Why Robot Wars Failed #5: Channel Five

This is the penultimate article in this series talking about why, the classic version of Robot Wars failed, leading it to disappear off TV with series 8 debuting 12 years after series 7 went off the air. This time, we are talking about the final series and the channel that hosted it, channel 5.

Following the BBC’s choice to drop Robot Wars which is explained, by clicking here, Channel 5 decided to pick up the rights to show the 7th Wars. Some things they did were OK and some were absolutely disastrous which ended up being Robot Wars’s last series of the decade.

The OK Decisions

Phillipa Forrester decided that she didn’t want to follow Robot Wars away from the BBC and channel Five needed a replacement and settled with Jayne Middlemiss. Brand new to the show and fanbase,  Jayne had to meet high expectations but, she did a good job in my opinion and looked like she cared who won and the roboteers backstage, even if she didn’t. Keeping Craig Charles & Jonathan Pearce also, worked in the series’s favor as well.

The show went back to having 16 heats and having the semi-final format of series 3 – 4. This was a good move overall for the show and led to having more robots and episodes.

The show decided to add special event matches to each heat episode which, gave us 6 fights rather than the lackluster 5 of series 6. That worked well especially with, the different fights linking to different tournaments and it worked for the show overall. Plus, special episodes after the main series including, the Third World Championship means that the series wasn’t a bad spectacle, it just wasn’t treated very well.

The Bad Decisions

A new house robot was introduced called Cassius Chrome. He wasn’t highly effective with his boxing arm weapons and is widely considered the worse house robot in Robot Wars history. Not because, the weaponry wasn’t strong enough or him being shiny but, in addition to the house robots should be stronger than the original house robots with better weaponry and armourment but, Cassius seemed like a lightweight compared to the rest of the house robots.

The active weapon rule was introduced for the seventh wars but, it led to more problems than it solved leading to controversy as well as boring robots. Firstly, the boring robots were made with a lot of the robots being the same as each other with the majority of robots having a flipper or disk weaponry which weren’t effective but, they got in through having a moving weapon over other robots with more creativity and effective weaponry despite it not being an active weapon. Stinger couldn’t re-enter due to this rule which, left a sour taste to the fans after the series finished and that wasn’t the only controversy.

Storm II had a flipper but, didn’t use it often because it didn’t need to through the speed and power of the robot which was highly entertaining. However, producers didn’t like it through it is similar to former champions Tornado and saw it as a rip-off and saw it as a boring box with no weapon. So, rumours suggest that the producers tried to eliminate Storm II from the tournament. Therefore, there is a lot of speculation around the series 7 grand final fight between Typhoon II and Storm II but, that is a discussion for another day. The producer interference was notable and made the show worse but, didn’t have the biggest effect on ending the show.

There was also, a big loss of veteran competitors and the show didn’t seem too bothered about it but, at the end of the day, it lost a lot of fan favorites from the show and lost some of the legitimacy of the series. Some fan favorites have left the show in the past but, this seemed like a bit of an exodus and this was through different circumstances but, the show didn’t work the show for them and this hurt the series overall.

The Disastrous Decision

Robot Wars had a regular time slot when on the BBC but, it wouldn’t get the same service on channel 5 and this is what put the show out of its misery. The show went from Sunday night to Saturday morning to Sunday morning and probably all of the time in between. The inconsistency of timings meant that viewing figures dropped dramatically with the Grand Final having less than 100,000 viewers.

This decision has been attributed to a bunch of different people to the CEO of Five at the time to the head of UK programming as well as the people who worked on the show. At the end of the day, the channel killed off Robot Wars because it wanted to and that was that.


After 125 episodes, classic robot wars ended in a whimper but, reruns of the classic series kept the show alive in the minds of fans as well as live events up and down the country before the BBC decided to bring the show back with a new series in 2016.

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