Series: Robot Wars

3... 2... 1... Activate!

A British television show about fighting robots. The show aired from 1997 to 2004, airing seven series (each comprising one UK championship, with a few sideshow tournaments and specials in most series) plus two series of "Robot Wars Extreme", a house show featuring several different events and mini-tournaments. The first 6 (and the two extremes) aired on BBC2 while the last season aired on Channel Five. The latter channel's treatment of the show proved to be the death of it, but it lives on in repeats and live events organised by the roboteers. During the height of its fame, The show had two seasons and a Nickelodeon Kids' Series involving mainly US robots (called Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors and Nickelodeon Robot Wars respectively), two seasons involving robots from the Netherlands and Belgium (called Robot Wars: The Dutch Battles), and a German language single Series (named Robot Wars: The German Struggles) involving 12 robots from Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, which were broadcast in their native languages and used local Presenters and pit reporters. All series took place in the UK arena and used UK house robots (and the final UK series involved many big-name Dutch, Belgian and German robots). Most of the episodes are available on youtube.

The first season was hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, but later seasons were hosted by Craig Charles, who was more suited for this, and Nickelodeon Robot Wars was hosted by Dave Aizer. The show was originally a mix of fighting and various "trials" (games such as pinball, sumo, obstacle courses, etc.); later on, more emphasis was put on the former and by series 5 the format was entirely combat-based.

Not to be confused with Super Robot Wars (which was renamed Super Robot Taisen outside of Japan due to the show), or with the American series BattleBots with which it shares a common ancestor in the form of underground American competitions in the early 1990's. No relation at all with the 1993 Giant Mecha movie of the same name. If your looking for a trope about wars against robots, that's Robot War.


The TV show provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Several of the most successful robots could attribute much of their success to the sheer skill of their drivers:
    • George Francis, driver of Chaos 2, was considered by many to be the most fearsome driver in Robot Wars, being the man to invent the Ring Out and the only roboteer to ever lift the championship trophy more than once (back-to-back in series 3 and 4).
    • Kim Davies, driver of Panic Attack, was another highly-feared opponent, who took his simple flat box on wheels with a pair of lifting forks to claim the series 2 championship and be one of the most respected teams on the show. Panic Attack was not actually very offensively powerful at all and almost ALL of its success could be attributed to how good Kim was at controlling it and using the lifting forks to pick enemy robots up and dump them in the pit.
    • Graham Bone, driver of Firestorm, never won a championship, but his fearless, controlled driving and relentless aggression made them constant contenders, holding the record for the most battles ever won in the main competition and reaching five consecutive semi-finals and three grand finals, resulting in three 3rd place finishes.
    • Nick Adams, driver of Wild Thing, was considered by some to be almost like an older George Francis. Relentlessly aggressive with his agile and powerful bot, with incredible driving precision almost unseen in a 2-wheeled design, Wild Thing was never a finals contender, but was always given a healthy amount of respect. When the original Thing appeared in season 3 even the showrunners said that they didn't think much of it- but they had to admit that by cripes could Nick Adams drive! The season 5 semifinal clash between Wild Thing and Chaos 2 is considered to be easily one of the most awesome battles on the show due to the sheer levels of driving skill on display by both parties.
    • David Gribble, driver of Pussycat, supposedly declared himself "the best driver on Robot Wars" and while that might have been stretching it a bit, he could certainly walk the walk. In season 4 Pussycat toppled such notable opponents as Razer, Thermidor 2 and Dominator 2 and even managed a shocking upset against Hypno-Disc, in no small part thanks to David's impressive driving, going all the way to lose the grand final against no less an opponent than Chaos 2. The team put in a similarly impressive showing in series 5, going up to the 2nd round of the semifinals before falling to Firestorm. Unfortunately David's career was tragically cut short when he was killed in a motorcycle accident after season 5.
  • Amusing Injuries: Any damage taken by a robot - especially mercy killings administered by the House Robots - fell under this, since any given robot could have been expected to cost several hundred pounds and weeks or months of construction work.
  • Anachronic Order:
    • Heats F and M were swapped in the logical sequence of the 4th Wars. It is believed that this was altered so that Gemini (pegged to win Heat F) could eventually meet Chaos 2 (almost certain to win Heat A) and continue their rivalry. Unfortunately, Gemini failed in this regard, making the whole process for nothing.
    • Heats A and E were swapped in broadcast order for the Seventh Wars. Traditionally Heat A was the returning champion's heat, but the producers thought it made for a weak series opener because one of the robots broke down before making it into the arena.
  • Arch-Enemy: many, many long-standing rivalries; Panic Attack vs. Firestorm, Panic Attack vs. X Terminator, Razer vs. Tornado, in the Dutch Series, Bamm Bamm (based on the flintstones character and later seen in the UK series albeit very briefly) fought Lizzard 3 times over the 2 series due to their complicated formats which saw various eliminated robots allowed back into the final alongside heat winners, everyone vs. the House Robots...
  • Awesome but Impractical:
    • The move of flipping a robot into the pit, which whilst very cool-looking was difficult for a robot to pull off without driving in itself.
    • A lot of the machines themselves fit. Generally, the more fancy a robot looks, the more vulnerable it is.
      • Hypno-Disc comes to mind. It was one of the most powerful, destructive robots on the show, the massive disk could wreak most machines to pieces within a couple of blows. Sadly, Hypno was extremely prone to mechanical failures, presumably due to the extreme recoil caused by the impacts of the disk dislocating sensitive machinery within, and therefore, Hypno Disc would rarely win tournaments.
      • Also Razer, prior to Extreme 1/Series 5. The weapon looked awesome and, when it worked, would deal out some of the worst damage the show had seen, yet was very prone to mechanical failure.
    • Full body spinners (essentially spinning domes, cones or cylinders with blades attached in most cases) were as destructive as they were basic as they could dent or tear most armor on contact, yet were very hard to make and prone to mechanical failure, meaning they rarely did well. On top of that, most designs were also barely mobile and hard to control, so some early matches were won with the opponent essentially destroying itself in attack attempts.
    • Clusterbots can come into this category. Clusterbots are effectively multiple robot, which start as one but split into two. All regulations (especially weight) count them as one robot, and the weight disadvantage means that clusterbots rarely have effective weaponry.
    • Walkerbots fit this perfectly. Robots that actually walked around on legs, and were engineering marvels, but woefully inefficient when it came to fighting. (They were allowed twice the usual weight limit, but were usually slow unless they were shufflebots). With one exception...
  • An Axe to Grind: One of the most common weapons, though generally ineffective. Mortis in early series, and Dominator 2 and Terrorhurtz later on were three of the few exceptions.
  • Blatant Lies: The official merch told wondrous tales about Inquisitor and Aggrobot (in series 2 and 3 respectively) beating Razer by bravely charging in with their woefully underpowered weapons, miraculously hitting a weak point and taming the beast. The truth didn't make for quite as good a story; both breakdowns were just miniscule component failures that killed Razer's drive.
    • Early publicity for the programme made all sorts of outlandish claims about the house robots, e.g. that Dead Metal had "a thermonuclear starter motor".
    • One of the most controversial examples was the culmination of the blatant Executive Meddling in series 7 relating to Storm 2, especially the finals match against Typhoon 2. The battle came down to a judge's decision and the Storm 2 team had noticed that Typhoon 2 was moving sluggishly towards the end of the fight. The judges didn't come into the arena to inspect the damage on the robots in person (something they only VERY rarely did), instead relying on reports of the damage and what could be easily seen from outside. While the robots were being removed from the arena, one of the crew found a drive chain that had come off Typhoon 2 and informed Team Typhoon of the fact, but the judges were not informed of this damage. When Craig Charles was interviewing the teams after the battle, Team Typhoon boasted that their robot was "like new" and "totally undamaged" (shocking Team Storm, who had "at least expected honesty") and the judges eventually ruled in Typhoon 2's favour, largely based on damage caused. This was so jarring that, when the judges eventually found out about the deception (far too late to reverse their ruling), they each sent individual apology letters to the Storm 2 team. Storm 2 were the real champions of the 7th Wars, literally robbed of their trophy by Executive Meddling.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • The original build of Panic Attack, that won the second series and beat Cassius? Just a box with lifting forks and a hell of a driver.
    • As in Awesome but Impractical, a lot of successful machines come to mind. Tornado was essentially a quick and resistant flat box on wheels. It had a laughably weak weapon, but was immune to just about everything opponents could throw at it and would win by mere aggressiveness and persistence as opposed to actual damage-dealing. Bigger Brother also comes to mind. Not a particularly interesting of a concept, not a very cool weapon (simple flipper), but a set of armor so heavy even Razer, known for one of the most powerful weapons, could barely make a dent. It had similiarly resiliant internal workings too; in its series 5 grand final eliminator with Hypnodisc, Disc shredded its armour and broke the weapon, but BB kept on going and finally pushed them down the pit, leading to aforementioned fight with Razer in the final which Razer won quite easily due to the damage inflicted earlier.
    • The fight in the second round of the series 5 semi-finals between Hypno-Disc and Dominator 2 involved Hypno-Disc attacking Dominator's sides until it lost drive on one side and couldn't be controlled properly any more, then staying out of harm's way until the time ran out. When the judges were delivering their verdict, they asked Craig Charles to point out that they thought it was "the most boring fight in the history of Robot Wars".
    • Storm II from the last wars was effectively a smaller, faster, stronger version of Tornado, relying purely on its ramming power. It was so practical it reached the Grand Final, but so boring (at least in the eyes of the executives) that it's widely believed the shows's producers ''actively tried to stop them from winning''.
    • Netherlands' second champion Pulverize R was just an axlebot with a vertical spinning disc (and an eccentric team), whilst the champion of both US series were the Panzer MK pushbots, both of which were practical and fast rammers.
  • British Brevity: Just Series 1, where there were six heats with the winner of each progressing directly to the Grand Final, which didn't even get its own episode. Later
  • Buffy Speak: A member of the U.F.O. team gave us this wonderful description:
    "Well, (the main weapon is) a big lifty-uppy-spikey thing, designed to cut into the bladey thing above it, and we also have a couple of bright, lighty-shiny things at the front, and some floppy-spikey things at the back."
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Ming 3 has been trashed by spinning discs on three separate occasions. One was due to unfair meddling by a house robot.
    • Robochicken too (and this show came BEFORE Robot Chicken, by the way).
    • Nemesis and its successor Diotoir as well, which was prone to catching fire due to having a fur-covered body. This happened in all of it's appearances due to Sgt. Bash inevitably singling it out above everyone else. Eventually there was a fight between the aforementioned Bash, Nemesis and another robot prone to fires just so everyone could watch them burn. (Sgt. Bash won.)
    • Among the house robots, Refbot. Matilda was these in the early days before she Took a Level in Badass.
    • Iron Awe 2, which is the only robot to be flipped out of the arena in every appearance.
    • Piece De Resistance/Death Warmed Up/Immortalis/Metalis (all built by the same guy), Humphrey and Monad get this treatment from the fanbase.
  • Call Back:
    • Earlier in the series, episodes made frequent use of How We Got Here, as well as reminding first-time viewers of how a robot went in the previous series.
    • Whenever two humourous-based robots appeared and one won, expect to see the trademark of the losing robot appear in the winning one. For example, Diotior borrowed The Steel Avenger's colourful feather duster when it won and went into the heat final against Firestorm. In turn, Firestorm (and almost every other notable competitor!) has placed some of Diotior's fur on their robot at some point.
  • Camera Abuse: Sometimes, robots would destroy the ringside cameras when being flipped out of the arena.
  • Cargo Ship: An in-universe example: Jonathan Pearce commonly suggested that Matilda was having a relationship with one of the other house robots, usually Sir Killalot, Sgt Bash or Shunt.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Pit! Pit! Pit!"
    • "Let the wars begin!"
    • "3...2...1...ACTIVATE!"
    • Charles would finish each episode with a four line poem ending "on ''Robot Wars''."
    • Charles got several introductions in the early years from the announcer, but eventually stuck with "Ladies and Gentlemen. Please welcome the master of mayhem: Craig Charles."
    • Rex Garrod, the head of the Recyclopse/Cassius team, had "Well, you gotta try, ain't ya?"
    • The Hypno Disc team had "Spin to win" as their battlecry.
  • Celebrity Edition: One of the specials shown as part of series 4 saw celebrities take over vaguely-relevant robots (Vic Reeves took control of Diotoir, the Turner sisters took Gemini, etc.)
  • Chainsaw Good: Averted; chainsaws were one of the least effective weapons seen on Robot Wars, even House Robot Matilda ditched hers after Series 4 (the new spinning disc was designed to be interchangable with the chainsaw, but the chainsaw was never used again in the UK- though it was used infrequently in the Second US Series).One US fight after 2000 in which the Matriarch of Mayhem's chainsaw was seen was here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRuN8KKaxF8
  • Cheerful Child: These appeared on a lot of teams, often as a mascot. The Bigger Brother team had two, Joe and Ellie.
  • Chef of Iron: Technically Diotoir when the team began putting food on it, so it would cook when the carpet lining that covered it caught on fire (although when they tried this by sticking a kebab on it the robot ended up in the pit instead).
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: A lot of teams who had been present in many (if not every) previous series disappeared in the Sixth and Seventh Wars. note 
    • In the Seventh Wars, only 7 of the 12 semi-finalists from series 6 returned. Among them not returning were fan-favourites Razer and Hypno-Disc, as well as double champion Chaos 2 (who failed to reach the semi-finals).
      • The winner of the first Dutch series, wedge shaped, tracked and destructive Slicer, did not defend its title in the second series.
  • Competitive Balance: Naturally, no one robot was completely invincible, and many of the roboteers developed and upgraded their robots every year.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Any robot losing in the first round of the semi-finals of the Fifth or Sixth Wars could still qualify for the second round... if they won another battle against both of the other two losers.
    • The method was also used in the 5 heats of the first Dutch series, though not in the grand final, which also had 6 robots. 2 out of the 5 losers melees saw one robot drop out due to damage sustained in their round 1 exit, leaving the other 2 to go head to head. Three of the losers melee winners capitalised on this reprieve to make the heat final, but lost it- one of them, Enderbot, losing to the same machine that beat it in round 1, Slicer. Another of them, however, Lizzard, was given a wildcard place to the finals and reached the grand finale before narrowly losing to Slicer- it actually lost 3 times during that series, having only won its heat semi-final due to Matilda's illegal incursion immobilising it.
  • Cool, but Inefficient:
    • Oversized static spikes, axes (with a few exceptions), chainsaws, and drills.
    • The paramount example has to be a a robot called Niterider. Its weapon was a "disemboweler," a drill accoutered with three flanges. The idea was to dig into the opponent's innards, and the flanges would flail around and slash the electronics. In practice though, lining up an attack with such an unwieldy weapon was impossible, and most metals can't be pierced with a drill.
  • Cosmic Deadline: The Diotoir team arrived in series 3 with their robot in pieces as it had been disassembled by customs. To avoid the same problem in series 4, they took the robot disassembled anyway, thinking they'd have enough time to put it back together when they got there. When they arrived, however, they found that the time of their first fight had been moved forward and that the robot was over the weight limit. The end result was that they went into battle with their top armour removed and no power for their weapon. They did not do very well.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Naturally, there were quite a few of them over the years.
    • Hypnodisc's first ever battle against Robogeddon is one of the most famous examples. Jonathan Pearce described it as "the most complete destruction I think we've seen in Robot Wars ever."
    • Hypnodisc's battle against Splinter the following series, another famous example, is actually a Double Subversion. Everybody thought Splinter would be torn to shreds in seconds, especially given the team captain's tactic: drive straight-on into Hypnodisc. However, for the first 30 seconds this actually worked, with Splinter's front scoop deflecting Hypnodisc's attacks away and even enabling it at one point to shove Hypnodisc into the CPZ. Jonathan Pearce even floated the possibility of this being "one of the biggest shocks ever in Robot Wars"...but then Splinter hit Hypnodisc at the wrong angle, the scoop was torn off completely, and utter carnage ensued.
    • Razer's battle against Milly Ann Bug arguably rivals Hypnodisc vs. Robogeddon as one of the most horrific (or alternatively, hilarious) examples of one-sided robot destruction ever seen on the show. Razer set Milly on fire, punched a few gaping holes in her, and then got the idea to try to cut the articulated machine in half. Failing that, Razer settled on removing Milly's wheels. All four of them. Craig Charles described it as a sadistic schoolboy pulling a spider's legs off one by one.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Spikasaurus winning the Northern Annihilator special in series 4.
  • Death from Above: The Drop Zone. Given the competitors were already immobilized and therefore out of the running when placed on the Drop Zone, though, it's also an example of Kick Them While They Are Down.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In Robot Wars Extreme, Spawn Again teamed up with Comengetorix for a tag team match. The former's explanation of why they joined forces? "Last year we beat them, ever since we've been friends!"
  • Determinator: Bigger Brother and Wild Thing in their fights with Hypnodisc. Firestorm too.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Mechanical failures ended many robots when they looked like winning. In the early seasons, the arena spike toppled many robots without srimechs (or functioning srimechs) - that's how Behemoth lost to Pitbull and, subsequently, how Pitbull lost to Firestorm, all in the third series. On a much more sinister and unfair level, the house robots sometimes attack perfectly-functioning robots outside of their Corner Patrol Zones. Ming 3 was a particular victim of this at the hands of Matilda.
  • Dramatic Irony: A member of the Chaos team in season 2 left to join the Cassius team in season 3. Needless to say, the new Chaos 2 robot won the latter series - and the one after that.
  • The Dreaded: Certain robots acquired this trait as the show progressed, most notably Razer and Hypnodisc. The house robots are this in general but Sir Killalot in particular.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first few series have plenty of this; a visibly more relaxed attitude to health and safety, a completely different set, more simple designs, lots of teams that retired in later wars, and most noticeably the Gauntlet and other 'trials' in place of a straightforward knockout competition.
    • The first series had six heats, and the winner of each heat took part in a six-way melee at the end of the last heat, with the last robot standing declared the series champion. All other series had at least twice as many heats plus semi-finals and a grand final.
    • Some robots had this as well. The Chaos team were legendary for their flipper, but their first series entry, Robot The Bruce, was just a box that rammed other robots without having any actual weaponry.
    • The birth of the self-righting mechanism in the series 2 semi-finals (which was immediately subjected to several slow-motion replays) is often accused of being overhyped, as very soon after that they were commonplace and it was considered madness to not have some form of self-righter. At the time, though, it was groundbreaking, particularly since until then Sir Killalot's greatest threat was his ability to turn robots over with the lance.
    • The first series had a more Cyber Punk feel. The arena looked intentionally low budget, and Jeremy Clarkson gave narrations at the start of every episode about how robot wars "were putting the whole country into chaos".
  • Eldritch Abomination: A robot in Series 3 called Twn Trwn (pronounced "tun terran"). Though not as scary as typical examples of this trope, it qualifies by merit of comparison - the typical Robot Wars robot was a plain-looking metal box. Apart from the name being an abomination on its own, the robot was a miasma of faces, skulls, and creatures haphazardly stuck together. You could stare at the artwork all day and still not comprehend the robot as a whole.
  • Epic Fail:
    • Many robots dived straight into the pit or never moved at all. The Killerhurtz vs. Cerberus fight in series 3 must be mentioned; Killerhurtz hit Cerberus once, backed off, then careered around the arena and flew directly into the pit. In the case of Killerhurtz they claimed that they'd forgotten it was there after taking part in BattleBots, which doesn't have a pit.
    • One of the series 2 "trials" was a Joust, where each robot had to cover as much ground as possible against Matilda. The fourth robot to run got stuck and was pushed back, meaning that the last robot to run had to beat a negative score (-2.10m) to qualify. It didn't move at all until it was too late, whereupon it got stuck as well, and was dragged back to -2.80m.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Hypno-Disc is the most remembered.
    • Disappointingly averted with Gyrobot, which had some genius design elements, but sadly didn't make it far.
    • Averted with 13 Black, for whom spinning rarely works at all. As a last resort, 13 Black would spin its whole body round and round, in hopes that the other robot was dumb enough to bump into it. It's a destructive tactic, but Craig Charles rightly called them chicken.
    • And of course, Typhoon 2, who went on to win the seventh wars thanks to its "gyroscopic speed".
      • Slicer in the Dutch series with its giant drum, and vertical spinner Pulverizer, ensured both dutch winners were rotating weapons.
      • The Revolutionist in the US Series, a full body spinner covered with the US flag. Remarkably, it lost a heat final to the machine Propeller Head (which had a spinning overhead bar, hence its name) in the second US series, in spite of having ripped off the Propeller-Head- It was pushed down the pit.
  • Expy: Many designs were taken from other robots, most notably Adam Clark's machines, most of whom were heavily based on machines in BattleBots.
  • Filler: Constantly, especially in the Grand Final where four battles (or three; on two occasions the third place playoff had to be cancelled) lasting a maximum of five minutes each were milked out to the full timeslot.
  • Five-Bad Band: The house robots:
  • Flipping Helpless: This was a common weakness in the early seasons, but eventually competitors started entering robots which were either able to work both ways up, rolled or (for maximum Rule of Cool) use a SRIMECHnote  to flip themselves back over (after Cassius was able to do so with its flipper in the second season).
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Literally. There was a robot named Fluffy. It had a spinning blade that was very destructive, and nearly took out the number 2 seed on its debut appearance (unfortunately, on both this and subsequent appearances it suffered from reliability issues that stopped it from reaching its full potential).
  • Follow the Leader: Any time a weapon became really successful several teams would copy it in the following series, each with varied amounts of success, examples include flippers (first used by Recyclopse in season 1 but became really popular after Cassius in season 2 and Chaos 2 in season 3), crushers (after Razer), spinning discs (after Hypnodisc) and the SRIMECH/Self-righting Mechanism (first used by Cassius in season 2)
  • Foregone Victory: The series 7, Heat J final involved Thermidor 2 chasing Mighty Mouse and flipping it whenever it was close enough, and Mighty Mouse endlessly running away, making no attempt at all at actually fighting, until the time ran out. Neither Jonathan Pearce, Craig Charles or the judges pretended there was any suspense over the result whatsoever.
  • For Want of a Nail
    • Razer lost in series 2 through 4 due to one thing going wrong (most notably in series 3, its self-righting mechanism went off at the wrong moment and left it stranded just before it got the chance to finish off a Curb-Stomp Battle with Aggrobot).
    • Typhoon 2 were losing their semi-final match against Atomic when their opponent mistimed a large flip, turned itself over and broke the flipper with the force.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Some robots would employ these as names (for instance, SMIDSY stands for Sorry Mate I Didn't See You, which the team, a group of bikers, had heard many times from cars nearly hitting them)
    • Robots without SRIMECH (itself an acronym for Self-righting mechanism) would sometimes have PTO written on the bottom, "Please Turn Over".
  • Germanic Efficiency: Black Hole, champions of German Robot Wars was VERY tough. During the Extreme 2 European Championship, it took out its first opponent in one attack, and only lost its next fight due to its opponent (which Black Hole had been demolishing for most of the match) suddenly ending up with a chance to push it into the pit. It's a pity they didn't enter the World Championships or Series 7.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The Mazakari team had no idea what it meant, despite obviously being its creators/builders and persons responsible for its name (the most likely explanation is that they took the name from the Inner Sphere designation for the Clan mech known as the Warhawk in BattleTech).
  • Handicapped Badass: Berserk II in Series 3. All their team members were deaf, yet they built a robot that was able to survive a fight with Hypno-Disc, which had DESTROYED its last two opponents, barely unscathed.
    • Also has a minor heartwarming moment attached to it, as Philippa is seen to have learned a little sign language and continues to ask them for signs so she can communicate with them throughout.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Chaos 2 getting flipped out of the arena by Dantomkia.
    • Chaos 2 was also knocked out of the Second World Championship on Robot Wars Extreme by being driven into the pit while in the process of flipping another robot into the pit.
    • Razer getting immobilised in the third wars when it got itself stuck on the spike at the back of its weapon which had raised its wheels off the ground.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Once immobilised, the House Robots are free to come in and punish the robot more, using their own weapons plus the arena's own hazards; a lucky competitor might find themselves in the pit straight away, but there's also the floor flipper, drop zone, flamethrowers, saws...
    • Poor, poor Matilda. Not only did Razer penetrate her roughly from behind with his mighty crusher, he proceeded to set her on fire (twice!), all the while completely ignoring Onslaught and then for some reason the other house robots proceeded to turn against her, with Sir Killalot only coming to her defense after she was thoroughly trashed. Matilda took such a brutal beating in that fight that a comment was added to confirm that Matilda would return.
    • Kind of subverted in the Season 3 finale, wherein, after flipping Hypno-Disc, Chaos II went after the house robots, and flipped Matilda and Shunt before they ended the round.
  • Informed Attribute: The roboteers of very average robots like to pump them up with extravagant descriptions of their weapons. 'Damaging', 'Armour piercing', 'Destructive', 'Smashing'. Perhaps these descriptions were true in tests against weaker materials. However, against fellow robots most of the weaponry proves to be ineffective.
  • Joke Character: Granny's Revenge (and its subsequent iteration, Granny's Revenge 2) definitely counts. It was pretty much a granny in a wheelchair holding what appeared to look like a prop chainsaw. It supposedly had a pneumatic flipping leg, but this never saw use, thanks to it being burned to cinders by Sgt. Bash in a matter of minutes.
  • Kayfabe: The Extreme series were more based around this, with "grudge matches" arranged that saw perfectly pleasant roboteers snarling at and trash-talking each other before and after the fights. The amateur acting wasn't convincing at all and fooled nobody, which made it somewhat Narm Charm.
  • Lame Pun Reaction:
    • Craig Charles got a reaction from the audience with this line about Robocow's round 1 defeat in Season 3: "Robots do not have the milk of human kindness. Udder destruction."
    • He also gets this from a child roboteer after a loss. Following Crustacean's defeat at the hands of Chaos 2 in series 6, Craig reveals to the television viewer that the child was kicking his father because of the driver error that ended the battle. Craig then says, "That was a bit shellfish." Cue silence from the child and mild laughter from the studio audience.
    Craig: "I don't know why I bother."
  • Large Ham: Craig Charles and Jonathan Pearce.
    • The Sir Chromalot team as well.
    • The International Wreck Crew, of Plunderbird and Plunderstorm infamy. They were a lot better at rapping than robot building.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: The Recyclopse/Cassius team were known for generally trying to defeat their opponents without overly damaging them, and then if the house robots tried to damage the helpless opponent, they would use that as an excuse to attack the house robots (and show no mercy).
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Most noticeably after Series 1, with the removal of the often downright rude Jeremy Clarkson, and the contestants no longer swearing on camera. The theme slowly drifted away from futuristic apocalypse towards straight-up competition.
    • Justified in Nickelodeon Robot Wars, the kids' version of the American import Extreme Warriors. They deactivated all flame based arena hazards (including Sgt Bash's flame thrower) and referred to Sir Killalot as Sir K.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Many of the more successful robots. Tornado, Razer and Chaos 2 come to mind.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Up to 128 robots in a single season, not counting side events. You're introduced to a minimum of 6 robots and their team members per episode.
  • Lovely Assistant: Arguably Philippa Forrester and Julia Reed.
  • Made of Iron: While most are literal examples, Bigger Brother shows this against Hypnodisc.
  • Manipulative Editing: Fights would occasionally be edited to avoid controversy (the events in the Second Wars semi-final surrounding Mortis, as noted under Executive Meddling, only came to light after the programme had been broadcast as they were all cut out), or just to provide the most entertaining programme (Robogeddon vs. Hypno-Disc actually started out as a Curb Stomp Cushion before the destruction started).
  • Man on Fire:
    • Or rather Robot On Fire. Particularly Díotóir, with external fur.
    • Granny's Revenge took it Up to Eleven.
    • Sir Killalot once caught on fire during a Series 3 battle.
  • The Merch: This is possibly one of The BBC's most merchandising-friendly shows. In the early noughties Robot Wars merchandise was the number one boys' toy in the UK.
  • Mutual Kill: Several times in the multi-robot battles, most notably when T.R.A.C.I.E. and Cunning Plan took each other out in the series 1 grand final.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast:
    • Most notably the house robots: Sir Killalot, Dead Metal, Mr. Psycho, Shunt.
    • Also subverted. Many of the most dangerous robots on the show either had fairly functional names (Hypnodisc, Razer) or aggressive, but not over-the-top ones (Chaos). Killalot, on the other hand, is slow enough that "really fast" isn't that relevant.
  • Nice Hat: The captain of S3 sported a nice trilby hat, and a team member from The Stag donned a very nice hat with lights and moving parts!
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: The best remembered example is Pussycat's disqualification from series 3 for using an illegal weapon. Notably, several robots failed to make it into the arena.
  • Numbered Sequels:
    • Some of the follow up robots' names (e.g. Chaos was followed by Chaos 2).
    • Got somewhat ridiculous with Firestorm who changed its number yearly and was up to 5 by series 7. It was generally just referred to as Firestorm though.
    • The series/seasons themselves. The First Wars, The Second Wars, all the way up to the Seventh Wars.
  • Oddly Named Sequel:
    • Again, the names of some follow up robots (e.g. Scutter's Revenge was followed by Spawn of Scutter and then by Spawn Again).
    • Barber-ous was followed by Barber-ous 2, then "Barber-ous 2 and a Bit".
    • After Judge Shred came Judge Shred 2, then Judge Shred 2 1/2.
  • Off the Rails: Any non-competition match or event was capable of turning into this at a moment's notice (such as this bout in the Seventh Wars All-Stars sideshow tournament).
    • One of the most famous (and hilarious) examples was the "Flipper Frenzy" battle in the first Robot Wars Extreme. It was meant to be a titanic tussle between the four most feared flippers in the wars (Bigger Brother, Chaos 2, Thermidor 2 and Wheely Big Cheese). Instead...''this'' happened.
  • Off with His Head!: Any competing robots with heads are bound to be decapitated by Shunt. Season 4 saw Major Tom's head being smashed to pieces by Shunt, and poor Banshee was decapitated as well, with Shunt attaching her head to his axe, set it on fire, and paraded it around the arena.
  • Oh Crap!: During the series 4 semi-finals, the look on Isabelle Adams' (Wild Thing) face upon hearing who their next opponent would be: Hypno-Disc.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Sumpthing team captain Richard Dig is only ever referred to as Mr Dig or just Dig.
  • Opening Narration: In the first 4 seasons (and the first episode of the 5th) this acted as a ''Last time on Robot Wars...'' sequence, but in seasons 6 and 7 this acted as a preview of the upcoming episode (which did of course lead to spoilers but this decreased somewhat in season 7.
  • Origins Episode: The first incarnation of the official magazine had a comic strip that acted as this for each of the house robots. (With the show's shift to Lighter and Softer the comic was subsequently changed to "fantasy fights".)
  • Out of Order: Heats B and D of the second Wars were swapped round when broadcast, this is obvious when the heat winners are introduced in the semi-finals in heat order and Mace (winner of the broadcast Heat B) comes out 4th and Behemoth (the winner of the broadcast heat D) comes out second.
  • Overly Long Name: Lampshaded by Craig Charles once. At the end of each battle, he liked to shout out the result; one fight featured a robot called "Cataclysmic Variabot", and when he managed to say it without tripping up he added "Thanks for that!"
  • Pinball Zone: The Pinball trial in the series 2 semi-finals, which was retained as a sideshow tournament in series 3 and 4.
  • Piss-Take Rap: The Plunderbird team's intro in the first three seasons.
    We are the crew and we're here to tell you - we're gonna bash them, we're gonna trash them. In the wars you know we're gonna thrash them. The forecast's bad. You better get running. It's gonna be tough. There's a Plunderstorm coming!
  • Prestigious Player Title: The show called its contestants "Roboteers".
  • Punny Name: For example, Axe-C-Dent.
    • 3 Stegs to Heaven (after Steg-O-Saw-Us and Steg 2).
    • Wheely Big Cheese.
    • Iron Awe
  • Rage Quit: A unique example that was more "rightous anger" than "rage", but famous and highly regarded roboteer Rex Garrod (inventor of 1st series finalist Recyclopse and 2nd series finalist Cassius) resigned from Robot Wars after the 3rd series in protest of what he saw as the incompetent and inadequate safety standards of the show, enforcing petty and trivial rules while being lax enough with serious hazards to enable actual injuries to happen.
    Rex Garrod: For one accident to occur is bad, but for two of the exact same fault to occur in my book is nothing short of criminal. I have no intention of returning to Robot Wars until I'm satisfied that safety is up to the standards I am used to in my profession (Special effects for T.V Films & Advertising). After these almighty cock-ups things have taken a giant step forward, but from information received by many of the last wars contestants, it still has a long way to go. And self important people still rule, both in safety and common courtesy.
  • Redshirt: There weren't enough entries to the first series, so the numbers were made up by stock robots supplied by the production team. Said robots weren't allowed to reach the arena stage and so had to be disposed of in the trials.
    • The last of these robots, Eubank the Mouse, attained Mauve Shirt status by coming first in the Gauntlet and going on to pass the Trial only to abruptly "break down".
  • Retired Gameshow Element: The initial setup involved the Gauntlet and a different Trial in every show where the worst performing robot was eliminated before the arena stages began. Series 3 & 4 saw the main competition become entirely combat-based, but the more interesting trials such as Football, Sumo and Pinball were retained as sideshows (alongside other events such as Walker and Lightweight battles). Starting with Extreme the show was entirely combat-based.
  • Ring Out: First accomplished by Chaos 2 in the series 3 final against Firestorm, as the only way of getting around an opponent with a srimech; in series 4, the ringside area was redesigned in expectation of this happening much, much more.
  • Rule of Cool
  • Running Gag:
    • Virtually everything Diotoir has done would become one.
      • Diotoir catching on fire. It reached the point where they began putting food (and presenters began making requests) on it.
      • Diotoir's fur appearing in completely random and unexpected places. It's not uncommon for some random robot to have some of Diotoir's fur attached to their antenna or elsewhere on the robot or on the roboteer.
      • Johnathan Pryce or the Pit Reporter would frequently wonder aloud how on Earth the team has managed to get a hold of so much polka-dot fur, especially when Diotoir caught fire in its previous battle yet reappears again and again looking as good as new.
      • The team frequently engaged in (harmless) pranks post-series 4.
      • Off the screens, it's not uncommon for a random roboteer's (such as Hypno-Disc) website to highlight how the Diotoir teams expertise helped with the repairs of their robot.
    • Iron Awe getting flipped out of the arena (Axe Awe by Wheely Big Cheese in series 5; Iron Awe 2 by Chaos 2 in series 6 and Dantomkia in Extreme 2).
      • This became Running Gagged in the last series, when it was highly fancied to go the same way against Bigger Brother in its heat, only to pull off one of the biggest upsets in history by flipping Bigger Brother out itself. It stayed in the arena, only to be torn to pieces by Typhoon 2.
  • Sir Verba Lot: Sir Killalot the house robot.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: When Sir Killalot joined the show he dwarfed the other House Robots and rather upstaged them.
  • Spiked Wheels: Attempted by a few bots, but wholly impractical because the opponents rarely ended up side-to-side.
  • Spoiler Opening: At least in Series 6.
  • Take That: Against RoboCop in Series 3 Heat O;
    It's the show that Robocop deplores,
    'Cause we're good after three sequels of Robot Wars.
  • Tempting Fate: Hypnodisc's infamous battle against Splinter in Series 4 had a hilarious example courtesy of commentator Jonathan Pearce, after the underdog Splinter appeared to be gaining the upper hand:
    Jonathan: Could this be one of the biggest shocks ever in Robot Wars? If they [Splinter] keep attacking on a frontal collision with that spinning disc [using their front scoop to deflect the disc away], they'll protect their more vulnerable sides, of course. And maybe, who knows- *Hypnodisc smashes the scoop clean off* -OH NO THEY WON'T!
  • The Worf Effect: Flipping a house robot was a common way for a robot to achieve this. It helped that their armour fell apart at the slightest touch.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: 13 Black had 2 huge spinning discs for massive destructive potential, and yet, it never lived up to its capabilities. Their motto was "unlucky for some..." As Craig Charles said it only lasted about 13 seconds in series 5 (it actually lasted longer, but was easily beaten on a judges decision in a colourless battle) — although in series 6 it reached the Semi-Finals, and managed to take out Chaos 2 and Dominator 2 in the All-Stars Tournament.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The reaction of roboteer Luke Jackman (of Spawn Again) when he's informed by Philippa Forrester that their next opponent is Terrorhurtz while he's attempting to fix an unspecified major problem with the robot.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The large number of non-returning semi-finalists in the Seventh Wars combined with the increase in number of heats allowed for several long-standing but often overlooked robots to be seeded.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Killerhurtz becoming Terrorhurtz during Series 5. Atomic's new design in Series 7. The reason why nobody remembers the original Chaos.
    • Terrorhurtz was a double-subversion; in its first Wars it failed to do any better than Killerhurtz despite the look, won only one battle (and that was because a house robot interfered) and only in the Sixth Wars did it really get going.
    • House Robot Matilda in Series 5, after its flimsy chainsaw was replaced with a gigantic vertical flywheel that would open flip contestant robots clean into the air upon striking them.
    • Sting 1 and 2 were very average robots with no weapons or success whatsoever. Then the team entered S3 (considered to be Sting 3) three series later, which was a completely different design. The spinning blade and unique shape ensured this entry who only lost in the second round of the semis when they entered the main competition.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Almost everyone in the first Robot Wars Extreme. Only the most polite teams ever said anything sportsmanlike about or to their opponents, and this was usually done in the aftermath of a fight.
  • Too Powerful to Live: Chaos 2 flipped its way to become Champion in series 3 and 4 with often minimal damage and effort, and came close to repeating the feat in series 5. This trope was invoked in one of the series 4 Annihilators when in the very first round, every single other robot united to take it out before anyone else; Badass Decay set in later in series 6 and the Extreme II All Stars.
  • Undignified Death: Any match that didn't go to the judges was highly likely to end in this for the losing robot.
  • Unperson: The VHS release of "The First Great War", a collection of highlights and behind-the-scenes material of series 1, removed any footage of or reference to Jeremy Clarkson, and the video itself was presented by Craig Charles. No tie-in media mentions Clarkson at all, and many people watching series 1 for the first time since broadcast are surprised to find someone other than Charles as host.
    • It seemed like that season was never broadcast in the US.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Jack Charles, son of host Craig Charles, occasionally joins Diotoir's team, most notably throughout the team's Fifth Series campaign. You'd think the Pit Reporter or his own father would make a big deal of this, but he's barely mentioned when he appears.
  • Viewers Are Goldfish / Viewers Are Morons:
    • The profiles of the House Robots that were shown before every single fight in the Fifth Wars, even if said house robots had already appeared on the episode. If they'd cut those out, they could probably have included an extra battle with the time saved.
    • Starting with the Third Wars the heat final battles showed a short montage of how the competitors had managed to get to that stage, despite the fact that the clips were from battles between half an hour and three minutes before.
  • Wham Episode:
    • In the early days, a viable piece of advice was "don't worry too much about armour, the robots' weapons don't actually do that much damage." Then came Series 3, Heat H, and in it Hypno-Disc.
    • In the early days, a robot being flipped was essentially out, as there was no means of recovery. In fact, the winner of the first series, Road Block, was literally a moving ramp that would force the enemy to drive over it and fall. Come the second round of a series 2 heat, a robot called Cassius was flipped and presumed doomed. Then, its flipper weapon was used to right itself, to the astonishment of commentator Jonathan Pearce, and presumably everyone else except the Cassius team themselves. Since this now made the most powerful weapon in the series much less useful, they stormed to second place. From the third series on, not having a SRIMECH was considered risky bordering suicidal, until Chaos 2 (see below) found a way to render them redundant.
    • From later on in Series 3, Chaos 2 flipping Firestorm out of the arena. This new method of winning would be performed by many many flippers (and a few vertical spinners), culminating with 34 occurrences in the final season and a semifinal comprised almost entirely of bots with Ring Out potential. Firestorm, like many others, thought their SRIMECH would protect them from flippers. Against the most powerful version ever seen, however...
  • Whammy: All too often, a robot would dominate in its battle, only to lose due to due radio interference, a dislodged safety link, or some other technical malfunction that causes it to stop dead. Razer and Fluffy were particularly notable for this. Robots who ended up unexpectedly in the pit also qualified, especially if they were dominating the fight before their downfall. This was usually due to dodgy driving, the opponent managing to wriggle out of the way from the edge of the pit as their would-be destructor charged towards them, or the dominated robot being such a Determinator that they got a Heroic Second Wind or some luck and drove their opponents in.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Behemoth got the challenge belt in Extreme 1 as a consolation prize for the world championship. They just had to beat out 3 challengers and it would be theirs to keep - even if a later challenger defeated them. The first two matches were a walk in the park, but their third opponent was the nigh-invincible at the time Tornado, who knocked them down and snatched the belt away. Behemoth would never win a trophy - unless you count the antweight version - and ended up with the most battle losses of any robot in Robot Wars.
  • Your Head Asplode: Happened to a robot called Major Tom in series 4. Major Tom had a prop head at the back of it, and in its battle with 101, got immobilised in Shunt's CPZ. Shunt brought his axe down on Tom's head, which made it shatter into a million pieces.

The video games based on the show provide examples of:

  • Artificial Stupidity: It is often incredibly easy to get the AI robots in the computer games to drive into the pit simply by driving your robot to the other side of the pit, whereupon the AI robot will charge forward, straight into the pit.
    • The 'Football' mode on Extreme Destruction is just a regular head-to-head battle with a ball and goal, meaning that the competitor robot ignores the ball and just attacks you.
  • Artistic License – Engineering:
    • Chassis, armour, wheels, motors, power source, weapons and you're good to go.
    • Armour, wheels and even weapons will fly off in massive chunks as a robot gets hit. Even if the other robot is attacking with an axe it is enough to tear off whole sheets of metal.
  • A Winner Is You: Completing "Competition" mode on Extreme Destruction, which presents you with 'CONGRATULATIONS - enjoy your special prize' and a revolving image of a small carriage clock. Played for Laughs a little, as if you stay on the screen a while the clock falls apart.
  • Bland-Name Product: You can equip your bot with motors from a "Dosch" drill.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: the computer games allowed you to unlock competitor robots to play as as you progress through the various tournaments. Unfortunately, several of these (Dominator II in Extreme Destruction, for example) are so poor compared to their real-life counterparts that they just weren't worth bothering with.
  • Capture the Flag: Found on both Arenas of Destruction and Extreme Destruction.
  • Disc One Nuke: Wheely Big Cheese in Extreme Destruction is unlocked early on and has an incredibly powerful flipper.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Terrorhurtz appeared as a playable robot in Arenas of Destruction well before it had actually appeared in the UK series.
  • Gravity Screw: The Mars arena includes an anti-grav switch.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder
  • Second Place Is for Losers