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Series 3 Incident Press

A newspaper report on a behind-the-scenes incident that took place during filming for The Third Wars

"Well the filming of RW3 was a bit of a balls up, every one was herded around like cattle, ill informed, were made to feel unimportant in every way. Then the accident occured and things got worst, people where messed about, set home, called back again, told to hang around, told not to, promised hotels yet might not have got them or they where over 1 1/2 hours away. Still not told anything, events where dropped, etc. So my point was I wonder how the shows will pan out with the limited footage they got and if the hurriedness of it all would come over on screen. Thats why some of us, those that where there anyway, have a few biting remarks about the show, yes even after just one show! Unlike those that where not there we have a unique view of the shooting."
Peter Duncanson

Although Robot Wars: The Third Wars was a television ratings success for BBC Two, behind-the-scenes many roboteers involved were unhappy. Many expressed their dissatisfaction over issues surrounding health and safety standards, organisation during filming and several battles. Consequently, Rex Garrod left the show in protest and inspired a revamp in health and safety standards in future series.

Behind-the-scenes incidentsEdit

During the auditions for Series 3, a spike-wielding robot weighing 77.11kg was being tested, when it suddenly activated without warning. It ended up injuring a technician in the arm, prompting criticism from other roboteers, including Rex Garrod. Despite this, the unidentified machine was present in The Pits during filming for The Third Wars. While being situated on a trolley when entering the studio, it unexpectedly activated. With no functional failsafe to cease the machine’s movements, it charged across The Arena, eventually stabbing a crew member’s leg with its spike.[1]

RazerPinball

Razer was originally meant to compete in Robotic Soccer, before the incident caused it to be transferred to the Pinball Competition

The incident caused filming for the series to be delayed, eventually leading to the cancellation of side events, including a Tag Team competition, Sumo, Super Heavyweights and Grudge Matches. A re-scheduling of the Robotic Soccer and Pinball Competition events caused Razer to be transferred from the former to the latter competition.

"Prior to filming, we were asked to take part in one of the 'games' which would be separate from the Knockout competition. We thought it was a great chance to have some fun and show off Razer's versatility. Originally we were to take part in the Soccer event. Unfortunately, due to an accident in the studios, filming was rescheduled and the games suffered as a result. We had dressed up for the games and it was very disappointing to be told 'That's it, sorry'. However, towards the end of the filming of the Pinball, the production crew found there was still time for a few extra runs and we were asked to take part."
— The Razer website
Cassius 2

Cassius 2's CO2 was banned following the incident

In addition, several competitors were indirectly affected by the incident. This included Cassius 2, which was suddenly banned from utilising CO2 for its weapons.[1]

"Yes we (the Cassius crew) didn't do very well in the last wars. Partly because we were not allowed to use our Co2 gas because of health and safety requirements imposed in panic reaction after the accident which injured a stage hand (nothing to do with us it happened before we had arrived at the studio). We had to keep our cylinders outside in the cold and this meant that we could not decant from a cold cylinder to a warm one (basic laws of physics that cannot be overcome without a pump). This meant our robot had but one flip-up or one spike operation per fight, due to the fact that no liquid gas was in the on-board cylinder, that normally contains 1 kilo of liquid co2 with an expantion rate of 571 to 1 in gas form as in its usual fighting mode, giving us almost unlimited use in 5 minutes fighting. This was a severe handicap but in the end Mick (our driver) conveniently dived into the pit (I must remember to buy him a lemming outfit). This was probably the best way out as I am afraid to say that by then I was not a happy chappy at all."
— Rex Garrod

Other health and safety controversiesEdit

DaisyChopperTeam

Daisy Chopper and Team TFOSICA. Note the axles and bricks that ensured the machine's wheels were off the ground

In addition to the filming incident, several roboteers raised other health and safety concerns regarding the pits and arena. This included Alex Mordue, who raised concerns about being required to have the robots’ wheels be constantly off the ground while being transferred by trolleys. He stated this safety procedure forced some roboteers to utilise bricks and axle stands, which affected stability and height for some machines.[2]

"Some of the safety procedures were just unsafe, such as having the wheels off the ground at all times. The Daisy Chopper team had to use axle stands to sit their robot on making it about 5 foot in the air and not looking all that stable, I'm suprised no one was injured with a robot falling off bricks."
— Alex Mordue

Removal of bricks proved hazardous, almost breaking the hand of one roboteer who was forced to place them upright to ensure his machine’s wheels were off the ground. Other roboteers also criticised the pit tables, which forced some to stand on chairs or their pit table to enable them to work on the machines. However, this would result in them receiving reprimands by crew members. Conversely, some roboteers, including Peter Duncanson, criticised other safety procedures as being too restrictive, including being forced to wait for a crew member before Agent Orange could be filled or emptied of petrol.[2]

S3Cherrypickers

One of the cherrypickers, whose movement caused motion sickness for one roboteer

S3Crowd

The audience were eventually forbidden from banging on the polycarbonate, as the screws holding it up were falling out

Further, the arena was criticised for its lack of safety; for example, the cherry pickers, used to enable roboteers to view the action from above, ended up swaying and wobbling when being raised, causing Anorakaphobia’s David Kingsbury to suffer from motion sickness when facing Miss Ile. The audience was also vulnerable to health and safety issues; during a walker battle, the crowd was forbidden to bang on the polycarbonate that protected them from flying debris, as several screws holding it up were falling out[2].

"From the audience point of view.. I was a little surprised to note that the walkers exhibition event was a silent one, no banging on the polycarbonate for the kiddies coz the screws were falling out... It's hardly a Hard job to make a set that doesn't dismantle itself, or is it like that to save time at the end of filming?"
— Andrew Poodle

Organisation issuesEdit

Panzer pushes Undertaker

Organisation issues meant Undertaker was not properly switched on against Panzer

Some roboteers also expressed their displeasure regarding the treatment of roboteers and audience members by the production crew. Filming was originally promised to take place in July, before suddenly being delayed to October. This compromised the plans of many roboteers, including that of The Oracles.[3]

"This REALLY sucks, we were given a verbal assurance by Mary-Jane that the filming would be contained within July. So my teammates have booked to go on a foreign holiday together last week in August, first week in September. Unless we can get a slot that does not conflict with these dates, I will be turning up on my own. They only booked the holiday last weekend. All their time, effort and money has been thrown out the window."
— Peter Reynolds

Organisation was also criticised throughout filming; Duncanson claimed that the production crew were moving people along “like cattle”, were not giving clear instructions or information, nor were promising roboteers hotels that were within geographical proximity with the arena.[4] Poor organisation was also blamed for Undertaker not being properly switched on before it faced Panzer.[5]

"Don't think about entering, unless you don't mind being f**ked about, abused, treated as a prop, and kept in the dark. Fairness does not come into it, RW is a profit making TV show. We had a really miserable time in series 3, and be aware that our robot was never properly turned on due to problems relating to safety negligence earlier on. Of course none of this is delibarate, but nobody envolved seems to have any organisation."
— Undertaker's team's website, dedicated to their new machine Cannibal

Audience management, although seen before the incident as effective, was criticised afterwards. In particular, criticism centred upon being forced to wait for over an hour after the incident, while not being informed of the reason surrounding the delay until later. This worsened during filming, where due to poor organisation, few tickets were sold. Despite this, the audience was forced to sit together in one area, so the camera crew could capture better crowd shots.[2]

"On a more serious note I think that internal co-operation in Mentorn was awful as far as the audience went too. The morning of the accident everything was hunky dory- when we came back for the afternoon session we saw a totally different Mentorn- suddenly a massive pile of forms appeared. Then the audience was made to wait for over an over whilst some executive mulled over the ramifications of continuing or waiting until the next day- before the decision was made to discard the event- I think this showed a real disregard for the people in the audience- who only found out that there had been an accident because a security guy chose to tell us. Also- we wanted to follow DaisyChoppers progress- but no-one had any idea when they were being filmed. Worst of all was on Tuesday- when because of poor organisation only a few of the tickets were given away- despite there being loads of seats at the front row we were piled into one block of the audience arena so that they could get good audience shots (although on the first few days of filming when they had even fewer people we could sit where we liked:) Overall a poor show as far as audience management went-which was a shame- because individually all of the people I met at Mentorn seemed competent and friendly- it just seemed lack of forethought and overall organisation that was missing."
— Jaspers

BattlesEdit

Some battles were also subject to controversy, including because of health and safety concerns, judges’ decisions and House Robot attacks.

The Big Cheese vs Chaos 2Edit

Chaos2vstbc RWS3

The House Robots' attacks on The Big Cheese attracted criticism from Roger Plant

In the Heat Final of Heat E, Chaos 2 defeated The Big Cheese by flipping it, with its opponent being unable to use its lifter to self-right. After The Big Cheese was deemed immobile, the House Robots attacked it, causing damage that proved costly and time-consuming to repair. This provoked a negative response from Roger Plant, who believed that the House Robots were causing too much damage to competitors, and considered quitting the show in protest.[4]

"I dont know about s4 with the Big Cheese as I do not agree with all the damage that the house robots are doing to the competitors robots. The BC will take many hours of repair work to the case and I and the team do not have the time right now. I am in agreement with REX about withdrawing from the RW series. I gave Mentorn a damn good show with TBC and they still tried to wreck it. It will NOT be back against the house robots if they are going to do the same again. I am working on a 100% titanium robot for the next series which will be literally bullet proof. If I get time it will be ready for RW4 TTFN"
— Roger Plant

Cassius 2 vs PussycatEdit

Pussycat vs cassius 2

Cassius 2 reverses into the pit, a move later claimed to be deliberate

A Round 2 battle in Heat M saw a major shock, as Cassius 2, the sequel to Series 2 runners-up Cassius, reversed into the pit against Pussycat. Although seen as a driving error by Mick Cutter, an East Anglian Daily Times article stated that the battle may have been thrown deliberately by Team Cassius, as Garrod decided to withdraw following concerns over health and safety provisions.[1]

"He claimed (rex) he was so worried about the health and safety provisions on the show he deliberately threw away a match"
— East Anglian Daily Times

Pussycat vs Scutter’s RevengeEdit

Pussycat vs Scutter's revenge

Pussycat was disqualified after its blade shattered

Pussycat was also involved in another controversial battle, pitting it against Scutter's Revenge in the Heat Final of Heat M. Prior to the fight, Pussycat’s disc was changed from a diamond-edged saw to a hardened steel blade, where Team Cold Fusion informed the technical team of the change. During the battle, it drove into an arena wall, causing the blade to shatter, to Jonathan Pearce’s scripted surprise. Despite now being weaponless, it managed to defeat Scutter's Revenge, which had broken down.

"The timeline was that we were in London filming the early rounds and the diamond-edged saw was not having much effect; we went back to Gloucester for a few days and selected a toothed saw that was in Alan's workshop (Alan was away on business and I am sure he would have stopped us using it, being a through-hardened blade designed to work at low rpm); we returned to Robot Wars and told the tech team that we had a different blade, then the battle took place where it broke. The surprise about the change in blade in the commentary is of course scripted afterwards for narrative effect. If Alan had been at home I would have got him to cut teeth on his wire spark erosion machine. As it was it would have been better to have cut teeth in the diamond blade with an angle grinder rather than selecting the off-the-shelf saw blade."
— Robin Herrick

However, the Judges intervened, disqualifying Pussycat for violating the rule stating that 'hardened blades that may shatter are prohibited'.

"Gutted!! That is the only way to describe it. I think the decision was harsh. Nobody was hurt, we gained no advantage from using the blade and in the end we beat Scutter's Revenge without a weapon at all. Ya Boo Sucks!"
— Alan Gribble in answer to the disqualification from Series 3[6]

Daisy Chopper vs GriffonEdit

RW3GriffonLiftDaisyChopper

The judges' decision between Griffon and Daisy Chopper was recounted after a protest by Team TFOSICA.

In a Round 1 clash in Heat N, Griffon originally beat Daisy Chopper by a unanimous judges’ decision. However, Team TFOSICA were unhappy with the decision and requested a recount from the judges, citing Griffon’s poor control by driving into a CPZ and their belief that Daisy Chopper had landed more meaningful attacks throughout the battle. This sentiment was reinforced by Oliver Steeples, who agreed that Daisy Chopper was more aggressive and controlled.

"At the end, I think [Daisy Chopper] had more aggression, they had slightly better control, but we thought 'Oh, we've flipped them once.' and thought if we do it again, it's going to go over and over. So I thought, 'It's all House Robots - one of us - fair odds'. So they thought we'd go for one of them, and at least we'll get it up in the air..."
— Oliver Steeples on Griffon's battle against Daisy Chopper

After a recount of all battle criteria, one judge changed their support to Daisy Chopper. However, this was not enough for Team TFOSICA's spinner, which ultimately lost a split decision to Griffon.

Mauler vs CerberusEdit

Mauler Safety Check

The Mauler during its safety check after concerns about its weapon

"The problem is the weaponry and the safety of that flailing weapon. Does that look under control to you?"
— Jonathan Pearce
Team Mauler

Mauler was disqualified after being deemed too dangerous for the Arena

In a Round 1 battle in The First World Championship, Mauler (representing the United States of America) was due to battle Cerberus (Cyprus). However, safety concerns over Mauler's weapon prompted the producers to request a safety check, which took place outside the Arena.[2] Ultimately, Mauler was deemed too dangerous for the Arena, being disqualified on safety grounds and thus causing the battle to never take place.

AftermathEdit

Rex Garrod

Rex Garrod withdrew from Robot Wars after Series 3

Garrod, frustrated with the health and safety concerns and believing the show had lost its message of teaching children about technology and mechanics in favour of fighting, withdrew from Robot Wars after Series 3 in protest.[1]

"For one accident to occur is bad, but for two of the exact same fault to occur in my book is nothing short of criminal. I have no intention of returning to Robot Wars until I'm satisfied that safety is up to the standards I am used to in my profession (Special effects for T.V Films & Advertising). After these almighty cock-ups things have taken a giant step forward, but from information received by many of the last wars contestants, it still has a long way to go. And self important people still rule, both in safety and common courtesy"
— Rex Garrod
S4Crowd

The audience were protected by a large plexiglass cage in the Series 4 Arena

Nevertheless, health and safety standards would improve in later series. In Series 4 the arena contained a large plexiglass case that surrounded it, with the audience being situated behind it. Combined with a crowd control barrier preventing them from getting too close to the edge of the arena, audience safety was improved significantly. Further, two static control booths were constructed to replace the cherry pickers, preventing motion sickness and offering greater overall protection for the roboteers through utilising bulletproof glass windows.

WBC Killalot

Wheely Big Cheese tries to flip Sir Killalot

Roger Plant decided to compete in Series 4, replacing The Big Cheese with Wheely Big Cheese. However, he wanted his original machine to compete against the Series 3 version of Sir Killalot, in a grudge match stemming from the damage the House Robot had caused to his machine.[7] While this grudge match did not take place, Wheely Big Cheese subsequently attacked Sir Killalot during its opening melee, wedging underneath and trying unsuccessfully to flip him.

"A SPORTING CHALLENGE FOR THE BBC/MENTORN/SIR KILLALOT The Big Cheese driven by Roger Plant challenges Sir Killalot on his own to a televised Grudge Match (perhaps during RW4 filming?). This challenge is issued on the understanding that Sir Killalot is NOT modified from as it was in RW3, ie no added weapons, weight or anything else to make it even more OTT than it already is. The Big Cheese will be the same as in RW3 with the exception that it will be slightly overweight due to necessary repairs after RW3. To keep it to its correct weight of 79.4kg would mean building a new case for it, the original case being severely damaged by Sir Killalot. This would cost £600 for Kevlar and five months work: neither of which can be justified for a few minutes of TV time. The 83.8kg shown in the bio on S3 was inaccurate as that was the weight of The Big Cheese at the audition when it was in its mock-up state. It weighed in at 79.4kg for RW3 in October 1999 as Mentorn’s records should show. Its weight when repaired with fibreglass will be approximately 85kg. Is the BBC/Mentorn prepared to accept a Sporting Challenge or will they insist on strict rules for us and none at all for them? That is, House Robots knowing no bounds when it comes to fighting robots one quarter their weight (Sir Killalot is 320kg). Maybe other robots will join me in House Robot Grudge Matches? I await your replies BBC/Mentorn."
— Roger Plant

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 https://web.archive.org/web/20010521160212/http://www.tinweb.com:80/discus/messages/350/1892.html?MondayJanuary1020001114pm
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 https://web.archive.org/web/20020201032648/http://www.tinweb.com:80/discus/messages/350/1738.html?ThursdayNovember419990200pm
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20020129075406/http://www.tinweb.com:80/discus/messages/350/1664.html?MondayAugust3019991024pm
  4. 4.0 4.1 https://web.archive.org/web/20010521155823/http://www.tinweb.com:80/discus/messages/350/1802.html?SundayFebruary1320001125am
  5. http://web.archive.org/web/20031016165730/http://www.btinternet.com:80/~johnrobb/advice.htm
  6. Correspondence between User:Toon Ganondorf and Alan Gribble, 21 December 2009
  7. https://web.archive.org/web/20010525084248/http://www.tinweb.com:80/discus/messages/1776/1899.html?MondayMarch1220010111pm
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