Robot Wars is back (again) and better than ever

The first episode of the new series shows off everything that’s great about this format

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After a successful relaunch last year, the new and improved Robot Wars is powering up for another series, and in an absolute corker of an opening episode it’s clear they’re not tinkering with the perfected format too much (apart from a new rule that allows the house robots to enter the fray a little more).

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Hosts Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon are back at the purpose-built Glasgow arena, where they’ll meet the best of Britain’s engineering enthusiasts as they batter and bash their way through various mechanical foes. In tonight’s episode that format presents a particularly exciting set of battles full of twists, surprise eliminations and genuine tension, as well as some appealingly brutal destruction at the hands of the more effective contestants.

And really the whole episode demonstrates the unique appeal of Robot Wars, which has always fallen somewhere between the homespun charm of men and women in sheds tinkering away on unnecessary projects and the less wholesome joy of watching machines smash each other to bits in a pit for fun.

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So we can share the simple joy of the group who finally find themselves selected for battle after years on the sidelines, while still marvelling at the sleek killing machine from another team that looks set to dominate the competition. We can cringe at the awkward VTs filmed in the contestants’ living rooms (which perhaps thankfully seem a little more streamlined than in last year’s series) AND gasp at battles that see robots tossed out of the arena, torn to shreds or taking on the House Robots.

This divide is even reflected in this week’s contestants, who range from a high-flying aerospace technology developer who’s built a robot worth £25,000 to a writer and horse dentist who threw together a machine made of toothbrushes and old trampoline parts. Anyone can triumph at Robot Wars, where experts and amateurs rub shoulders in a way that feels appealing British, and it’s at its most entertaining when the hobbyists are unleashed alongside those who’ve spent years on a computer perfecting their designs.

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Robot Wars isn’t always as good or exciting as this week’s episode, but as I’ve written before this makes you appreciate it even more when the truly thrilling episodes unfold before your eyes, safe in the knowledge that there’s no TV trickery involved. And even in less eventful weeks, the perfect balance of charm and destruction is still there to make it a piece of great family fun that the BBC were extremely wise to bring back.

Deadly pincers crossed that there are years of Robot Wars destruction still to come – because based on tonight’s opener, the format still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.

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Robot Wars airs on BBC2 on Sundays at 7:00pm