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Series / M.A.N.T.I.S.

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The hero of our story.

"This is the scientific journal of Doctor Miles Hawkins, to be made public in the event of my death. I know, when the truth is known, people will wonder why I felt it necessary to create the M.A.N.T.I.S. In reality, I never did. The M.A.N.T.I.S. demanded his own creation, and I could not refuse him."

M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-1995, 1997) was a short-lived (one season) science fiction series on FOX starring Carl Lumbly and produced by Sam Raimi and Renaissance Pictures.

It followed the adventures of Dr. Miles Hawkins, a paraplegic scientist who develops a power suit (the titular M.A.N.T.I.S., or Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interception System) that not only allows him to walk again, but to fight crime as well.

It is notable for being the first live-action television series to feature an African-American superhero as the main character.

The full series is available on Hulu.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: A mid-season two-parter sees M.A.N.T.I.S. framed for murder, the police creating a new task force to deal with him, Captain Hetrick learning of the corruption in the police force (and being forced to comply), Solomon Box thought dead, and Leora learning Hawkins' secret. After the show was retooled (again), only the last item is ever followed up on.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Savage often called Stonebrake "Stonehenge" and other variants, only using "Stonebrake" in serious moments.
  • Animal-Themed Superbeing: Of the Animal Alias variety.
  • Artifact Title: Of a sort. While the name of the show comes from the exoskeleton Hawkins wears, the pilot stated that his freeze-darts employed a venom found in a rare species of praying mantis (in heavily-diluted form, naturally). In the actual series, though, the principle by which the darts froze their targets had changed, eliminating all reference to mantis venom.
  • Badass Longcoat: M.A.N.T.I.S wore one, along with a nice suit, in the TV Movie, but used the Exoskeleton as a superhero costume in the series.
  • Bad Future: Hawkins accidentally gets slingshotted into one of these in one episode.
  • Big Bad: Solomon Box is behind several of the schemes M.A.N.T.I.S. foils.
  • Black and Nerdy: Dr. Miles Hawkins is a scientific genius and cultural snob.
  • Black Republican: Dr. Hawkins is very open about that and his quite conservative views, along with being vehemently against things like affirmative action, which he sees as Condescending Compassion - especially since he's a Self-Made Man. His vigilantism ultimately also stems from this trope. Unlike the typical example, he's the main character of the series.
  • Body Horror: The episode "The Sea Wasp" trades in this surprisingly well.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: In the pilot, Miles's costume as M.A.N.T.I.S. included wearing a dress shirt and pants, a trench coat, and a tie over the exoskeletion.
  • Coconut Superpowers: The season (and series) finale pitted Hawkins against a giant killer dinosaur. The programme's budget was far too small to afford the CGI required for an actual dinosaur, though, so the plot was tweaked to feature an invisible giant killer dinosaur (!).
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: M.A.N.T.I.S.' "darts" in the series are illustrated as a glowing green flash of light; green electrical flashes signified a "frozen" target.
  • Cool Car: Technically a Cool Hovercraft, the Chrysalid can fly and act as a submersible. In the TV Movie, it boasted a Cloaking Device that made it look like a normal if flashy car.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Miles dealt with a few, most notably, Solomon Box. Box started the series trying to sell a bio-toxin he and Miles made for the government to North Korea after bribing someone at a company Miles went to to destroy the toxin to hand it over to him. Then, he had the corrupt Chief Grant insert one of his agents and fake information about him being a fed to take out the M.A.N.T.I.S. and during the mid-season two-parter, he'd arranged the death of a city councilman to frame M.A.N.T.I.S. and get Grant's task force approved, and it was revealed that the shooting that crippled Miles was a botched assassination attempt Box ordered.
  • Creator Cameo: Sam Raimi appears in the original TV movie as a crackpot the OCPD interview about M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • Disability Superpower: If Hawkins wasn't paralyzed from the waist down, he wouldn't have developed the M.A.N.T.I.S. suit and become a superhero.
  • Dirty Cop: The chief of police in both the original TV movie and the series proper aren't on the up-and-up, the former's Chief Stark being bigot who's not above violating civil rights of minorities and the latter's Chief Grant being in the pocket of Solomon Box. Furthermore, the TV movie had Antoine Pike, who was in league with Chief Stark, and the series had Paul Warren, who was not only revealed to be an ally of Box and Grant, but the one who shot Hawkins in a botched assassination attempt.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Dr. Hawkins refuses to use guns because he was paralyzed by a bullet. In the episode "Tango Blue" Dr. Hawkins uses his wealth to finance a police buy-back program.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: As an African-American disabled by a SWAT sniper's bullet, Dr. Hawkins is everything Affirmative Action supporters look for in a poster boy. Unfortunately for them, he refuses to accept any handouts.
  • Downer Ending: The last episode ends with Hawkins and Leora dead, and Stonebrake sealing off all records and technology.
  • Evil Cripple: Subverted in Dr. Hawkins' case, but the pilot does a very good job of first playing with the trope, and then of setting up two or three other guys who could be the M.A.N.T.I.S. The Reveal is genuinely a surprise.
  • Eye Scream: The Men In Black don't have eyes, and The Reveal — when one of them takes off their black glasses — is actually surprisingly unnerving.
  • Fair Cop: Lt. Leora Maxwell
    Stonebrake: "Looks smashing, doesn't she?"
    Hawkins: "Especially for an officer of the law."
  • Fun with Acronyms: Interestingly, the full extrapolation of the acronym M.A.N.T.I.S. is only glimpsed briefly on a monitor and was only put there at all to justify adding the dots to the title. The show was originally supposed to be called just 'Mantis' but there was already a copyright on that, so the acronym dots were needed to avoid lawsuits.
  • Genius Cripple: Dr. Hawkins is one. It's what allows him to be Beneath Suspicion in his activities as M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • The Hero Dies: The final episode features the death of Miles and Leora.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: M.A.N.T.I.S. is initially considered a supervillain by the Port Columbia police.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partner: Dr. Miles Hawkins and engineer John Stonebrake are these for each other.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: When criminals start appearing in Port Columbia with strange high-tech darts in them, the police turn to Dr. Hawkins to figure out the darts' origin. Leora is positively outraged about this when she learns the truth.
  • I Am Very British: Stonebreak tends on occasion to act excessively British. For example, after Hawkins moves the Chrysalid to "someplace very secure", Stonebrake describes the vehicle in terms of meters and kilograms in exaggerated Received Pronunciation. In another episode, he refers to garbage as rubbish cans.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Hawkins outfits the M.A.N.T.I.S. suit with wrist-mounted, rocket-propelled darts that paralyze their targets.
  • Inhuman Eye Concealers: In one episode, Miles is confronted by a group of mysterious, extradimensional theMenInBlack sunglasses who claim to want to make our world a peaceful utopia. A skeptical Miles asks to see their eyes (reasoning that "the eyes are the windows to the soul"), and flees in horror when one reveals his are pure, glistening black.
  • Initialism Title
  • Invisible Monster: The aforementioned killer dinosaur.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dr. Hawkins comes across as one of these often enough. He's smarter than almost everyone he meets, and is more than a little bitter over the bullet that took his legs, leading him to occasionally snap needlessly at those around him.
  • Karma Houdini: Thought dead, Solomon Box gets away in his last appearance. He was presumably going to return in a later episode, but this was dropped after the second retool.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The true identity of M.A.N.T.I.S. is a major plot twist in the Pilot Movie, but it's the first thing mentioned about the series.
  • Love Interest: Port Columbia police detective Lt. Leora Maxwell is this for Dr. Hawkins; his need to protect his secret identity from her is the primary obstacle to their relationship.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: In "Tango Blue", Hawkins (as the Mantis) tells DeLance who he's dealing with by referring to their exchange when DeLance and his friends robbed a fancy party at the beginning of the episode.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Dr. Hawkins was paralyzed by a police sniper's bullet when he rushed out from cover to save a young girl during the Los Angeles riots. Later episodes revealed that the sniper was in Solomon Box's employ, and was aiming for Dr. Hawkins.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: M.A.N.T.I.S.' signature weapon was a kind of rocket-propelled dart that disrupted people's neural pathways and left them standing like statues for an hour or so, but alive. This is an important plot point in one episode where M.A.N.T.I.S. is framed for murder (the cops just jumped on the belief that the victim was someone that had a body that couldn't stand the stun, and even Dr. Hawkins entertains the thought as a possible fear).
  • Not in Kansas Anymore: When Hawkins leads Savage to the elevator that goes down to the Seapod, Savage has "a serious suspicion that Kansas isn't on this tour".
  • Out of Focus: Taylor after Leora learns the big secret.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Taylor Savage is one of these.
  • Retool: Happened twice (impressive for a show that lasted one season). The series was very different from the pilot, with a completely different supporting cast, a change in Hawkins' origins and costume, a change in location (from Ocean City to Port Columbia) and far less emphasis on race issues. Midway through the season, the series was retooled again, dropping an ongoing story arc and major villain in favor of greater emphasis on single-episode stories and science fiction elements such as parallel universe, time travel, supervillains and monsters.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In the pilot, it is revealed that Hawkins was paralyzed when he was shot (by a police sniper!) during the Los Angeles riots (while he was trying to get a young girl to safety), which happened only two years before the pilot aired.
  • Secret Identity: No one suspects that Port Columbia's most respected scientist (who must use a wheelchair) is also its most wanted vigilante.
  • Secret-Keeper: John Stonebrake and Taylor Savage are these for Hawkins. Leora becomes one in the second half of the season.
  • Scary Black Man: Dr. Hawkins becomes one of these when he dons the M.A.N.T.I.S. suit, which has an insect-like faceplate and glowing eyes.
  • Sidekick: John Stonebrake and Taylor Savage are these, with Stonebrake seeing himself as Hawkins' friend and colleague, and Savage rather gleefully taking on the role of M.A.N.T.I.S.' sidekick, much to Hawkins' and Stonebrake's chagrin.
    • In the pilot, Hawkins is assisted by a pair of African graduate students, but these characters are never seen again.
  • Superhero: Obviously.
  • Super Wheelchair: Hawkins originally developed the MANTIS exoskeleton technology to restore his ability to walk, but at some point in the process he realised he had created Powered Armour and decided to put it to good use.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: M.A.N.T.I.S. uses these to subdue his foes. Unlike most examples, his do not use a drug, but rather an energy burst that disrupts the targets neurophysiology.
  • Underwater Base: Hawkins converts his underwater research facility into his superlair.
  • The Watson: John Stonebrake
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: In the first episode of the series, Hawkins becomes the M.A.N.T.I.S. to recover one of these (of the biological sort) that he invented.
  • Worf Had the Flu: M.A.N.T.I.S. would've had a much easier time against the invisible dinosaur if not for limited power and damage to the suit.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The villains in "Through the Dark Circle" trap their victims in paradise dimensions. When Hawkins becomes trapped, he's initially thrilled to be able to walk again, only to realize it's not real.