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Team Big Brother was a team who competed in Series 3-8 and 10 of Robot Wars, as well as both series of Robot Wars Extreme and the one-off series Nickelodeon Robot Wars.

The team's logo during the original series was Big Brother's morningstar weapon over the words "Team Big Brother", white letters on black. As Team Swarm, the team wore yellow beekeeper outfits and big black hats.

The Team[]

The Big Brother team was primarily a family team of Ian Watts and his children, Joe, Ellie and Sam. They were often joined by Ian's colleagues and later students at the University of Brighton, where he worked as a lecturer.

Ian, Ellie and Joe were also joined by Ian's wife Cath and another daughter Megan in the pits of the original series, the latter of whom made a small cameo during the televised show.

"Ian and the family were living in the Middle East at the time of the second series, and it was young Joe Watts who first brought the show to his father's attention. "Joe had watched it on television and loved it" recalls Ian. "He got to the stage where he wanted to build one of his own." But it wasn't until the Watts family moved back to England that Joe's wish became a reality."
Robot Wars: The Official Magazine on the origins of Team Big Brother

Ian Watts[]

Ian Watts in Series 10

Ian Watts with his children in Series 5

"It's got more hair than I have!"
— Ian Watts to Julia Reed when asked about the hairspray he was coating his robot in

Ian Watts was the permanent face of Team Big Brother throughout the show, debuting with the team's namesake in Series 3. He drove Big Brother in all three fights, but did not receive a significant speaking role during Series 3 or 4, with Joe Watts primarily taking that role. Ian Watts grew up with a beekeeping father, from whom Ian Watts would later get the idea for The Swarm.

Ian Watts was a shrewd tactician and skilled driver, telling Joe to hold off the flips against Chaos 2 to outlast the champion's CO2 and planning the tactics to defeat Hypno-Disc in the next fight.

Watts portrayed himself as a cheeky and good-humoured roboteer, often taking stabs at House Robots like Shunt and Sir Killalot and bantering with Craig Charles and Philippa Forrester. In the Grand Final of Series 5, Ian Watts made a sincere show of gratitude to the roboteers who assisted in rebuilding Bigger Brother following the fight with Hypno-Disc. These attributes led to Ian Watts masterminding the House Robot coup d'etat in the All Stars of Series 7.

Ian returned to Series 8 and later Series 10 of Robot Wars, as the Team Captain for the first time. At this point, he was lecturing at the University of Brighton. He was the only member of the team to return for the reboot. He drove Blenda of The Swarm.

Joe Watts[]

Joe Watts with Big Brother

"Hello, I'm Joe Watts, this is Ian Watts, and our robot's called Bigger Brother. Last um year we got far and...very far. This time we're going to knock Chaos 2 out. We've got two, um, two weapons. These two spikes here I've been checking them with my thumb, and this um flipper over here. We've got to put this on so when if they're very low down, um we can flip them up easily. It can um flip Sir Killalot and the bottle freezes up if we use the flipper too much. And - hello everyone at Robin Hill!"
— Joe Watts in Series 4

Joe Watts with Bigger Brother

Joseph "Little Joe" Watts was the main face of Team Big Brother all throughout the original run of the show. He was the Team Captain in Series 3-7 and both series of Extreme and was responsible for all of the team interviews in Series 3 and most of them in later series.

Joe Watts: "Yeah, because it's - the much lightest robot can get - the fastest robot can push the lightest one in very fast."
Philippa Forrester: "Now that's the theory of Robot Wars according to Joe. Now if you'd listened to that in the first place, you wouldn't be losers now!"
— Debriefing on tactics with The Hub Nuts in Series 3

Joe designed Big Brother and was the namesake for the robot that gave the team itself. According to Joe, it was inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog.

"Bad luck" to Sir Chromalot

Joe's tender age (seven and a half in Series 4) frequently resulted in halting and stuttering speech that endeared him to the hosting team, Philippa Forrester in particular. Forrester took him to speak to the losing teams in all three of the Series 3 fights. Joe was well liked by other roboteers too, with winning teams often wishing that they had not met him before being forced to defeat him.

Joe hugs Philippa

In Series 3, Forrester enjoyed asking Joe about his tactics, which Joe frequently identified as pitting or overturning opponents with his robot's wedge. Forrester had a running joke that Joe wouldn't give her a hug, but received one after delivering the news of Ultor's concession, and a final one when Big Brother was eliminated in the Semi-Finals. In Series 5, Forrester involved Joe and Ellie with the behind the scenes team by asking them to call "action" for her interviews to begin.

Craig Charles debriefs Joe and Ellie

Philippa Forrester with Joe and Ian, goofing off during pre-battle interviews

Joe's role from tactician evolved into weapons operator in Series 4, when Bigger Brother made its debut and required an independent control for weapons. Joe was a very capable weapons operator and made a good team with his father, achieving three separate out of the arena flips and also scoring the key flips that eliminated Chaos 2 in Series 5 and Tornado in the Extreme 2 All Stars.

"I think Joe has inherited his dad Ian's talent for driving."
— Philippa Forrester with Jonathan Pearce in the pre-final interview of the Minor Meltdown

The team upon winning the Minor Meltdown

Joe took on the role of driver in the Minor Meltdown competition, after practising at home with Ellie taking on the weapons system. With Joe at the helm, Bigger Brother won the tournament, including a very short victory in the final.

Joe did not return to the team after the reboot, having graduated and begun a career as a software engineer. According to Ian Watts, he and Ellie have a standing invitation to join the team if they ever want to return to the televised show.

Ellie Watts[]

Ellie Watts

Ellie joined the team in Series 5 and Extreme 1. She was instantly caught up with the same popularity as her bigger brother, and was an immediate favourite of Craig Charles and Philippa Forrester, who lent her lip gloss during the pre-battle interview with Splinter. Ellie took on the team's introduction in Series 5 and Extreme 1, emulating the same halting speech as her brother in Series 3 and 4. Ellie and Joe frequently danced with celebration after winning fights. She became very emotional during Bigger Brother's destruction at the hands of Hypno-Disc, but recovered significantly after her father and brother pulled off the victory.

Ellie telling Philippa Forrester that their tactics are secret

Ellie took on the role of weapons operator as Joe drove the robot in the Minor Meltdown. The two were praised by Charles, Forrester and Jonathan Pearce for their teamwork, with Ellie's flip instrumental in Bigger Brother's swift victory over Lambsy in the final.

Ellie did not return to the team after the reboot. According to Ian Watts, she and Joe have a standing invitation to join the team if they ever want to return to the televised show.

Sam Watts[]

Ian with Sam before the fight with Sabretooth

"Sam loves Robot Wars. He drags me to watch it on the tellie every week. He loves it here."
— Ian Watts

Ian's son Sam joined the team in Series 8 and later in Series 10. He was responsible for driving the invertible Skye of The Swarm. He showed a keen interest and awareness of the rules and the layout of the battle, giving orders to his team members in staying off the unopened pit and encouraging everyone else to keep moving so that the 50% clusterbot mobility rule was satisfied. He also bantered with his father about not having a chance of defeating Sabretooth, to which Ian explained to the audience that Sam had just turned thirteen.


Waylond Twiston-Davies was a member of Team Big Brother in Series 3, but did not receive a speaking role on the show. He played chess with Ian Watts in the pits. Ian Watts’ second daughter also made brief appearances on the show occasionally, but was never an official team member with her older brother and sister filling these roles.

James Crawford and Jennie Barker, a respective current and former student of Watts at the University of Brighton[1], also joined the team in Series 8 on the Or Te team. Team Terror Turtle member Charles Hoile was also an assistant on the project, and joined Terror Turtle during its appearance in Series 8 when Watts invited him to be on the TV show.

For Series 10, Mike Hamilton-Macy and Ryan Pratt joined the team. Due to the nature of their clusterbot competitor, Hamilton-Macy and Pratt each took on a driving role in the series, driving Pinza and Rubber Duck. Mike Hamilton-Macy was previously the captain of Team Wind Power, and competed in the second series of Extreme with Pressure, reaching the Heat Final of the New Blood Championship, also attempting to enter the Seventh Wars.


The team originally entered Series 3 with Big Brother, named after Joe Watts due to him being a big brother to his two little sisters. Between Series 4 and Series 7, the team entered Bigger Brother, which also competed in Robot Wars Extreme and Nickelodeon Robot Wars. In 2016, Bigger Brother's successor, Or Te (initially known as Bigger Brother 2), was entered into Series 8, although it was not selected to compete in Series 9 or 10. The team instead returned to Series 10 with a four-part clusterbot, The Swarm.

The team enjoyed considerable success, reaching three series Semi-Finals and the Grand Final of Series 5, finishing runner-up to Razer in the latter. They also won the Minor Meltdown in Extreme Series 2, with Joe and Ellie Watts at the controls of Bigger Brother. However, their next entry, Or Te, was eliminated in the first round of Series 8, and was not selected to compete in Series 9.[2] On Team Big Brother's return in Series 10, The Swarm reached the Heat Semi-Finals, ultimately finishing fourth in its heat.

Name Weight Class Series
Big Brother Heavyweight Series 3
Bigger Brother Heavyweight Series 4-7, Extreme 1-2, Nickelodeon
Or Te Heavyweight Series 8
The Swarm Heavyweight Series 10


  • Wins: 23
  • Losses: 17

Series Record[]

UK Series[]

Team Big Brother in Extreme 2

Main Series Team Big Brother Series Record
The First Wars Did not enter
The Second Wars Did not enter
The Third Wars Semi-Finals, Round 1 with Big Brother
The Fourth Wars Heat, Round 2 with Bigger Brother
The Fifth Wars Runners-Up with Bigger Brother
The Sixth Wars Semi-Finals, Round 2 with Bigger Brother
The Seventh Wars Heat, Round 2 with Bigger Brother
Series 8 Heat, Round 1 with Or Te
Series 9 Not selected with Or Te
Series 10 Heat, Fourth Place with The Swarm
Not selected with Or Te
Robot Wars Extreme Appearances
Series 1 Entered with Bigger Brother
Series 2 Entered with Bigger Brother

NOTE: Mike Hamilton-Macy entered the second series of Extreme with Pressure, also attempting to qualify for Series 7 without success.

US Series[]

US Series Team Big Brother Series Record
Season 1 Did not enter
Season 2 Did not enter
Nickelodeon Entered with Bigger Brother

Outside Robot Wars[]

Team Big Brother entered Techno Games with a weaponless version of Bigger Brother called Big Bro in the Football (teaming up with British Bulldog, a weaponless version of Bulldog Breed and going by the team name Team BB), the Assault course in which it came 3rd overall both series, and the Sumo events (which it won one year and lost to Mr Nasty, who was going by the name of All Torque, the next year) and the Tug of War.

The team also entered with Jake the Peg in the Penalty Kick in 2002 and 2003, drawing with The Four Horsemen's Cybernetic, putting them both in third place. Jake the Peg returned in 2003 and won gold.

The entire Watts family in the early 2000's with Little Sister

In addition to Robot Wars, the team also entered various other televised robot combat competitions. They entered the second season of BattleBots with Bigger Brother, and the latter three with Little Sister, essentially the Series 5-6 incarnation of Bigger Brother painted yellow and decorated with flowers.

Team Captain Ian Watts also appeared on Scrapheap Challenge as a technical expert, as well as designing and building the animatronics for a lifelike baby in BBC's Holby City, a project Ian named aB. The sculpting for the animated prop was done by an artist in California, and the baby could "breath" as well as move its head, arms and legs.[3]

Bigger Brother when it appeared on Big Brother

Bigger Brother later made an appearance in the 2010 season of the reality TV series Big Brother alongside Titan, a humanoid robot used for advertisements. As part of a task, Titan had turned some of the housemates into "robots" by way of making them dress in cardboard robot costumes, and the other housemates were given a chance to beat Titan by beating him in robot combat in a specially-made arena in the House Garden, with a Pit and low arena walls. Here, Titan "drove" Bigger Brother whilst the housemates used modified remote controlled cars, and had to survive three minutes in order to win. Bigger Brother emerged victorious in the resulting battle, immobilising all of the opponents in varying ways- pitting three of them, turning one on its side, crushing one against the arena wall, and even flipping one out of the arena, much to the surprise of the housemates.[4]

Emergancy, Team Big Brother's featherweight

Bigger Brother also fought in several Roaming Robots competitions, along with the team's newest Featherweight robot Emergancy. Bigger Brother also remains an active competitor at Robots Live! events, along with Or Te, making its most recent appearance at the Burgess Hill event in April 2018. Bigger Brother is occasionally used for engineering demonstrations at the University of Brighton, where he works as a lecturer.[5]

Ian Watts and John Frizell with Bull Dog

Ian Watts teamed up with John Frizell from Team Terror Turtle to enter the 2015 season of BattleBots, entering a robot named Bull Dog. The robot greatly resembled M2 in design, and was covered in fur. However, Bull Dog was on the reserve list and was ultimately not required to compete in the main competition. Bull Dog fought Stinger: The Killer Bee and Splatter in an unaired three way rumble, but this was won by Stinger.

Creepy Crawlies at BattleBots in 2016

Team Creepy Crawlies

Watts and Frizell returned to BattleBots in 2016, on a team with various British students, and Ian's son Sam. They entered Creepy Crawlies, a five-piece clusterbot, with each robot wielding a set of horizontal crushers. Each robot was designed in homage to a different insect. Creepy Crawlies suffered a destructive loss at the hands of Son of Whyachi, despite surviving longer than Ultraviolent, the latter of which still received a place in the bracket as a reserve. Creepy Crawlies would later become the design inspiration for The Swarm.

The Grubs at King of Bots

Continuing the theme of multibots used by Team Big Brother and Team Terror Turtle in Robot Wars and BattleBots, the united team, alongside Ann Gribble, entered a four-part clusterbot into the Chinese show King of Bots named The Grubs. The robot consists of an invertible wedge-shaped unit named Banger, and three identical invertible robots with horizontal bar spinners named Mash, Mince, and Chop. The team all dressed as chefs, to match their naming scheme of British foods. On the team's King of Bots debut, The Grubs reached the second round, after initially defeating Crossfire by knockout. However, in the second round, two of the three components of The Grubs were immobilised by Saber, awarding the win to the Chinese entry. The Grubs also fought in an end-of-season Rumble and an unaired Tag Team battle, fighting against and alongside Blue - however, both robots lost each battle under differing circumstances.

Eater at This is Fighting Robots

In the Chinese show This is Fighting Robots, successor to King of Bots, the same members of Team Big Brother competed with a new robot named Eater, which saw a larger invertible robot armed with two bar spinners, paired with an invertible wedge identical to Banger. Eater was selected by celebrity captain Wu Chun to become part of the Red team, and fought Fango, Hunting Wind and Shrederator Tiger Claw in its first rumble. However, it was eliminated via knockout after both halves became immobilised by attacks from Shrederator Tiger Claw, and was the first to fall within the rumble. As a result, Eater was subsequently eliminated from the Red team after the first round.

The Four Horsemen at BattleBots in 2018

The Four Horsemen team

Team Big Brother entered yet another clusterbot into the 2018 season of BattleBots on Science Channel and Discovery Channel, using a four-piece design named The Four Horsemen, based heavily upon The Grubs. The individual robots with bar spinners were now named Famine, War and Pestilence, with the invertible wedge being named Butter Cup, although due to weight restrictions, only three robots could compete at once. This also proved to be the first appearance on BattleBots for Ann Gribble and Ryan Pratt, alongside Ian Watts and Sam Watts, while John Frizell did not return. The Four Horsemen first fought in a rumble against Double Jeopardy and Gamma 9, and the bar spinners of War and Pestilence were able to immobilise Double Jeopardy during the battle. War stopped working during the battle, and Pestilence also started smoking at the end of the fight, but Butter Cup continued to wedge under Gamma 9, which lost mobility around the same time as Pestilence. On a split decision, the judges awarded The Four Horsemen its first victory. The Four Horsemen then fought Blacksmith in a head-to-head battle, and accrued an early lead through repeated hits from the clusterbot's bar spinners. However, one segment of The Four Horsemen immobilised Butter Cup by removing its wheels, and the remaining two segments of The Four Horsemen were immobilised by Blacksmith. In its final competition fight, The Four Horsemen fought a fellow clusterbot in Gemini, where two of its three segments were disabled, while Gemini was also reduced to one active machine, but ultimately the unanimous decision was awarded to Gemini, ending The Four Horsemen's campaign with a 1-2 record. The Four Horsemen also represented the United Kingdom during an untelevised battle in the USA vs The World special, which did not count towards the robot's competition record. There, The Four Horsemen lost a Judges' decision to Hypothermia.

In April 2018, Butter Cup also appeared at the Robots Live! event in Burgess Hill, competing in featherweight battles as a separate machine and in one heavyweight battle alongside Bigger Brother.

The Four Horsemen also returned for the 2019 season, with John Frizell and JME Anderson rejoining the returning team of Ian Watts, Sam Watts and Ann Gribble. For this season, Famine and War were redesigned, Butter Cup returned with minimal changes, and three new units were added: horizontal disc spinner Pizza, invertible wedge Daisy, and the entanglement version of Skye from The Swarm. Its first battle was a three-way melee, where it once again faced Double Jeopardy, alongside Lucky, losing the battle to Lucky. However, it redeemed itself by earning back-to-back wins against SubZero and Extinguisher, before finally losing to Bloodsport at the end of its season campaign. The Four Horsemen also collected an untelevised rumble victory over P1 and Extinguisher after the main competition had concluded.


  • Team Big Brother's machines only won a heat of the UK Championship in series in which Philippa Forrester was pit reporter. This contrasts with Thermidor 2 and X-Terminator, which during the show's original run only reached the Semi-Finals in series which Forrester was not reporting.
  • Team Big Brother's second entry, Bigger Brother, received an Honorable Mention in The Combat Robot Hall of Fame in 2003, with the team's young members being cited along with the robot's flipper and performances in Robot Wars and BattleBots (the latter as Little Sister).[6]
  • According to Jonathan Pearce in Series 3, Ian Watts' idol was Michael Palin, whilst Joe Watts' was Superman. For Series 4, Joe Watts' hero was stated to be the Beano comic character Roger the Dodger.