1 9 9 4 – 1 9 9 5 (USA)
22 x 60 minute episodes
A 1994 Fox-TV movie introduced the story of M.A.N.T.I.S. The movie was full of innovations – firstly, its crimefighting hero was black. Second, he was a political conservative. Third, he was a cerebral man of science rather than a macho lug. The film proved so popular that it returned as a weekly one-hour series.
Dr Miles Hawkins (Carl Lumbly, the only returning cast member from the movie) was a billionaire biophysicist and the owner of Hawkins Laboratories in the (fictional) city of Port Columbia.
He grew up in the Lincoln Heights section of the city and graduated from MIT at the age of 18 on a genius scholarship.
During the Los Angeles riots of 1991, Miles was shot in the back and paralysed from the waist down by a cop who opposed his beliefs. Miles, however, was unable to prove he was shot by a police officer because the bullet taken from his back was found not to come from a police-issued gun.
Embittered, the wheelchair-bound Miles decides to fight back by waging a war on crime. With the help of his colleague (and former MIT roommate), Dr John Stonebreak (Roger Rees), they create a technologically advanced “exoskeleton” – a black suit that gives him a bug-like appearance but enables him to walk.
In technical terms, the suit is a M.A.N.T.I.S. (Mechanically Augmented Neuro Transmitter Interceptor System) and with the calling card of the praying mantis, Miles brings criminals to justice as the mysterious “Mantis”.
As the Mantis, Miles will not use a gun (because of what happened to him). His weapon of choice is a paralysing dart to stop enemies in their tracks (“They thaw out in an hour”).
Beneath Hawkins Laboratories is the Seapod – an undersea lab Miles built for ocean farming before he was shot that now serves as his secret base of operations. His modes of transportation are the Chrysalid (a ship) and his black car, the Mantis.
Unlike the Green Hornet, who was wanted by the police, Mantis works with them – especially Lieutenant Leora Maxwell (Galyn Gorg) of the Special Investigation Unit.
Miles was originally assisted by Dr Amy Ellis (Gina Torres), the associate medical director of the police department.
Yuri Barnes (Bobby Hosea) is the newscaster for KNCW-TV, Channel 8, who not only reports on Mantis activities, but helps Miles with vital information. Amy and Yuri each possess a “Mantis Broch,” a special phone to contact Mantis (“Just dial M”).
Taylor Savidge (Christopher Gartin) – a young bicycle courier for Iron Horse Couriers – is also Miles’s legman.
Taylor witnessed a Mantis operation and became intrigued. He saw Mantis enter a van and tracked it down, not knowing that Miles was Mantis. Taylor knows the streets and the people and persuaded Miles to let him join the team. It was at this time that Miles revealed to him that he was, indeed, Mantis.
The format of the series was changed mid-season to include more fantastical elements such as time travel, parallel universes and invisible prehistoric dinosaurs. The show struggled with poor ratings and was cancelled after a single 22-episode season.
Dr Miles Hawkins
Dr Amy Ellis
Dr John Stonebreak
Lt. Leora Maxwell