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The Invaders: Season 1
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David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) knows that The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet, have arrived to take over the Earth! To make matters worse, the aliens know who he is, and most of the time where he is. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.
"If theyre really after you, youre not paranoid" is a lesson The Invaders' David Vincent has learned all too well. Vincent (portrayed by Roy Thinnes) knows that aliens from a dying planet have come to Earth and are planning to take over; having lost his way and fallen asleep in his car in the remote woods one night, he saw their flying saucer land. Whats worse, the invaders know he knows. And worst of all, the rest of the world is willfully oblivious, and little interested in the rantings of this madman. That's the premise of this series from producer Quinn (The Fugitive) Martin, and even if the 16 episodes from the shows first season (1967) dont always match the promise of the concept, this is still an intriguing, entertaining ride.
The aliens, crafty critters that they are, look exactly like us, save for a slight disfigurement of one finger; they also completely disintegrate when killed, a convenient little conceit that prevents anyone from figuring out who or what they really are. Their dastardly schemes for eliminating the Earthlings are many and varied, ranging from nuclear bombs, plagues of locusts (and carnivorous butterflies!), and manufactured hurricanes to brainwashing and mind control experiments. Standing against this implacable foe is just one man--an amateur (Vincent was an architect before all the craziness began) who works alone (the other true believers he encounters almost invariably end up dead) and is often stymied by his own impetuousness and lack of preparation. Admittedly, the concept doesnt hold up under close scrutiny; even if the aliens are trying to take over by stealth instead of one massive invasion, it doesnt make a lot of sense that they cant eliminate a guy who doesnt even own a gun. There is no series arc; each episode is stand-alone, so by the end of the season the invaders still have barely established a foothold. Moreover, while there are plenty of fistfights and chase sequences, the special effects are ludicrous, the alien technology looks like something out of a high school play, the stories are obvious, and the acting is melodramatic (notwithstanding guest appearances by the Jack Warden and familiar TV faces like Suzanne Pleshette, Arthur Hill, Joseph Campanella, Jack Lord, Ed Asner, and many others). Nevertheless, with the help of Dominic Frontieres music and the portentous narration that begins and ends each episode, The Invaders manages to consistently maintain its paranoid, Kafka-esque vibe, and that alone makes it compellingly watchable. Thinnes episode intros and a new interview with the actor are the main bonus features. --Sam Graham
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The invaders appear human (although some of them have a deformed finger that allows Vincent to spot them more easily). They also have an advanced technology that helps them accomplish their goals (including a device with which they can kill people so that it appears the person dies of a cerebral hemorrhage). Most disconcerting for Vincent, when they die, which occurs frequently, they turn a glowing red and completely vanish, along with all their clothes and everything in their immediate possession. That makes Vincent's task of proving their existence considerably more difficult.
The show only lasted a season and a half, and this set includes the 17 episodes of the original half season (the show premiered in the winter). There are actually two versions of the pilot episode (in which Vincent learns of the alien's existence and that they have taken over a small California town), the version that aired and an extended version some ten minutes longer which works better. The show started to run out of gas midway in the second season, but this initial set has most of the best episodes and is of considerably better overall quality.
The plots generally involve just that, alien plots. Typically, Vincent hears of strange goings on in some location and goes to investigate, only to discover the aliens have set up some sort of facility he has to stop. For the most part, the aliens themselves are not mastermind geniuses or raving fanatics but average everyday sorts, and figuring out just who in a town is or is not an alien often keeps Vincent and viewers occupied for much of an episode. The quality of the guest cast is good, with a lot of familiar TV faces who would soon have shows of their own, such as Jack Lord, Peter Graves, Arthur Hill, William Windom, and Ed Asner. Thinnes himself wasn't the acting equal of David Janssen in The Fugitive, but he was good at portraying harried desperation that his character often felt.
The two best episodes are somewhat offbeat. In Vikki, Suzanne Pleshette plays the title character, an alien who hasn't fully bought into their plans and tries to help Vincent, while the two develop feelings for each other. In The Innocents, Michael Rennie plays an alien leader, who tries to convince Vincent that their goals for earth are really beneficial rather than harmful. This involves a bit of mind control on their part, and eventually, Vincent figures out what they really want.
Episodes like these two showed the series' potential, but most of the very rest fell into a familiar formula and weren't all that much different from the PI shows of the era. The only difference was that instead of trying to uncover a smuggling operation or drug ring, Vincent is trying to find a facility that enables the aliens to regenerate themselves or some other bizarre enterprise. The action may have felt familiar to audiences, but the episodes were quite well done.
The Invaders has become somewhat forgotten today, and a 90s attempted update as well as periodic feelers for a feature film have failed, but it proved to be the inspiration for many science fiction and action films and series over the years. Taken for what they are, these episodes are still well made, well acted, well written for the most part, and entertaining today.
Bear in mind that this is filmed in 1967 when we had the "nuclear threat" and "cold war" always being blared at us on television. Imagine those who had lived through the "McCarthy days" Inquisition which turned Americans on Americans to accommodate the HUAC. TV and newspapers have contributed greatly to the paranoia and suspicions of people around the world towards their leaders and government - not surprising or unrealistic! Enjoy (sci-fi 60's fans especially)!
But it is!
It's pretty basic science fiction, with inexpensive sets and what might be considered laughable effects. Sort of The Fugitive, with aliens. (Same producer did both.) But there's lots of familiar faces, fine acting, and some real issues that still prompt discussion today. There's real chills and suspense, and you'll never look at people's pinkies the same way again.
Another thing I didn't expect was the way my husband and I marveled at the way people lived in 1966. He makes calls from a pay phone! The cars are huge! The suits are baggy! They listen to records!
If you were a fan back when, ya gotta have. If you weren't, it's still a charming example of a thoughtful science fiction series at a time when this was very rare. Perhaps it paved the way for Star Trek.