Robot Wars (lost near-death footage of Jeremy Clarkson from robot combat game show; 1998)
Robot Wars is a British robot combat game show produced by Mentorn. Broadcast on BBC Two and Channel Five from 1998-2004, and from 2016 to 2017, the premise involved machines built by amateur and professional engineers battling other competitors in combat within an arena. Series 1 (also known as The First Wars), featured British TV presenter and journalist Jeremy Clarkson as host. During filming for the inaugural series, a malfunctioning robot almost resulted in Clarkson's death.
Best known as a presenter of the BBC motoring show Top Gear's various runs from 1977-2015, Jeremy Clarkson also hosted the first series of Robot Wars. His duties included opening the show with a written speech, announcing the events the robots would partake in, and interviewing the roboteers post-match. Despite finding the show "hilarious", Clarkson was replaced by Craig Charles for subsequent series due to the former's lack of interest and other commitments. In a 2012 interview with the Robot Wars Wiki, Mentorn founder Tom Gutteridge revealed that Clarkson had to endure many hours of false starts, mainly because the few robots competing in Series 1 were often unreliable and required constant repairs.
According to a 2008 blog post made by Gutteridge, during day two of filming, one of the show's House Robots, Dead Metal, was cutting into a defeated competitor with his metal saw when the blade abruptly broke away and flew loose at over 200mph, ultimately embedding itself in a concrete wall just behind where Clarkson was standing.
The incident was recorded and later analysed in slow motion. The production crew determined that the saw blade had missed Clarkson's scalp by less than two inches; a minor change in its trajectory could thus have resulted in Clarkson being instantly decapitated. Filming went on hiatus for a week so that bulletproof Perspex could be added to the Robot Wars Arena's auditorium, shielding Clarkson from further debris. As a result, filming resumed with no further incident. Gutteridge claimed in the Robot Wars Wiki interview that the accident had no influence on Clarkson's decision to leave the show.
No images or footage of the incident have ever been publicly released. While Mentorn or the BBC may still hold the footage, it is unlikely to ever be available for public viewing, mainly because of its context and for Robot Wars generally distancing itself from Clarkson following Series 1.
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- BattleBots (found Comedy Central robot combat game show; 2000-2002)
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- Robot Wars (found cameos of robot combat-themed BBC 2 ident; 1999-2000)
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- Robot Wars (lost work on unfinished cartoon series based on robot combat game show; existence unconfirmed; 2002-2004)
- Robot Wars (partially found footage of robot combat show qualifying auditions and battles; 1998-2003)
- Robot Wars (partially found unaired or partially aired battles of BBC robot combat game show; 1998-2017)
- Robot Wars (partially found uncut battles from BBC robot combat game show; 1998-2017)
- Robot Wars Extreme: Series 1 (lost original BBC Choice version of robot combat battle; 2001)
- Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors: Season 1 (found TNN robot combat game show; 2001)
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- Robot Wars Revealed (partially found BBC Choice spin-off of robot combat game show; 1998-2000)
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- Robot Wars: Series 8 (partially found Science Channel reruns of robot combat game show; 2018)
- Robot Wars: The Kick-Off (lost BNN robot combat special; 2001)
- Robotica (found TLC robot combat game show; 2001-2003)
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- Grand Tour Nation discussing Clarkson's time as host of Robot Wars. Retrieved 1 Aug '21
- Robot Wars Wiki interview with Tom Gutteridge, where Gutteridge explains why Clarkson left after one series, and stating that the incident played no factor in his decision to leave. Retrieved 1 Aug '21
- Blog From The North, where Gutteridge discussed the incident and confirmed a recording was made of it. Retrieved 1 Aug '21
- Robot Wars: The First Great War, where despite being a documentary and compilation of Series 1, completely omits footage of Clarkson as host. Retrieved 1 Aug '21