Mantrid - A Character Study
Here's what we know of Mantrid.
Mantrid was originally a Bio-Scholar, one of the most brilliant minds of the Divine Order, he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming the student and disciple of Brizon, the Supreme Bio Vizier. Brizon appears to have been the guiding mind who designed and began construction on the LEXX, so Mantrid was probably involved in that project. Brizon also ran the assassins for the Divine Order, keeping them functioning, a post that Mantrid would have assisted in or eventually taken over. Another project of Brizon's that Mantrid took over was an attempt to make a machine which could transfer the soul or consciousness from one form or body to another, or at least to a mechanical repository.
Kai described Mantrid as being one of the most brilliant minds of the Divine Order. "No man ever had a more insatiable lust for knowledge or experience." His speech in the first episode describes not only a towering genius, but an egotist, a megalomaniac, a sensualist. Mantrid was a man who gloried, not only in knowledge, but in feasts, in orgies, in excesses and perversions of every sort. Mantrid was clearly bisexual. He played sexual games with his assistant, but made a sexual gesture with his tongue to Zev. The games that he played with his assistant were submission/dominance games, with heavy overtones of moral judgement and censure. Mantrid was not a sociopath because he clearly understood morality: however, just as clearly, he considered himself beyond it. He was literally like De Sade, and gloried in transgression. Think of him as the sort of person who would rape a nun, not because she was a woman, but because she was a *nun.* Profoundly selfish, he was capable of mild affection, feelings of respect for people, but not of true love or friendship. Nevertheless he could inspire love in others. Again, this is based on observations from his first episode.
Brizon describes Mantrid as being a brilliant pupil and an excellent imitator, but lacking the spark of imagination. Mantrid himself admitted at points that he lacked subtlety and that 'overkill is my style.' Mantrid also, indirectly, acknowledged his intellectual debts to Brizon.
At some point, the two men had a falling out and became bitter enemies. Brizon was 'retired' and managed to escape the cleansing. (Considering the way the Divine Order operated, its likely that Brizon fled or escaped the Divine Order.) Mantrid then ascended to the post of Supreme Bio Vizier after Brizon had fled. At some point, Mantrid contracted an illness that resulted in much of his body deteriorating, until he was little more than a head and some organs in a jar. Given that Brizon was apparently older than his student Mantrid, and was much better preserved, it doesn't seem likely that Mantrid's problem was simple old age or life extension.
It also seems unlikely that any normal disease would have affected the man who had one of the finest medical minds and access to the resources and medical technology of 20,000 worlds, who belonged to a civilization that could transform people into love slaves or accidentally fuse human/cluster lizard DNA. More likely, Mantrid's condition must have either been an accidental by-product of his research, or more likely, a little gift, perhaps some specially tailored flesh eating virus from Brizon.
I note that Brizon himself seems seriously ill and slowly dying when we encounter him. Given the high levels of these two men, their bitter hatred for one another, and the likely politics going on at the highest levels of the Bio Scholars, my best guess is that they did it to each other.
Considering Mantrid's sensualism and sex drive, urges that were still expressing themselves as late as Episode 2.01, the loss of his body must have been a fate worse than death. A lesser man would have simply gone insane. It undoubtedly had an effect on his personality. It was only as he was dying that he began to work on one of Brizon's old projects, the 'mind transfer' machine - a problem that he found intractable. This apparently lead him to study the old Insect civilisation, and he became somewhat of an expert in their biology and anatomy, at least enough to recognize and appropriate the right organs, and to be able to revitalize a larva. He may have also studied the ancient insect civilization through his work on the LEXX project, and its ancillaries, like the Moths. In fact, it may have been his studies of the insects and their ability to pass their souls along that lead him to Brizon's project.
As the LEXX neared its completion, Mantrid was considered too dangerous to be allowed his position, but too valuable to destroy, so he was removed but imprisoned. His fate was different from Brizon's who appears to have escaped and had his own space vehicle, so it's likely that Mantrid was under much closer watch and control. Again, this may have had something to do with the plotting and counter-plotting between him and Brizon, or even against others including the Divine Shadow.
Speaking of which, consider the weirdly deteriorated condition of His Divine Shadow at the beginning of IWHS. That didn't look like any natural ageing or disease I've ever heard of, and it also appeared to have happened so quickly that the clerics were caught off guard and had to rush things through without time or adequate preparation. Was this related to hijinks from Mantrid and/or Brizon? We can only wonder.
Mantrid's exile and imprisonment probably happened before the events of IWHS since there was no sign of him in that movie, the essence transfer was handled by underlings, Kai was woken without him, and the Divine Shadow already had the Key to the LEXX. Also, in episode 2.01, Kai was aware of who Mantrid was and where he was, knowledge that could only come from the Divine Shadow who's brain he crushed in Gigashadow, and after IWHS all indications are that that brain was only focused on the Cleansing. He was deposed and exiled or imprisoned on a moon or planetoid in The Cluster's solar system. We know the location is near the Cluster because when Stan and the crew are searching for debris after destroying Mantrid's planet, one of the fragments they see is actually a piece of The Cluster stadium. So, it must have been nearby. It's likely that Mantrid was not alone in his exile. There was probably a population of guards, technicians and scientists watching over him. The buildings and facilities that he was housed in were immense, suggesting a fairly heavy population just to build and maintain it. When we see him, there's some evidence that the facility is in a state of deterioration. Certainly Mantrid managed to stay informed, because he was well aware of the theft of the LEXX. The cleansing cleaned out his prison, but he managed to be left behind with an assistant, who he probably preserved for fondness or loneliness. Given that the final stages of the cleansing were carried out by Robots, he probably managed to subvert the robots with his drones, a mechanical feat that seems to have been within the skills of both Brizon and Mantrid, going by other evidence.
Being left alone during and following the cleansing and the rebirth and death of the Gigashadow, probably gave him the time and resources to go back to work on his 'soul transfer' machine, but he was getting nowhere. He was probably a bystander to the birth of the Gigashadow. He wiled his time away, in sexual games, philosophical meditations about life and death, and tinkering with his machine.
Everything changed when Kai and the LEXX showed up. Kai was, at the time, under the influence of the Insect Essence, which had hidden a portion of itself in Kai. The Insect Essence was looking for an Insect Host body: they'd found one, but it was dormant. The essence in Kai wasn't strong enough to transfer to the new body and reanimate it. It needed someone to reanimate the body, and the only person around who might be able to do it was Mantrid. Mantrid at first tried to bargain for the LEXX. Kai and Zev refused. Mantrid was offered a free ride if he helped, or death if he refused. He decided to help. It's clear from conversations between Mantrid and his assistant that they felt confident that they could take the LEXX if they wanted it. This means that Mantrid, like Brizon, probably possessed the means to disable Kai. Mantrid was dying, however, and taking the LEXX wouldn't have improved his chances that much.
The real prize was the insect larva. Mantrid had been unable to get his machine to work. He was trying to duplicate the insects soul transfer abilities. Now he had an actual specimen, with a viable organ. He reactivated the creature, which was harmless without essence, so he could obtain its soul transfer or 'transduction' organ to use as part of his machine. Unfortunately for him, Kai under the control of the insect essence was watching. At the right moment, Kai struck, shattering Mantrid's glass casing leaving him as a dying head. Kai transferred the insect essence into the insect body, waking it fully. However, Mantrid's assistant and lover took over. He grabbed Mantrid's dying head, ordered Mantrid's drones to finish ripping out the 'transduction' organ, and used it to transfer Mantrid's soul into the machine. However, since the organ also contained the Insect essence, or at least a part of it, Mantrid's soul was fused with the Insect essence (soulstuff), the two of them merging in the machine.
Mantrid lived, sort of, having no physical existence, but merely a consciousness inside a box. His living mind was now an amalgam of human, insect and machine. As a sign of his new state, his first act was to destroy the Insect and save his assistant. His second act was to murder his assistant.
Meanwhile, Kai and Zev ordered Stan to destroy the planet immediately, to stop the rebirth of the insect. Instead of doing this, Stan came down to rescue them. They fled back to the LEXX and blew up the planet immediately. However, the time it took for the rescue and return to the LEXX allowed Mantrid's assistant to do his work, and allowed this new Mantrid an opportunity to escape the world before it was blown to smithereens. Mantrid and a few drones hid among the ruins of the shattered worlds. He had his drones begin to convert the rubble into more drones, and he began to shadow the LEXX.
Mantrid seems to have been obsessed with the LEXX and its crew, particularly Kai. He may have seen the LEXX, an 'insect' crewed by humans, as a metaphor for his own state. In particular, Xev, who was a half human/half cluster lizard/machine fusion may have intrigued him though he never gave any sign of special interest. The only indication that he ever may have had a regard for Xev was when he allowed her to escape after he took Brizon. There was no way she was able to get away without his allowing it. It may also be significant that his final attack is on Xev, and that it starts as a sexual overture and becomes a sexual assault. So there may be some indication of an interest after all.
However, it's clear that Mantrid's real fascination was with Kai, who represented to him an amalgam of life and death, of fusion of human and machine, and at least temporarily, of insect. Mantrid may have perceived or played with metaphorical correspondences and analogies between himself and Kai on several levels. Mantrid also clearly felt connected to the LEXX and its crew, and particularly to Kai, because although they hadn't deliberately created him, they'd set in motion the chain of events which had lead to this strange existence. Had they never showed, or showed even a few months later, he'd simply have been dead. Had Kai been more thorough in killing Mantrid or his assistant, nothing more would have flowed. If Kai hadn't had the insect essence, hadn't brought the insect essence, hadn't transferred it into the organ, then it wouldn't have fused with Mantrid's soul. Had Stan not delayed in destroying the planet, there wouldn't have been time for the soul fusion, or for the new being to protect itself and escape. So, when Kai says 'we created Mantrid' he's speaking truthfully, though that creation was entirely inadvertent.
Mantrid's personality seems to have been a cruder, blunter thing in this new existence, confined and limited by his computer programming and by his new insect essence. He seemed no longer interested in the moral/censure s/m games of his life. He retained some of the interests, the hatreds, of his old life, but in many ways, seemed almost childish. Thus, his fixation on and interest in the LEXX. His infiltration of the LEXX through a child may have been a reflection of what was now a childish personality. Certainly some of his dialogue seemed to suggest a childlike perspective 'that was just a game' 'I'm playing with you', 'I'm going away now.' His game of possum with Brizon may have been another sign of this immaturity. At times, he seemed stubborn and petulant, and literally made childish faces (since visually, he was little more than a face, exaggerated facial expressions might be accepted, but it may also be a clue to the character). Destroying Potataho (a very rare instance of getting there ahead of them; usually he seemed to like to follow) before the LEXX arrives seems like a kind of childish prank. Even his final words and actions seem to be childish petulant whining.
Apart from his strange relationship with the LEXX and its crew members, and apart from his brief 'game' with Brizon, we have no real indication of any interests or perspective on the part of Mantrid. We saw him destroy a brothel, a medical satellite, and the world of the Divine Predecessor zombies, but we can't know if these acts of destruction retained any personal meaning for him. On the one hand, they might well have, since sex, medical science, and the Divine Shadows had been huge things in his life. He may well have taken special satisfaction from these specific acts of destruction, or similar specific acts. Its possible that his drones, on invading a world, started off with sexual assaults and destruction of temples and hospitals. However, the evidence is clear that his destruction was absolutely omnivorous. So if he's destroying everything, then it doesn't seem as if he had any special priority to destroy anything. In fact, if he felt any special hostility to the Divine Order or Divine Predecessors, he appears to have waited a good long time to act on it, considering how late in the season Woz and Twilight take place. On the other hand, if he was fond of the Divine Order or Divine Predecessors, why did he destroy them after the LEXX had been by? It seems that he was focusing much more on the LEXX and not these symbols from his past. Which may be another sign of childish shallow thinking.
By and large his destruction of the Universe seems to have been workmanlike and systematic. But it didn't proceed as a wave. Rather, it was erratic, he had a nibble there, a nibble somewhere else. His consumption should have proceeded as a bubble expanding inexorably outward. Instead, he seemed to dart around, picking and choosing, eating some now, sparing some later, creating 'Patches in the Sky.' This may be evidence of aspects of his personality, aesthetics, or of other projects or interests, even of lingering bits of sentimentality. We don't know. The only sign we had that his destruction wasn't random and impersonal was when we found he'd destroyed all the gateway points into the Dark Zone.
His ultimate agenda, simply to replace all the matter in the Universe with himself, to become 'God' seems oddly dull. Having done that, his only other idea is to open a hole and do the same thing to the Dark Zone. In a way, this seems reflective of his life. Brizon described him as a person without creativity, Kai described him as a person with a hunger to consume. His essential personality was selfish. He wanted to take everything and give nothing. At the center of his character was an empty hunger, which in his new existence was writ large.
Although to become God seemed to be his ambition, Mantrid was actually on the way to becoming the antithesis of God. His goal was to be the being who would say 'Let there be Dark' and that would be the end. The Mantrid who reappears in K-Town seems to be a changed character. Where the old Mantrid in human or inhuman incarnations, appears to have been an omnivorous glutton, this Mantrid is spare and ascetic. He's gaunt and indifferent. He speculates that his state, his lack of knowledge and his lack of interest may be his punishment. The old Mantrid hungered for knowledge, this one seems almost indifferent to his surroundings and environment. He asks questions, but seems almost indifferent to the answers, barely paying attention. The answers have to seep in slowly, before he starts to think about them and wants to know more. And, unlike the Mantrid who was wholly selfish and self centred, he shows what may be altruism, rescuing or attempting to help Stan and Xev at least twice. These may be selfish acts, because he wants to gain knowledge from the two. But he barely seems interested in that knowledge. Arguably, he even shows altruism when he attempts to help Kai. But while there may be an aspect of altruism, there's also a sign of something else.
As Mantrid learns more and more of who he was, it's as if his old habits and old flaws reassert themselves. In his treatment of Kai, he becomes hungry, possessive, thirsty for both knowledge and experience - look at the way he touches Kai, the way he leans over or straddles him, almost like a lover or seducer, his words to Kai, 'you belong to me.' From what is almost a dream state of indifference, the old Mantrid seems to return with a vengeance. His final words are a shout of childish triumph 'I destroyed a Universe.'
When he thanks them, when he says his punishment is over for now, does that simply mean his death, or does it mean he's regained his self knowledge and personality, even if for the fleeting moments left.
© 2001 (February) Darrow.