Like an eclipse in the dark night sky, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer makes its periodic reappearance. And speaking of things that emerge in the night, our subject this month is a vigilante-by-night superhero series M.A.N.T.I.S. A 1994 series, it debuted on Fox and, surprise of all surprises, lasted only one season. That might not sound like a recipe for success, especially given that better known superheroes had been failing to find an audience on TV for years at the time, and M.A.N.T.I.S. followed an original character that no one had any preexisting reason to care about. But this show had some interesting creative forces behind it–namely Sam Hamm (writer for Batman 1989 and Batman Returns) and Sam Raimi (known at the time for Evil Dead, but who would go on to spark the modern Superhero Movie craze with Spider-Man 2002). While it’s largely remembered today for being one of the first film or TV productions to focus on a black superhero, this aspect was… well, a big part of why the show struggled to find an audience, unfortunately. This didn’t factor into the plot or character as much as the creators wanted it to, which leads one to ask: did the show that made it to air deserve to find an audience? Let’s find out. Continue reading
As we’ve done once before, instead of a season for a show that was canceled, this month we’re going to look at the plans for a series that never actually materialized at all. In this case, we’re looking at the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. The series was a co-production that aired on Fox, and was passed on for really stupid reasons that we’ll not get into here. But, given that it was essentially a pilot movie that was intended to lead into a full continuation of the classic BBC Doctor Who, there were quite a lot of plans as to where the show would’ve gone and what it might have included. How does it stack up to the eventual modern Doctor Who? Let’s find out.
We’ve talked about cameos a few times on here before. Cameos by celebrity fans are fairly common, and scientists are a great choice when you’re looking to lend your sci-fi some scientific credibility. However, there’s also the other side of the coin–when sci-fi characters drop out of their own universes and make cameos in shows where they wouldn’t usually belong. This isn’t just using the actor or referencing their famous role; we’ve actually got a pseudo-crossover on our hands. (The big difference between these cameos and crossovers is that these aren’t canon to their sci-fi origins.) Who does that? Let’s find out!
Warping in on an unusual day of the week, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer returns with a fan-requested show: the extremely short-lived 1999 series Harsh Realm. Clocking in at a meager 9 episodes, this is by far the shortest show to appear in the Primer to date. Harsh Realm deals with virtual reality, much like another show we’ve covered already. But while VR.5‘s virtual worlds were highly personal ones, Harsh Realm is far less so, having started as a high-tech training simulation for dealing with potential nuclear apocalypse. It’s also an (incredibly loose) adaptation of a comic book, and had a number of X-Files writers working on it, like Chris Carter and Vince Gilligan (although the latter wasn’t a writer here).
This month, the Obscure Sci-Fi Primer hops back over to cyberpunk with the Fox series Dark Angel. Unusually for a sci-fi series on Fox, it actually managed to get a second season before being screwed over, which makes it the first show in the Primer to have lasted longer than one (although the two seasons are radically different). More typically, it was shunted to the Friday Night Death Slot and quietly killed to make room for Fox’s next victim, Firefly. The show was created by James Cameron, the king of the box office himself, and Charles H. Eglee, and was originally made with the idea of a feminist superhero in mind. Set in a dystopian version of Seattle, of all places, Dark Angel possesses a lot of cyberpunk themes while focusing heavily on genetic engineering and secret government projects. But is it worth watching now, just 4 years away from the time it was set?