In Brief

Robot Wars 2017: Is new series winning over critics?

Little change to the 'winningly whacky format' should please fans as the battles recommence

Robot Wars returned to UK television screens last night for the reboot's second series, with a spinning-blade machine tearing through the competition and a new twist in the arena.

Thankfully for fans, there has been very little tinkering with the "winningly whacky format", says Jeff Robson at iNews.

And there was praise for presenting duo Angela Scanlon and Dara O'Briain, who "strike the right balance of gung-ho enthusiasm and genuine interest in the engineering intricacies of the gizmos", while keeping a "portion of eyebrow raised at the surreal strangeness of the whole thing".

However, the real stars remained the robots, with vertical spinning-blade Aftershock causing the biggest spectacle with its demolition of rival Sabretooth. Father-and-son team Will and Ian Thomas, grand finalists in the last series with Shockwave, maintained their winning streak by "cutting what looked like a fairly effortless swathe through the competition", says Louisa Mellor at Den of Geek.

"It must have felt like watching the family dog get savaged by a vicious mutt," she added, as the destruction reduced one of the Sabretooth team to tears.

The new series did contain one "menacing new twist", says TellyMix. Activation of the infamous tyre in the arena not only risks opening up the pit, into which the machines can fall, but can also now activate a mode called Rogue House Robot.

"This releases a House Robot to attack the competitors for a period of ten seconds, anywhere in the arena," says the website.

Newcomer Crank-E, a vertical spinner made by a team from Caithness in Scotland, felt the full force of this new rule when it was flipped out of the arena by old favourite House Robot Matilda.

The first episode got the balance just right, says Mellor at Den of Geek, with "enough space left around the fights for us to grasp the characters, ambitions and stories behind the machines, but not so much that the personalities take over completely".

Robson agrees, saying: "I started off thinking this is a bit daft, really. But within minutes I was as fascinated as the bots' creators by their technical intricacies and nodding sympathetically as they battled the clock between bouts to fix drum speed issues and 'axe malfunctions'."

Robot Wars continues on Sundays at 7pm on BBC 2.

Robot Wars 2017: What to expect for next series of reboot

10 February

Robot Wars fans are hoping for a new series in the near future after the BBC revealed filming had taken place in Glasgow before Christmas.

Series one of the reboot was a big hit, with two million people tuning in to the first episode. The show posted consistently impressive figures over the course of the series, regularly beating the BBC's other Sunday night favourite, Top Gear.

Following the success, BBC2 announced that Dara O Briain and Angela Scanlon will be once again "challenging Britain's finest robot builders".

Kate Phillips, BBC controller of entertainment commissioning, said: "Viewers, like our robot creators, haven't lost their passion for creative wizardry and mechanical warfare. With even more formidable house robots and very determined teams, we can't wait for the battles to begin."

When is it back?

"Robot Wars will be back sooner than you can say pneumatic lifting scoop," says Radio Times, despite offering no specific date. Filming took place between 2 and 7 December last year, when the 2016 Christmas special was filmed.

Eagle-eyed fans have spotted a gap in the BBC's schedules starting on Sunday 5 March at 8pm, after the end of the current series of Dragon's Den, but there has been no confirmation from the BBC.

What can we expect?

More of the same, it seems. O Briain and Scanlon are once more presenting and commentary will come from the effervescent Jonathan Pearce. The previous year's house robots will also return, as well as the reigning champion Apollo.

Nor is the judging panel changing, with Professor Noel Sharkey, Dr Lucy Rogers and Professor Sethu Vijayakumar back to preside on events.

The series will contain six episodes: five qualifying episodes and a grand final, with a sixth finalist being chosen as a wildcard by the judges. There will be eight robots per heat, to make 40 in total.

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