Stephen Carsey (also Steve Carsey) is an English director and producer who was lead series producer for the first two series of Robot Wars, then taking the role of executive producer for the remainder of its original run, alongside Tom Gutteridge.
- "Robot Wars first began in this country in about November '95, when three of the teams from America who essentially came across as ambassadors for the sport of Robot Wars: Thor, La Machine and The Master... took part in the British Open Robot Wars Competition... off the back of that showcase, the BBC commissioned the series."
- — Stephen Carsey discusses the show's origins and the 1995 UK Open in The Making of Robot Wars
Carsey had already been working for Mentorn for three years by the time Robot Wars first aired on BBC Two, and was a key figure in bringing the sport from American live events to British television. Employed by company founder and Chief Executive Tom Gutteridge, he was heavily involved from the outset in developing the format for the televised UK Series, which featured noticeable differences from the original 1994-1997 US events created by Marc Thorpe.
His position within the production of Robot Wars covered a wide range of responsibilities, one of which involved orchestrating the auditions for Series 1 and Series 2. The former was demonstrated during the behind-the-scenes special The Making of Robot Wars, where he is seen describing a chalk mock-up of what would become the Labyrinth Trial to hopeful competitors. He explains the event to roboteers, with a two-dimensional replica of the maze drawn backstage for robots to drive across and prove their mobility. This was one of a number of instances in which the auditions for Series 1 were used to test ideas for the Gauntlet and Trial challenges.
- "About four weeks before the recording of the series, we basically gathered all the robots together, which I suppose in traditional TV terms could be described as an audition."
- — Carsey explains the auditioning process for Robot Wars: The First Wars
The Making of Robot Wars is the only episode in which Carsey makes visual appearances in the main series, even speaking to the camera for several segments to explain the auditioning process, safety precautions (including one moment where he reminded roboteers to check their radio control gear) and other behind-the-scenes occurrences including technical checks. He also briefly discussed the exchanges in The Pits between teams and members of the technical crew, among those including Senior Technical Consultants Mat Irvine and Derek Foxwell.
In terms of the show's presentation, Carsey often put forward his ideas for how he wanted shots involving hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Craig Charles to appear on camera. As well as this, he would set a format for how teams would introduce themselves to viewers when discussing their machines on their Pit benches.
- "The doors slide open for the first one and reveal the lights and the smoke, and when that rolls out, then we'll cut to Jeremy or the audience, or whoever..."
- — Carsey explains his desired mise-en-scène for the Series 1-2 arena introductions
Perhaps Carsey's most enduring contribution was in conceptualising the idea for the House Robots, which he took inspiration from after watching an episode of the popular sports entertainment show Gladiators. He entrusted a team from the BBC Visual Effects Department, lead by Chris Reynolds, to design and build the original versions under his supervision, with the requirement of having unique designs and 'personalities' distinct from those expected of the competitor entries.
Carsey made further on-screen appearances throughout Robot Wars Revealed, a spin-off series presenting behind-the-scenes footage of The Second Wars. In Episodes 1 and Episodes 13, he was seen talking with members of the Dartford Girls Grammar team at different stages of Napalm's run. He would also explain, in Episodes 11 and 15, the 'reset' procedures for every Gauntlet, Trial and Arena event taking place in this series, which had the side effect of causing delays to filming that also resulted in an extra day being added to the schedule. Carsey also discussed The Parthian Shot's forced retirement in Episode 6, commented on Razer's fast Football run in Episode 4, and praised Panic Attack for its title victory against Cassius, also in Episode 15.
- "Well, a better team couldn't have won, as Rex said on the podium. Not necessarily the better robot in terms of engineering, but the best team won. The fact they were doing it for charity makes it even more enjoyable, so... very pleased for them. Can't wait 'til the next series, can't wait 'til the next event that we televise, so that we can see them in action again!"
- — Carsey congratulates Team Panic Attack on winning The Second Wars
While Bill Hobbins would become lead series producer from The Third Wars onwards, Carsey would continue his involvement with Robot Wars as an executive producer alongside Tom Gutteridge, right up until the show's cancellation following The Seventh Wars in 2004. This also extended to an identical role in international versions created during this time, such as the US series Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors and Nickelodeon Robot Wars.
- "As fans of Robot Wars may know, our long serving Executive Producer, Stephen Carsey is leaving for pastures anew after [Series 7] recording. He has been involved in Robot Wars for over 8 years, and started at Mentorn as a Development Producer, creating and landing the televised version of Robot Wars - his most significant contribution to the show being the House Robots themselves. We wish him all the luck in the world and our thanks for being the driving force behind the show."
- — Robot Wars: The Seventh Wars Souvenir Programme
Carsey left Mentorn in September 2003 after Series 7 had concluded filming. His decision was officially acknowledged beforehand in the souvenir programme available to audience members, which thanked Carsey for his involvement in creating the show and its House Robots in a dedicated 'Robituary' column. As such, he did not return to the role as executive producer upon Robot Wars' revival in 2016, as the role was instead filled by Andrew Robertson for Series 8 through 10.
Outside Robot Wars
Carsey's involvement with Mentorn began in 1995, where he progressed to become Head of Entertainment, before leaving in 2002 for Endemol. As well as Robot Wars, Carsey lent himself to Channel 4 comedy Exploitica, FOX Network's Paradise Hotel and Channel 5's Britain's Worst Driver.
In 2011, Carsey worked as executive producer for motion picture event Lord of the Dance in 3D, starring Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley. He also worked as Chief Creative Officer for ITN Productions in that time, leaving in 2012 to become Managing Director at Conceive Media, a film and media production company where he works to this day.
Carsey also worked for renowned audiobook and Amazon-owned podcast platform Audible from 2014 until 2021, greenlighting over 200 podcasts during his tenure. He then left to become Managing Director at Storyglass, a UK production company focused on the production of podcast content.
In 2016, Carsey would create a spiritual successor to the original Robot Wars in the form of the drone-based children's game show Airmageddon. Produced in two series by DHX Media in collaboration with Conceive Media, and broadcast on CBBC in the United Kingdom, the show involved a variety of skill and combat-based challenges not too dissimilar to the format of the first two UK Series. Much like Robot Wars, these were set in a purpose-built 'Airena' (filmed inside the hangars at Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire), while a set of themed resident drones were also present mirroring the roles of the House Robots.
- Much like fellow series producer Bill Hobbins, Carsey was part of The Steering Committee.
- Carsey was the first person to broadcast a live television show on the internet, way back in 1994.
- During his time at Audible, Carsey commissioned the company's most successful original production in their history - The Sandman by Neil Gaiman.
- 'Robots Rule - History of Robotic Combat', fightingrobots.co.uk (archived)
- Carsey explains the Labryinth to auditioning teams
- Jeremy Clarkson and Stephen Carsey discuss the presenter's opening dialogue for Heat A
- 'Robituary', Robot Wars: The Seventh Wars Souvenir Programme, p.34
- Private correspondence between RobotManiac and Simon Harrison of King Buxton, 20 February, 2022
- Stephen Carsey's LinkedIn page
- 'DHX MEDIA, CBBC, FAMILY CHRGD ANNOUNCE DRONE CONTEST SERIES, AIRMAGEDDON', WildBrain
- 'CREDITS | Cardington Studios', Cardington Studios
- 'Airmageddon - Media Centre', BBC.co.uk