It’s robot fighting time as 67 competing robots representing nine different countries face off in the largest field of competitors ever for BattleBots!
The fight for the Giant Nut and the 2019 BattleBots World Championship began in the two-hour season premiere, “That’s What You Call a KO!” Some bots were rebuilt, redesigned and repainted to become totally different for Season 4, while others were totally brand new to the competition (nine college kids skipped an entire semester of school while creating Ribbot, the frog-shaped robot).
The season kicked off even bigger than ever, as Fight Night will now be two hours long, airing in two blocks of eight episodes (16 total with a mid-season break), complete with behind-the-scenes footage from the pit. The first episode included seven robot battles, which featured a dangerous newcomer — Team Cobalt has won championships in the UK and China — so this one could be a sneaky underdog.
Another incredibly tough out was Quantum, which has a viper-like attack weapon (it’s basically two curved spikes that drop like snake’s fangs) that’s so strong, after taking two “bites” out of its competition, the team’s first match prematurely ended when the two bots were stuck from the closing force. Quantum won, by the way, and apparently many teams have taken notice.
This year, each of the three judges is a former BattleBots competitor (Derek Young, Lisa Winter and Jason Bardis) and it seems Jessica Chobot and Alison Haislip are no longer on the show. That’s very sad face. Taking their place (sort of) is Jenny Taft, whose behind-the-scenes interviews and peeks into the pit have been a welcome addition (and time filler) to the show.
The very first main event of 2019 featured a battle between two former champions: The classic villain (Ray Billings and Tombstone) vs. multi-champion Donald Hutson’s Lock-Jaw in the first battle between these two bots in 10 years. After a couple of hits sent the Big Bad airborne, the evil genius won by knockout (ripping off Jaw’s wheels).
In this, the fourth season of the show’s current designs (and ninth year overall for the robot combat competition), how many competitors is too many? Hopefully there will be many more battle royales this year, but last year’s setup was a little confusing in the show’s rankings and its bracket system (Three fights then they’re eliminated? Or is it different this year?). Bite Force was crowned the 2018 champion and I can’t wait to see what the team has to offer this year. If you’re not constantly tinkering with your offense, defense or durability from year to year, there’s no way you’ll be able to survive the metallic onslaught aimed in your direction.
What started as “a small group of builders and die-hard fans” has grown into a worldwide competition that just happens to be recorded, airing as reality TV on basic cable. While these teams fight to be included in the final Top 16 tournament, I look forward to seeing more from this robot combat in the weeks to come. My only hope is that its winners can be decided by the drivers behind the bulletproof glass and not the judges, who have made some weirdly erratic decisions in robot battles past.