Arena game plays.
WINNER: Arena Cleaner, KO
JAR vs. THE CAT
The Brownlee brothers are responsible for JAR, which stands for “Jonny & Alistair’s Robot”. These guys’ claim to fame is that they run professionally, so I’m not going to give them any flack for coming up with the worst robot name since SLAM, but I will just casually point out that it takes a special kind of stupid to build a robot that’s weak to itself. JAR is a hammer bot with absolutely no top armor. That’s a hell of an oversight, especially when you’re building a robot whose primary mode of attack is hitting the top of your fucking opponents. You’d think at some point that they’d be like “hmm something seems amiss with this robot but I can’t quite put my finger on it maybe if I went and ran to Italy and back I could figure it out” but no, they’re apparently content to build “Shitty Terrorhurtz” and call it a day.
“This is everything you wanted it to be,” Dara says as he pulls the curtain off of The Cat revealing what I can safely say is probably the worst looking paint job on any robot I’ve ever seen period. I’m starting to see a pattern develop here; all of these robots were spray-painted. Poorly too, I might add, because The Cat has some yellow overspray on its gearboxes and Arena Cleaner had some blue on its weapon belts. Where, exactly, were these robots built and how much time did these teams actually have? Call me crazy but these all look like weekend hack jobs that were painted one right after the other by someone who had to be home in time to watch Britain’s Got Talent. Anyways, in an ironic twist The Cat is “Carbide except with PP3D’s blade” which is an off-hand remark I made on the /r/RobotWars Reddit community when I mentioned how I’d be handling this special.
There’s some early aggression from JAR where it looks like it’s in a prime position to get some free hits in on the top of The Cat but for whatever reason rather than making one full swing the robot’s hammer just jerks around and doesn’t do anything. Also somewhere in this mess JAR just fucking dies without any input from The Cat whatsoever. For all the “cute like a cat but it has a dark side” bullshit that Suzi Perry was spitting out about her dumb robot it’s not even playing with its dead prey like a real cat, what a letdown. It’s not very often that you see a KO without any hits landed, but one thing’s for certain I’d hate to be in the audience right now because this is one hell of a fight and I don’t mean that in a good way.
Sir Killalot comes over to try and pick a fight with an immobile JAR and all that manages to happen is JAR gets scared and shits out one of its air tanks. That’s what happens when you get paired up with the guy who built Sabretooth, a robot that has never won a fucking fight ever.
WINNER: The Cat, TKO
ARENA CLEANER vs. THE CAT
Before the fight Scott Mills talks strategy with Dave about going after the house robots. Dave has to remind Scott that this is a dumbass idea because their opponent this round is basically a carbon copy of their own bot with a different blade. So that’s where we stand right now, radio DJ funny guy thinks he can be the next Apollo taking on the house robots when I’m fairly certain he was the one who originally wanted Arena Cleaner to be armed with a yellow dick for a weapon. We don’t get a shot of The Cat because I guess when you’ve seen one horizontal spinner you’ve seen them all so instead we’re back in the arena for another fight that I’m sure is going to end in one hit.
The Cat leads in with its ass, which has a face painted on it, to deflect Arena Cleaner away while its disc gets up to full speed. Arena Cleaner takes the bait and strikes The Cat’s armored rear end a couple of times before swinging around and nearly hitting weapon to weapon. It’s a good thing they didn’t do that because when two identical things from parallel dimensions touch each other they actually cancel out their existences and turn into a black hole. Basically we’d all be dead, and speaking of dead Arena Cleaner misses its mark and aims its left wheel at The Cat who wastes no time ripping it to pieces and throwing its opponent into the corner. Cue more Robot Arena sound effects.
Arena Cleaner gets its ass handed to it so badly that some hipster in the audience has a fucking existential crisis over it.
WINNER: The Cat, KO
INTERSTELLAR: MML vs. JAR
The previous battle was between two robots who hadn’t yet lost a fight and thus no real repairs were needed (although now Dave has sent Scott Mills on a fetch quest to go find a new drive motor). This next fight is between two robots that for all intents and purposes completely blew the fuck up. Dr. Aderin-Pocock seems to be in high spirits despite Interstellar: MML being absolutely eviscerated, probably because she’s the one who gets to talk to the camera and joke around while Shane Swan does all the repair work. In one hour. Seriously, in the time it takes you to watch this episode of Robot Wars imagine having to bring something like Interstellar: MML back to fucking life. What’s even worse is that Shane can’t just buy a new robot like he did with Dantomkia! Meanwhile the Brownlee’s are working with Gabriel (the builder, not the robot) to fix JAR. Pay close attention to the close-up of JAR’s innards and you’ll see that the not-shitted-out air tank has frozen over while the other one looks unused. Gabriel’s convinced the hammer is too powerful. Sure dude, I just think the robot sucks.
For some reason both Jonathan and Maggie feel compelled to talk about Interstellar: MML’s on board camera, which is a fancier way of saying “the GoPro that we’ve literally zip tied to the side of the fucking robot”. Jonathan says it’s so the Interstellar: MML team can get a better view. Of what, them losing? What advantage of perspective does a shitty GoPro give you that standing above the entire arena doesn’t already? Don’t think about that for too long because the fight is starting and you’re going to get distracted by the fact that the editors play “the Robot Arena sound effect” every time JAR swings its hammer. I don’t know if that sound effect really is “from” Robot Arena, but that’s where I know it from and it’s kind of like the Wilhelm scream in that once you hear it you’ll never not hear it. JAR doesn’t land a single hit and in the process of rocking back and forth the robot manages to break one of the little rolly wheels that help keep JAR’s wedge flush with the ground. Interstellar: MML isn’t doing so hot either though because for a robot whose entire chassis is an inclined plane it’s not having much luck taking advantage of JAR’s four goddamned feet of ground clearance.
JAR finally lands a hit onto the lid of Interstellar: MML while Jonathan gets to work reading off of his emergency trivia cards for when fights start to take too long. Apparently the Brownlee’s wanted a cluster bot to “double team” opponents with, but their mentor Gabriel advised against it. Good on Gabriel for doing that because they barely had enough parts for one fucking robot let alone two of the goddamned things. JAR’s luck starts to change as it lands another solid blow on its opponent, and breaks another rear wheel in the process. Fate doesn’t shine so fondly on the hammer bot for long though as immediately after landing this hit JAR’s air supply ruptures. Bad news for their weapon, but good news for the last tiny rolly wheel on JAR’s ass.
Somewhere in this fray Interstellar: MML has lost the use of its right wheel. For some reason Dr. Aderin-Pocock starts spinning her robot around in reverse which negates the use of its primary weapon. I’m guessing she’s not flooring it forward in circles because her robot’s weight distribution is total shit and it’s too heavy in the front for it to move forward with only one wheel. Honestly all she needs to do is catch JAR on its corner and flip it over to win. Instead, the fight goes to the judges and Interstellar: MML’s driver gets snappy with the Brownlee’s for misgendering her fucking robot. (This is exactly why I always use “it” when describing robots and why you should too.)
WINNER: JAR, Judges’ Decision
THE CAT vs. INTERSTELLAR: MML
The Cat has really lucked out in that the team hasn’t had to do any major repairs up to this point, and considering their next opponent is Interstellar: MML it’s a safe bet that they’ll get another KO win and trot straight on through to the heat finals. The editors hardly show us any footage of The Cat in the pits because the team was probably off drinking tea or whatever the hell people in Britain do when there’s absolutely nothing else to work on. Meanwhile, Interstellar: MML is a goddamned Challenger of a machine and at this point Shane is just taking the piss out on the whole ordeal by grabbing random bits of metal out of the robot and offering to make jewelry out of it for Dr. Aderin-Pocock. For someone who hasn’t won a fight yet — and probably isn’t going to win this one either — she’s at least a really good sport about it.
Realizing it’s got nothing to lose, Interstellar: MML charges into The Cat face first and takes a hit which bends the robot’s frame because when it fires its flipper about an hour too late it gets stuck in the upright position. The hit sends The Cat spinning across the flame pit and right into the open clamp of Sir Killalot who takes a few moments to enjoy the finer points of pounding some pussy. In the process of this unfolding something has gone horribly wrong with The Cat because it’s totally dead. The officials let Interstellar: MML take a mercy shot and finally get a single flip because across three goddamned fights they had racked up a staggering zero flips up to this point. Also, do you know what the editors do when The Cat gets flipped?
That’s right, they play the sound effect.
WINNER: Interstellar: MML, TKO
Also because so many of these fights are over in like twelve seconds and there’s a whole hour of time to fill we’re treated to some factoids about the fastest KO’s in Robot Wars. The fight we just saw was pretty damned quick, but not as quick as when Overdozer showed up last year, shit it pants, and did nothing. Look, here’s a clip! Call me crazy though, but isn’t the fastest KO in Robot Wars history the one where Dantomkia threw Iron Awe or something out of the arena in like four seconds? Are we just going to be like BattleBots now and pretend that the legacy of this sport never happened?
ARENA CLEANER vs. JAR
It feels like it’s been an eternity since we’ve seen Arena Cleaner this episode, but maybe that’s just because I took a lunch break in the middle of writing this article and then accidentally pissed away two hours playing Fallout. Speaking of fetch quests, Scott is back from his and has brought a replacement motor for Arena Cleaner to fix the one that The Cat destroyed like an ugly chair. JAR has also been under the knife because its pneumatic system is about as structurally sound as Interstellar: MML’s chassis; JAR is two for two when it comes to one of its air tanks coming loose in a fight and according to Gabriel, the team’s mentor, virtually every single piece of the valve system has been replaced.
JAR gets hit once, fucking once, and is already dead. It’s not even a particularly exciting hit either, it’s like Arena Cleaner accidentally bumped into JAR’s wedge while trying to maneuver around to get a better shot but apparently this half-ass job will do. Arena Cleaner actually tries to get in and do some real damage but JAR gets counted out so quickly the best it can do is get a little nibble on JAR’s tire before cease is called.
Shunt comes over to try and make this masterpiece of failure interesting but Arena Cleaner isn’t actually done. Remember when Scott had that highdea about “taking on the house robots”? Yeah, he didn’t forget about that because Arena Cleaner cruises in and rips into the side of Shunt visibly breaking the right side of its frame. Apollo it isn’t, but I haven’t seen balls that big in the Robot Wars arena since some idiot stuck an RC car inside a papier-mâché egg and called it Psychosprout.
WINNER: Arena Cleaner, KO
TR2 vs. BEHEMOTH
Out of nowhere, and because we’ve got something like 15 minutes to fill with only the finals left (a battle sure to last only a few seconds) Dara and Angela have been given the controls of TR2 and Behemoth for a sort of “grudge match”. Hopefully Dara can drive a robot better than he can tell a joke, and poor Angela is fucked because she’s basically been given the robot equivalent of a school bus to drive and something something something women drivers haha gender jokes.
This is already a great fight because Angela confuses the meaning of the word “two” with “go” and gets a false start. No one cares of course since this is just for fun but I’m still having a great time watching this unfold and we’re literally negative two seconds into the match. I don’t know what the number on the lid of TR2 means but it’s gone up by 2 since we’ve last seen it so that’s something, and what’s also something is TR2 throwing Behemoth so far into the air that when the bulldozer comes crashing back down its scoop literally throws sparks off the goddamned floor and Dara transcends into pure energy. Angela goes for the pit release button and misses, instead sending Behemoth crashing into the wall. That little kid from the Interstellar: MML team was right, this really is a lot harder than it looks on TV but god damn is this making for some great TV.
Angela is such a nervous driver that she keeps firing Behemoth’s scoop just a little too early, and since Behemoth has enough power to hurl a basketball into orbit this results in the robot either toppling over backwards or popping the world’s most wicked wheelie. Dara taps Behemoth with TR2 which causes Behemoth to have a Bethesda physics moment and the robot falls over while Angela complains about Dara being a dick. Behemoth gets some sweet air off of TR2’s wedge as Dara offers Angela his robot’s ass and tells her to come get a free hit. Angela takes the bait to please the crowd and TR2 gets to show off its self-righting capabilities. The two hosts somehow forget that there’s still time on the clock and as the fight ends they both relish in just how badly they performed in the arena.
Then Dara does a physical impression of the fight that summons enough spaghetti to put the entire Olive Garden corporation out of business.
WINNER: Nobody. Nobody wins this fight. All of you should be ashamed of yourselves.
THE CAT vs. ARENA CLEANER
Were you expecting anything else out of this heat? I mean really. These two robots are pretty much the same thing and their opponents consisted of a wedge made out of the same tinfoil as a lunar lander and a shitty hammer bot that twice died in a single hit in 66% of its fights. The Cat fucked their weapon up something fierce when they spun off into Sir Killalot’s open claw, and Arena Cleaner’s team had their work cut out for them repairing the robot from the last time they tangoed with The Cat so for the first time there’s actually something on the table between these two.
The Cat employs the same strategy in this fight that worked for it previously, leading in with its face-ass to try and buy some time to get its weapon up to speed while absorbing any hits Arena Cleaner might try and throw, and throw it certainly does because Arena Cleaner sees right through the bullshit and rips a chunk off of The Cat’s right wheel. This hit pretty much ends the fight because obviously The Cat isn’t capable of translational movement anymore. A follow-up tap from Arena Cleaner causes the rest of the wheel to fall off. Scott bides his time waiting for The Cat to slowly spin around before going in to take a shot at its other tire, landing a solid blow and bending it up. Jonathan seems to think both robots have wheel damage but I’m pretty sure Arena Cleaner’s wheels are just so badly assembled that they always just look broken.
The Cat spins its wheels and pulls its remaining tire off in the process and the robot gets counted out. Sir Killalot comes over to finish what it started and holds The Cat over the flame pit while its driver says grilling cats is illegal. Implying Sir Killalot gives a shit about the law, top kek mate. Arena Cleaner tries to pick a fight with Killalot, again because the driver is just the edgiest motherfucker on the planet, but its game is salted when the house robot effortlessly picks up the tiny blue robot and completely lifts it off the ground. Then, using only the power of its fucking mind, Sir Killalot opens the pit and throws the Battle of the Stars champion into it just to make a point that you don’t fuck around in his house.
WINNER: Arena Cleaner, KO
And that’s it. Suzi concedes defeat to Scott & Co. and Dara hands the gay dude the biggest blackest dick trophy on the planet. Roll the credits!
There’s actually still one more episode in this two-part special featuring four more robots and four more celebrity special guests. Fingers crossed that the next four robots don’t include two Carbides, “shitty Terrorhurtz”, and the special kind of garbage that was Interstellar: MML. Join us next week when that article goes live! In the meantime you can follow BattleBots Update on Facebook, or send me a tip using the Donate button!