When I was a kid, my dad would make up stories for me before I went to bed about the adventures of Potter the Otter, Sammy Stout, and Matilda Mole. They would have a host of exciting escapades, like sailing the high seas, exploring the Highlands, or the time Sammy fell into a penguin – that Sammy was always getting into trouble. This might seem like a totally irrelevant titbit about how bloody adorable my childhood was, but it serves a point, I promise.
One such adventure took them to the set of Robot Wars, where they met presenters Craig Charles and Philippa Forrester, and some of the fearsome house robots. In our family, Robot Wars was not just some gentle Sunday night viewing to relax in front of; it was an institution. The series three grand final between Chaos 2 and Hypno-Disc is one of the few times I can remember my brothers and myself being allowed to eat our dinner in front of the television.
Imagine then my excitement and trepidation when I heard that they would be bringing the show back for the first time in over a decade. I was psyched. Now in the second series of its updated revival, I can happily report that the BBC have successfully managed to not totally cock it up.
Dara O’Briain is an excellent host who blends humour and a genuine knowledge of what’s going on, without seeming like he’s taking the piss. Of course he’s no Craig Charles, decked out in leather and shouting at the top of his lungs for more chaos and destruction, but he can certainly carry the torch. Angela Scanlon too has the perfect combination of compassion when things go poorly and gentle mocking when things go absolutely horrifically.
At the end of the day, it’s the robots that are the stars of the show though, and that’s exactly how it should be.
While there are only a few remaining competitors from the original series, the latest generation of spinners, flippers, and axes are already making their mark with robots full of character – or even better, the ability to destroy their opponents.
Much to my relief the house robots are also a hark back to the good old days. Matilda, Shunt, Dead Metal, and Sir Killalot bring back nostalgia by the bucket-load and create much spirited debate amongst my flat about who is the best: it’s Matilda, obvs.
When the fighting begins, I’m taken back to my five year-old self, giddy with the excitement at the prospect of two hunks of metal going at one another. “3…2…1…Activate” rings out across the arena, and the glorious chaos unfolds.
It’s not sophisticated, but it’s bloody good fun.
Image: BBC/Mentorn Media, Scotland/Alan Peebles