Paralyzed from the waist down, Dr. Miles Hawkins dons a special exo-skeleton suit that allows him to become a superhero.
Dr. Miles Hawkins (Carl Lumbly) was shot in the back during a riot as he was attempting to save a child. The bullet was fired from a police sniper, but that could never be proven. The injury paralyzed him from the waist down and he is now confined to a wheelchair, it also changed his conservative political views to a more liberal stance. To get revenge and to help the less fortunate, Hawkins uses his vast wealth and intellect to develop a suite that allows him to stand, enhancing his speed strength and agility, along with a mask and non-lethal paralysis darts, and he becomes the masked vigilante, M.A.N.T.I.S (Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interception System).
Many times, a pilot is shot and is often far inferior to the eventual series that the audience finally sees. Cast members are changed, storylines are refined, and the show becomes sharper. I feel like the opposite happened with M.A.N.T.I.S. The pilot’s plot revolved around inner-city gangs and corrupt politicians attempting to start a war to further their political and financial success, but at the detriment to the lower income residents of the city. The pilot’s cast was primarily people of color. Gina Torres played pathologist Dr. Amy Ellis. Bobby Hosea was Yuri Barnes; an ambitious reporter and Wendy Raquel Robinson and Christopher M. Brown were African students who are interning for Dr. Hawkins but also secretly help him when he is M.A.N.T.I.S. Race and the inequalities that it brings was a huge theme examined in the pilot. The two hour episode hinted at a larger conspiracy against the black community that could have been an overarching plotline. When the series was picked up by Fox, it recast all the supporting characters, leaving Carl Lumbly as the only original cast member. The new cast was far less diverse, with detective Lt. Ledra Maxwell (Galyn Gorg) being the only other main cast member of color. The afore-mentioned conspiracy was retooled to be the goal of a single person, Solomon Box (Brion James), a former business partner of Dr. Hawkins. The M.A.N.T.I.S. costume was also changed, in the pilot, Miles wore a suit and long leather trench coat over the exoskeleton and his mask left the top of his head exposed. In the series, the mask now includes a skull cap, and the suit and coat were abandoned. The mask’s hypnotic ability was also dropped from the series, which is a shame, because it was sort of a cool power.
The pilot was produced by Sam Raimi who also helped develop the series with Sam Hamm. It was stylish with some great camera work, and although the special effects weren’t great, they were standard for the early 1990s. The series ran for 22 episodes on Fox, starting on August 26, 1994 and ending on March 3, 1995. Half-way through the season, the series was retooled due to low ratings and more fantasy storylines were adopted, like parallel universes, time travel, super-villains, and monsters. Unfortunately, the update could not save the series and it was eventually cancelled. I very much enjoyed the pilot, but feel that when the decision was made for the series to drop many of the social justice issues and a large portion of a great cast it lessened what could have been a great series.
The pilot was really well done, the series not as much. I feel like fox wanted to "white wash" the racial plotlines from the series, which is one of the things that made the pilot unique and interesting.
M.A.N.T.I.S. has been playing on Hulu.
Forgotten Television: M.A.N.T.I.S.
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 9/109/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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