The Series 1 Robot Wars Set was the first evolution of the Robot Wars Arena. Designed by Steve Clark, the set was located at a site within London's Docklands, presumably inside or close to the building that hosted the 1995 UK Open Championship. The set was assembled over the course of three days, and was predominantly made out of scrap materials, plywood and neon signage.
The Arena itself was designed with detachable hazards and components, enabling the Robot Wars production crew to quickly change its configuration to suit the various Gauntlet, Trial and combat rounds.
- "We looked into a small thing against something very... sexy and metallic. Now that's why we used the neon signs and a lot of neon, because it always [works] very well on camera"
- — Steve Clark
The main Series 1 arena consisted of a rectangular base with a plywood floor, surrounded by a small metal wall with railings; a large Robot Wars logo with a set of sliding doors provided access for competitors and the show's personnel. The arena façade was decorated with several pieces of scrap metal welded on to frames and decorated with neon lights; according to Steve Clark, the sculptures were considered affordable and visually appealing by the production crew. Neon signs and a pair of conical metal sculptures on the balcony - both resembling trees - completed the look. Lighting used for this series predominantly consisted of red, blue, purple and grey with yellow spotlights. Competitors fought either from the central balcony, or from one of two cherry pickers located on either side of the latter.
- "When we first considered the design of the set of Robot Wars. We decided against too dark and grungy look. We also kept well away from Sci-Fi as a kind of theme. Didn't want to go too far that Sci-Fi route and make it too futuristic because, again, that would be doing Robot Wars a great injustice, Robot Wars is a sport for today, not the sport for tomorrow."
- — Stephan Carsey in Robot Wars: The First Great War
In the arena's Gauntlet configuration, the area between the entry doors and the arena itself featured a rotating turntable, which formed the starting zone for all competitors. This area also provided some of the starting positions for the Labyrinth Trial, but was closed off for the Arena stage.
The Series 1 arena featured many hazards, although most were reserved for the Gauntlet and/or Arena stages.
- Main article: The Gauntlet#Series 1
- "On to my bed springs, and I'll tell you- they're painful!"
- — Jonathan Pearce comments on the springs used exclusively for The Gauntlet
In its Gauntlet configuration, the arena included the following hazards: a spinning turntable, 'corkscrew lances', ramps, slow-firing floor spikes, springs, spiked pyramids, a steel maze and below-floor grilles. In addition, a smoke screen and a swinging pendulum were present, although these were less effective than most of the other hazards.
Hazards featured sporadically throughout the Trials, although spiked pyramids were used frequently in British Bulldog and Labyrinth to impede competitors' progress. Additionally, the latter Trial was based on an enlarged version of the maze featured in The Gauntlet.
In its Arena configuration, the set did not feature as many hazards as the Gauntlet configuration, although many of these proved effective against competitor and even House Robots.
- Side Bars lined the arena walls, and were capable of leaving robots beached on them if they drove over them. Notably, Mortis immobilised itself by driving onto the bars during its Heat Final against Recyclopse, ultimately losing the battle on a controversial Judges' decision.
- Grilles (alternatively called Grids) were positioned on either side of the arena, and consisted of square-shaped holes with a metal mesh mounted slightly below the floor. These were highly effective in trapping and immobilising robots - especially those with low ground clearances - which drove or were pushed onto them. The Grilles are generally considered to be the predecessors of the Pit of Oblivion introduced in Series 2.
- The Corner Patrol Zones (CPZs) or Patrol Areas were a set of square-shaped areas in each of the arena corners, patrolled by each of the four House Robots used in this series. The House Robots would be free to attack any competitor which strayed into the CPZ, often leading to severe damage or potential immobilisation. The CPZs in Series 1 were mostly referred to as Patrol Areas in this series, and were somewhat larger than in most of their appearances in future series.
- A set of five arena spikes were also present in one of the CPZs. They would rise out of the floor whenever competitors drove over them, lifting the affected competitor off for a few seconds and preventing it from driving out of the CPZ while a House Robot attacked.
- Various spiked pyramids were scattered across the arena, with two surrounding one of the Grilles. Although effective in blocking competitors in the Gauntlet and Trial stages, their effectiveness in the Arena stage was limited.
- A small, ball-shaped swinging pendulum travelled across the bottom portion of the arena, although it largely proved to be an atmospheric feature.
The arena perimeter was distinguished by a large balcony and façade wall, each decorated with a neon Robot Wars sign and the metal/neon sculptures. The balcony offered competitors access to one of the two cherry pickers, where they would control their robots for most rounds. However, it was not uncommon for some roboteers to control their machines from the balcony itself, especially in Trial events which required the five qualifying robots to compete together (e.g. Football).
Jeremy Clarkson presented and interviewed competitors from the balcony, as well as introducing the Trial events throughout the series from within the arena. In addition to her role as pit reporter, Philippa Forrester also introduced The Gauntlet from inside the arena in every episode.
The audience stands were raised above the arena - as with the stands from the Series 2 and Series 3 arenas - but featured a very different appearance. Notably, they featured open seating and lacked any form of protection for the spectators, other than the metal railings at the front and sides.