So a few days ago, I wrote about things we can look forward to in this upcoming season of BattleBots. And there’s plenty. We’ve got 50 hours of content ahead that promises thrills, spills, and whatever Tombstone decides to bring to the party this year, in a celebration of things that actually got accomplished in 2020.
But of course, with everything that’s happened this year, this season does have its drawbacks. It’s not that this should detract from anything that’s going to happen in the 2020 edition, far from it, but there will certainly be things missing from this most unusual of seasons. As you would expect, filming a whole series of television in the midst of a global pandemic certainly isn’t the most straight-forward thing in the world.
Without trying to sound too bleak about the future (think of it more as a list of things to be excited about in 2021), here are some things we’re going to miss during the upcoming season.
1. The Crowd
BattleBots is nothing without the crowd, and that will always be the truth. The cheering, the excitement, the array of banners on display that range from binary code I’m not smart enough to decipher, to those advocating the long-anticipated return of Ginsu.
However, with social distancing protocols being implemented throughout the whole of filming, as well as the global frowning-upon of mass gatherings (unless you’re Donald Trump), the crowd will be absent from this series, meaning a whole load of spectacular mechanical escapades will have gone unwitnessed by the viewing audience. It’s a first for the series, and hopefully, a last.
All is not lost, however, as it’s been revealed that there will be an audience in some measure, with the teams acting as a makeshift crowd in their own sort of bubble. Whether that’s an allegory for a social bubble or a literal plastic bubble, I’ve forgotten. But I guess we’ll have to see how this plays out on TV, won’t we?
We’ll miss you, BattleBots fans. Here’s to your (hopeful) return next year.
2. The Champ
As I mentioned in my previous post, and as has been made no secret, the reigning champion and three-time Giant Nut winner Bite Force won’t be competing at BattleBots 2020.
A machine that has become pretty much unbeatable over the past couple of years, there will be no reigning champion to topple, no demolition at the hands of a deadly blue blade, no massively hyped up Main Events about how Bite Force will finally be beaten, only for it to win within the first minute of the fight.
Whether or not the competing teams will miss Paul Ventimiglia and co. is probably debatable, since it means they have a better shot at challenging for the Nut without the risk of their bots being ripped apart by the champ along the way. However, Bite Force’s presence will certainly be missed, and the crowning of a new champion may feel slightly less satisfying without an official dethroning of the Bot King. But at least it’ll be nice to have a change of champion.
3. DUCK!, Blacksmith, Minotaur, and the rest
Bite Force isn’t the only big hitter who’ll be absent from this season.
Out of 2019’s top 16, five bots won’t be competing this season; Blacksmith, Quantum (whose team won the first season of China’s King of Bots), former semi-finalists Yeti and Death Roll, as well as 2018 runner-up Minotaur. On top of this motley crew of mechanical destruction, we’ll be without other star names such as Deep Six, Red Devil, Free Shipping, Overhaul, WAR Hawk, 2016 runners-up Bombshell, and, perhaps most sadly of all, the indomitable DUCK!. We’ll also be without some awesome-looking newcomers who were previously announced, such as Gloomweaver and Pain Saw.
A lot of these bots have become staples of the show, and have been at the centre of some spectacular moments over the past few seasons, whether it be DUCK! charging headfirst into anything that comes near it, Deep Six tearing Axe Backwards and Nelly in half, or Minotaur ripping all six of Bronco’s wheels off, but alas, the travel restrictions that have come hand-in-hand with the global situation, as well as some teams just choosing not to take part, means that we’ll have a whole host of newcomers looking to fill the boots of the big boys instead. Their presence will be sorely missed, but we’re still guaranteed some cracking fights this year.
Speaking of international travel…
4. All the international bots
I don’t know about you good folks reading this, but international competitions are one of my favourite things. The football World Cup and European Championships always have my undivided attention for pretty much every match. The BattleBots “USA vs. Rest of the World” episode from 2018 was a fun break from the antics of the main season. Heck, I even wrote my undergraduate dissertation on UK vs. USA episodes of robot combat shows. They just have a certain appeal to me.
However, what with the global travel restrictions, this means that only four international teams have made the journey to filming; Beta (UK), End Game (New Zealand), Black Dragon (Brazil), and Atom #94 (India & Canada), meaning a whole host of names, old and new, haven’t been able to make the long journey to California.
As mentioned before, the UK’s Quantum, Brazil’s Minotaur, Australia’s Death Roll won’t be taking part, and from Canada, usual regulars Lucky haven’t made the trip, and neither have previously confirmed new bots Ferocity or The Krusty Grab. There’ll be no returning bots from China, such as Railgun MAX and Wan Hoo, and South Korean representatives Blade V3 have also chosen not to participate. Ominous and Petunia from The Netherlands and Jäger from Germany won’t be there either.
It’ll be the absence of teams from my native UK that I think will be missed the most, and I don’t just say that out of my own personal biases. There’ll be no return of the mighty Monsoon or the colossal Cobalt, there’ll be no debut season for Orion (modeled from 2016 Robot Wars Champion Apollo), and we won’t be seeing the much-awaited televised return of Ripper, last seen on our screens a whopping 16 years ago. Winston Churchkill, who you may remember as Donald Thump from Robot Wars, also won’t be appearing, which may be the biggest travesty of them all. These are only some of the teams we’ll be missing this season.
BattleBots, and robot combat as a whole, is a global event, and this season will have a noticeable lack of international feel about it, but, as mentioned before, it does give way to a host of exciting newcomers, more bot-building talent to showcase from the US, and we can be all the more excited about the return of all these bots in 2021. Hopefully.
5. Knome II
Jerome Miles retired from combat robotics this year, so there’ll be no long-awaited return to BattleBots for Knome II. May they rust in peace.
6. The simplicity of it all
If there’s any guaranteed positive outlook we can take from this season, it’s the fact that this season happened at all. Despite all that’s happened in 2020, BattleBots has still managed to successfully enter production, film 158 fights, and get the whole thing out to air without incident, following all the necessary social distancing protocols. It’s fantastic this season was made in the first place.
The 2020 season will be unlike any other because of all that’s happened this year, and it will most likely go down as an anomaly of sorts, a representation of what life was like in 2020. No crowd, no standing within two metres of each other, plexiglass walls everywhere, a whole different feel around the show.
Watching the previous seasons, or anything before 2020 to be honest, just sort of makes you wish we could go back to a simpler time, even if that time wasn’t even a year ago. When it used to just be about robots destroying each other, and we could all celebrate in close proximity to each other. Back when we could have friends over for a viewing party, and when it felt like the world was falling apart at a slightly slower rate than usual, so we watched robots kick the crap out of each other. It was all fun, and possibly eduacational.
As exciting as this upcoming season is, and as much as there is to look forward to, I think we can all hope that it will be the only one of its kind. BattleBots isn’t the same without its regular star bots, its global sense of togetherness, and it sure as heck isn’t the same without the fans. This season will certainly be a unique experience, but when things do eventually return to normal, it will be more than welcome.
Here’s to a weird and wonderful 2020 season, and here’s to what we can look forward to again in 2021.