Cult TV Essentials

Cult TV Essentials: M.A.N.T.I.S.

M.A.N.T.I.S. was an American science fiction television series that aired for one season between August 26th 1994 and March 3rd 1995 for 20 episodes (although 22 were filmed). The original two-hour pilot was produced by Sam Raimi and developed by Sam Hamm. It stars actor Carl Lumbly.

The wealthy, mild-mannered Doctor Hawkins is shot in the spine during a riot, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. After losing a lawsuit against a police officer he holds responsible, he uses his company’s resources to invent a powered exoskeleton that not only enables him to walk but gives him superhuman abilities.

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Using a vast array of technology, including a large underwater lab and a hovercraft called the Crysalid to fly around the city, he assumes the persona of the vigilante “M.A.N.T.I.S.” (Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interception System).

There were a number of differences between the pilot and the series. For example, in the pilot, Hawkins wore a suit over the exo-skeleton, it lacked a skullcap, and the headpiece was larger. The setting was changed from Oceania City to Port Columbia, and all of the characters, with Hawkins being an exception, were changed.

The pilot featured Gina Torres as pathologist Dr. Amy Ellis, Bobby Hosea as reporter Yuri Barnes, and Wendy Raquel Robinson and Christopher M. Brown as a pair of African students studying under Hawkins.

In the series, the supporting cast was changed to John Stonebrake, Taylor Savage and Lt. Maxwell, with the plot being completely rebooted.

The bulk of the series’ run depicted the M.A.N.T.I.S. operating in a vigilante role, frequently pursued by police, and battling industrialist Solomon Box (Brion James / Andrew J. Robinson).

Poor ratings led to an extensive retooling of the concept. Midway through the show’s run, minor characters were jettisoned, and more fantasy adventure elements were incorporated into the premise, including parallel universes, time travel, super-villains, and monsters. In one particular episode, the M.A.N.T.I.S. is accidentally thrown 32 years into the future, where he finds that his own technology has been exploited to create a supercomputer that is being used to enslave the Port Columbia population. He destroys it and sets the human population free before returning to his own time.

In the series’ final instalment, Miles Hawkins and Lt. Maxwell are killed disposing of an invisible prehistoric dinosaur. John Stonebrake seals off the records and technology that had created the M.A.N.T.I.S., thus averting an apocalyptic future. While the title character’s death was given a sense of finality, the story was left open in one respect: when Miles Hawkins returned to 1994 from the year 2026 (a 32 year difference), he did so precisely 32 seconds after his vehicle sent him forward in time, thus altering the computer-controlled future that his disappearance had led to. As such, Miles Hawkins, while dying in the reality that he returned to, was also sent forward in time to an unknown future.

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