Discovery Season 5 was the fifth season of BattleBots since its return to television in 2015, and the third season since the Discovery network picked the show up from ABC.
Filming, production and editing of the season was largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit headlines shortly after the original roster for Season 5 had been announced to BattleBots Supporters on Facebook. Filming was delayed for five months overall, originally taking place in April 2020 before finally going ahead in the October 2020. However, arguably the biggest consequence of the pandemic was the restriction of international travel. This meant teams from outside the US were legally unable to make the journey to compete in BattleBots. This largely affected UK teams including Monsoon, Cobalt, Ripper, Winston Churchkill, Spitfire, Orion, Quantum and more, but also confirmed the likes of China's Railgun MAX and Wan Hoo, South Korea's Blade v3, and other European entries like Rainbow and Petunia would be unable to compete.
As such, the original field of 81 competing robots for Discovery Season 5 had to be reduced to 59, excluding the three which were exclusive to spin-off series Battlebots: Bounty Hunters - these being Bronco, Icewave and Son of Whyachi. This included many of the original roster and a handful of newly-announced teams who had benefited from the additional time. US-based teams who were previously rejected had this decision overturned under the circumstances, and those who had missed the initial application deadline were given another opportunity to compete. Despite this, even some US-based teams withdrew from the season, notably DUCK!, Overhaul and then defending Giant Nut winner Bite Force.
The competition structure changed for the 2020 season. Each bot were now given three Fight Card matches to impress the selection committee, who now selected 32 bots as opposed to 16 for the single elimination Championship bracket. The Desperado Tournament was absent for the 2020 season.
The 2020 season was the first season of BattleBots to not feature a live audience, also due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shots of audience members between fights and introductions were replaced by shots of various teams, who made up a makeshift crowd in the box-side suites to watch battles from a safe distance. Many of the teams opted to wear face coverings for the duration of filming, though teams were tested prior to and during filming days to ensure no outbreaks on site.
The BattleBox floor was entirely rebuilt in the off-season. It is now made from 1/2" mild steel, replacing the three layers of 1/8" steel. This change was intended to prevent imperfections in the floor affecting fights as it did several times in previous seasons, such as Minotaur's main event loss to Tombstone, and most notably, Cobalt's surprise loss to DUCK!. The Pulverizers also saw redesigns, now diamond-shaped and able to transfer energy more effectively on impact. The new BattleBots logo now adorned the center of the BattleBox, and the red and blue squares were repainted to be smaller too.
The main difference in format was a lack of rumbles and exhibition matches, largely due to spin-off series BattleBots: Bounty Hunters which aired on discovery+ parallel to the main season on Discovery. The Fight Night structure remained, with often seven fights making up an episode, with the exception of Episode 1 and those covering the knockout bracket containing eight.
Despite the pandemic, there were no omissions from the presenting crew, with Chris Rose and Kenny Florian still leading the lines, Faruq Tauheed announcing and Jenny Taft in the pits. New for Discovery Season 5, former BattleBots competitor Pete Abrahamson's role changed from technical advisor and producer to "Bot Whisperer", where he offered his take on how battles would play out, taking teams' strategies and configurations into account. He also advised Chris and Kenny on the technical aspects of the sport, and as a former competitor himself, the history of fellow veterans.
The three judges also remained the same: Derek Young, Lisa Winter and Jason Bardis. Replacing the seven-point judging system was now an eleven-point system, which scored five points for damage and three points for both aggression and control. Previously, this was split as three points for damage, and two apiece for aggression and control.
A season trailer was publicly released on November 12, 2020, showing a pair of wind-up toy robots reciting lyrics to Sir Mix-a-Lot's hit single "Baby Got Back". Several of the lyrics were adapted to be more relevant to the show, most notably in the line "I like big bots and I cannot lie", which later became a tagline for the 2020 season. The trailer teased several Fight Night battles, including Slap Box vs. Sharko, Uppercut vs. Gemini and ROTATOR vs. Valkyrie. Another 30-second trailer was uploaded to BattleBots' YouTube channel a few days later, but featured the same teaser clips, just with slightly different adapted lyrics. The trailer closes with Chris Rose saying "Let the big bot battle begin!", a variation on his typical catchphrase to mark the start of a battle. This foreshadowed HUGE vs. Mammoth from Episode 2 of the season, despite the trailer not officially confirming the fight.
Discovery Season 5 was won by OYES Robotics and their powerful vertical spinner End Game, defeating the Vazquez family and Whiplash by KO in the Championship title fight. This not only marked the first time an international team had won the Giant Nut in the reboot era, with the team hailing from New Zealand, but ended the tournament-winning streak of Paul Ventimiglia and Bite Force.
The end of season awards were now called the Giant Bolts, and were split into four categories. The Most Destructive Robot was won by Valkyrie after its impressive duels with the likes of SubZero, Extinguisher and former winner ROTATOR. The Founders' Award went to Skorpios, and the Best Newcomer award was won by Dave Eaton and Rusty. Lastly, the Best Design award, also known as the Grant Imahara Award in tribute to the former BattleBots competitor, guest judge and TV personality, was awarded to Zoe Stephenson and Chomp.
"The steel-on-steel action, hard-hitting combat of BattleBots: Fight Night returns. The 2020 regular season kicks off as 62 teams from all over the world converge for an all-out tournament. Tonight, Jack Barker with his beloved bot, End Game squares off with Ray Billings with his iconic robot, the fearsome Tombstone."
"It's a clash of the titans as the big bots do battle in the box. Four brand new bots make their rookie debut, including an 11-year-old driver. Meanwhile, a "ghostly" legend returns from the past. Also, last year's runner-up begins their season with a match against last year's breakout bot in the main event."
"It's an all-out battle of veterans and rookie bots alike. A legendary hammer bot makes its return when it goes back in the box with one of the best rotating bots. Also, two top contenders go head-to-head in the electrifying main event for a chance to move up in the rankings."
"It's put up or shut up for the bots that already lost a match. They only have one more chance in the battle box to assert their dominance over their opponents. If they don't, they could be pushed out of the Top 32. A giant bot makes its historic season debut after two years by getting a facelift as a 500-pound 'walker' bot. A frog-bot battles it out with a cat-bot. A fan-favorite takes on a 'bloody' bot in a messy main event."
"Some of the biggest named in BattleBots who had their robots turned upside down in the arena by the young gun bots get their chance at redemption. Two legendary bots, Witch-Doctor and Kraken who lost their first matches go bot-to-bot in the Box. Vegas newcomer JackPot rolls the dice against comeback veteran bot Ghost Raptor. Also, flipper bot Hydra has an enormous surprise in store for HUGE in a controversial fight."
"It's the mid-point of the qualifying round and impressing the selection committee is what it's all about. Sparks fly around the BattleBox as several winless bots go head-to-head. Valkyrie and ROTATOR square off in a deadly battle of horizontal spinners. Also, surprise winning bots Malice and MadCatter duke it out while MIT grads Uppercut and SawBlaze meet each other in an explosive main event to see who will get their first loss."
"As BattleBots closes in on the end of the final qualifying rounds, the remaining bots need to impress the selection committee who will soon pick the 32 most-lethal bots to make it into the world championship tournament. A loss by any of these teams could cripple their season. With a few fights left, this is one of these teams' chances to prove they belong among the best bots."
"Some of the most notorious bots that have either undefeated or balanced records prepare for their third and final chance to impress the selection committee and do some damage inside the BattleBox as they try to make it into the Top 32 of the world championship tournament."
"It's the final round of the qualifiers. Some bots are on the brink of making it to the Top 32 while others it's do or die time in the BattleBox. Will the top teams risk it in order to get a better seed in the tournament? One bad hit could reek havoc on their season. For the rest, it's playing for pride and letting it all hang out to spoil the best bots' chances, making a statement to impress the selection committee."
"The tournament qualifiers has reached the end of the line. So it's the last chance for some of the bots to qualify and have an opportunity to influence the selection committee to make it into the Top 32. Plus, seeds will be determined for the BattleBots World Championship bracket."
"It's time for the Round of 32 of the World Championship. Low-seeded bots try to punch their ticket into the next round by trying to defeat the top bots. So there's danger in every match as up-and-coming teams look to shake up the tournament bracket."
"The Round of 16 begins. Sixteen bots will battle it out to move even closer in the tournament. Eight winning teams will have two more fights left while eight losing teams will have their chance at earning the Giant Nut die in the BattleBox."
Discovery Season 5 saw the first time in the modern era that filming had been substantially delayed.
With End Game's eventual triumph, this marked the first time in BattleBots that a team from outside the US won the heavyweight competition and the Giant Nut.
The final episode of the season was dedicated to former BattleBots competitor and guest judge Grant Imahara and Gayle Garner Roski, wife of BattleBots co-founder Trey Roski, both of which passed away in 2020.
↑Public comment from Aren Hill in the Out of the Arena Discord server.