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      Robot Wars Is Coming Back And Here’s Why You Should Be Really Fucking Excited
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      July 13, 2016

      Robot Wars Is Coming Back And Here’s Why You Should Be Really Fucking Excited

      In this terrifying modern age of humanity, there are many great philosophical questions which urgently need to be addressed. Why must man succumb to populism? In light of our iconoclastic approach to heritage and culture, is the concept of civilisation fit for the contemporary world? Has Twitter sounded the death knell for accepted morality and, seriously, how hard can it be to get verified on that fucking thing? Most importantly of all, is Robot Wars a legitimate sport?

      Though we cannot claim to have all the answers, we can at least put that last question to bed once and for all.

      The definitive answer to "Is Robot Wars a legitimate sport?" is: yes, it's a sport for robots, and we won't hear a single word to the contrary. In a world of ceaseless human competition, the Robot Wars arena is where we once sent robots to act out our vicarious desires. First on the BBC, and then on the grainy soft-porn channel that was Channel 5 in the early noughties, Robot Wars was a programme which highlighted the very best of robot athleticism. It ran from 1998 to 2004 and – unlike boring human sports, like long jump or tiddlywinks – it featured axes, flamethrowers and brutal, machinated violence.

      Now, in the summer of 2016, philosophical questions about Robot Wars are more pertinent than ever. A new series has finished filming, and promotional work has already begun. Due to be aired later in the summer, the world's greatest robot sport is about to return to our televisions. The only difference is that, these days, we can watch the carnage on our widescreens, while in 1998 the majority of televisions were a vast assortment of carcinogenic cathode tubes with monitors roughly six inches in breadth.

      Though the BBC are promising a new and improved version of Robot Wars this summer, the programme is bound to be a reminder of happier days. Before we had ISIS, and Brexit, and Donald Trump's presidential candidacy, we had dads in camo trousers allowing their kids to control extremely dangerous hydraulic weaponry, all under the supervision of Jeremy Clarkson and Craig Charles. Those were simpler times, but better times, too. The new series of Robot Wars promises to bring something new to the table but, likewise, it gives us the opportunity to reminisce, and remember the glory days of Hypno-Disc, and Raizerblade, and that red furry robot which inevitably used to burst into flames.

      Honestly, which child of the nineties does not remember Robot Wars fondly? Who doesn't sometimes daydream of coming home from school on the bus, getting into the house and settling down on the sofa to drink Sunny D and watch Craig Charles sweat his way through some stilted dialogue with an extremely nervous nine-year-old? Oh, how we all wished to be that nine-year-old. How we all wished to have a father who would spend hours making robots in the garage, too innocent to know that dads who spend all their time in garages are either depressed, plotting to kill their partners or wanking themselves into oblivion.

      Still, it was always some other kid who ended up on Robot Wars. Why didn't our dads have an in-depth knowledge of circuitry? Why didn't our dads want to grow ponytails? Why didn't our dads let us play with potentially lethal buzzsaws? These were the plaintive cries of a generation of children, and explain why we're all such bitter and twisted adults today. In fairness, the dad-and-lad teams – truly the staple of the programme – were never quite as glamorous as they seemed. The lad was usually hysterical with excitement and, after 30 seconds of allowing their slightly inadequate homemade robot to be annihilated by Sir Killalot, the dad would usually be hissing under his breath for little Nathan to hand over the fucking, shitting controls and stop ruining several months of hard work.

      While father-son relationships were built up and torn down on the programme, so too were friendships. Some of the best matches on Robot Wars were between trios of socially inept thirtysomethings from Kettering, or Ipswich, who had spent the last two years of their lives building the machines and were ready to literally kill each other in order to bask in the glory of victory. In this sense, Robot Wars was not just a sport for robots, but also a trial of mental athleticism for their human overlords. Only on Robot Wars could we watch three bearded Games Workshop employees have their dreams smashed to pieces, as a trio of HMV metalheads screamed with elation as their axe-wielding behemoth won the day.

      Presiding over the carnival of mayhem was a magnificent punditry team, with Craig Charles only the first amongst them. This clip epitomises Charles' brilliance, and shows him at his theatrical best. He was always there, up on the Robot Wars balcony, dictating to the people like a leather-clad despot. With his thick Scouse accent and impossible enthusiasm, he became an extremely unsuitable role model to children at the turn of the millennium. He was brash, loud and admittedly spent most of the era completely off his tits, which perhaps explains how he maintained the atmosphere of perpetual excitement. More importantly, however, he absolutely loved watching robots trash the shit out of each other, and enjoyed screaming his head off when one or the other was eventually dumped into The Pit of Oblivion, hence eliminated from the competition in a billow of grey-white smoke.

      For the matches themselves, Jonathan Pearce took over. Already a well known football commentator – see, we told you Robot Wars was a sport – Pearce could paint the most visceral of word pictures to compliment the robotic violence on screen. Though it was impossible to narrate everything going on in the frankly insane, strobe-lit arena, his commentary got to the heart of the robots' hopes and motivations, while also effectively describing them being battered into non-existence. He had a soft touch, too, when it came to the people behind the machines, and nobody has ever lamented for a team of downcast IT technicians in matching "VECTOR OF ARMAGEDDON" t-shirts quite like him.

      Please go to 4:50 to see some synchronised industrial rave dancing from participants

      When it comes to the battle themselves, who can forget the house robots, poised menacingly in their corner patrol zones? Who can forget the thrill of seeing Shunt bash some shithouses from Leighton Buzzard into the flame pit, or Matilda flip someone out of the arena altogether? Who can forget Philippa Forrester – every boy's childhood crush Philippa Forrester – commiserating with contestants down in the pit, as they wept over the smouldering remains of their life's work? Altogether, this is what made Robot Wars brilliant, and certainly more watchable than anything which has been featured on Channel 5 since.

      Though the new series will never recreate the wonder of the original, the return of Robot Wars can only be a good thing. Craig Charles might be gone, Philippa Forrester might be gone, but this country will never run out of lovable anoraks who are willing to invest huge amounts of their time and money in building vicious, killer robots. As they hack and bludgeon each other in the revamped arena, we can reminisce about the good old days, and shed a tear thinking of times gone by. Long live the new Robot Wars, then, and here's to the robots who shall fight no more.

      @W_F_Magee

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