Created by Larry Cohen
Theme music composer Dominic Frontiere
First episode date 10 January 1967
Original network ABC
Genre Science fiction
Starring Roy Thinnes Kent Smith
Country of origin USA
Final episode date 26 March 1968
Cast Roy Thinnes, Kent Smith
|Directed by Lewis Allen
Narrated by Dick Wesson (episode credits), Bill Woodson (all other narration)
Similar The Fugitive, The Outer Limits, The FBI, Twelve O'Clock High, Gunsmoke
The Invaders is an American science fiction television program created by Larry Cohen that aired on ABC for two seasons, from 1967 to 1968. Dominic Frontiere, who had provided scores for Twelve O'Clock High and The Outer Limits, provided scores for The Invaders as well.
- Opening sequence
- Alien technology
- Cold War overtones
- The Invaders after the original series
- The Invaders abroad
- In popular culture
- DVD releases
The series was a Quinn Martin Production (Season One was produced in association with the ABC Television Network, or as it was listed in the end credits, "The American Broadcasting Company Television Networks").
Roy Thinnes stars as architect David Vincent, who accidentally learns of a secret alien invasion already underway and thereafter travels from place to place attempting to foil the aliens' plots and warn a skeptical populace of the danger. As the series progresses Vincent is able to convince a small number of people to help him fight the aliens.
In many episodes, at least one individual, often a key figure such as a USAF intelligence officer ('The Innocent'), a police officer ('Genesis', 'The Spores'), a U.S. Army major ('Doomsday Minus One'), or a NASA official ('Moonshot') would become aware of the alien threat and survive the episode in which he or she was introduced. In 'The Leeches' a millionaire (Arthur Hill) survives an alien abduction after being rescued by Vincent, while in 'Quantity: Unknown' a scientist (Susan Strasberg) is convinced of alien technology. In 'The Saucer' guest stars Anne Francis and Charles Drake witness an alien saucer's landing. In the second season, larger groups of surviving witnesses were featured, as in episodes 'Dark Outpost' and 'The Pursued', and three scientists in 'Labyrinth'. Most significant of these is millionaire industrialist Edgar Scoville (Kent Smith) who became a semi-regular character as of December 1967, heading a small but influential group from the episode 'The Believers'. Later episodes saw the military involved ('The Peacemaker') as Vincent's claims were now clearly being taken more seriously. In 'The Miracle' (guest star Barbara Hershey), after an alien encounter Vincent manages to retain a piece of alien technology both as evidence and for examination by both his group and the authorities.
The series depicted an undercurrent of at least partial credulity among authority figures regarding Vincent's claims, even in the first season, as in early episodes such as 'The Mutation' where a security agent (Lin McCarthy) is keeping an eye on Vincent and ends up inclined to believe him. In 'The Innocent' the USAF Officer (Dabney Coleman) guns down an alien who incinerates in front of him, tying in with Vincent's claims, while at the end of the episode after apparently disbelieving Vincent he then phones USAF security to run a full background check on an officer whom Vincent claimed was an alien. In 'Moonshot' the NASA official (Peter Graves) is fully expecting Vincent to arrive, and in 'Condition: Red' a NORAD Officer and staff witness an alien UFO formation onscreen, and are left convinced. Each of these incidents is kept to just the individual episode, with hinted official backing of Vincent (or at least 'semi-backing' suggested in the episode 'The Condemned'). Elsewhere, Vincent is shown as being publicly 'dismissed as a crank' by the authorities, while behind the scenes they apparently take him seriously—for example in 'Doomsday Minus One' where Vincent has been invited by an Army Intelligence official and then is given classified information; in the two-part 'Summit Meeting' where he's present at a top security meeting without any question; and in 'Condition: Red' where he's allowed into NORAD without question. Thus viewers were left to draw their own conclusions as to the situation regarding Vincent's actual standing.
Some controversy arose regarding the sudden ending of the TV show after season two as it was deemed no proper ending had been written (unlike 'The Fugitive'). Yet the final season-two episode 'Inquisition' does stand as some kind of series conclusion where Vincent finally convinces a key figure, an initially sceptical special assistant to the Attorney General (Mark Richman), that the Invaders have arrived, after first defeating an alien plan with a special weapon. The aliens had withdrawn all their key personnel from Earth prior to its use, and the closing narration is that Vincent, Edgar Scoville, and the now convinced Special Assistant will join forces as the vanguard to watch for any return of the Invaders… Thus this episode can be seen as showing Vincent achieve his goal of 'convincing disbelieving authorities' at least, and the Invaders' plans temporarily thwarted, leaving the door open for any possible later sequel or spinoff show.
Neither the Invaders nor their planet were ever named. Their human appearance was a disguise; they were only shown in their true form in one episode, "Genesis", in which an ill alien researcher loses his human form and is briefly seen immersed in a tank of water. Unless they receive periodic treatments in what Vincent called "regeneration chambers", which consume a great deal of electrical power, they revert to their alien form. One scene in the series showed an alien beginning to revert, filmed in soft focus and with pulsating red light.
They had certain characteristics by which they could be detected, such as the absence of a pulse or heartbeat and the inability to bleed. Most of the aliens, in particular the lowest-ranking members or workers in green jumpsuits, were emotionless and had deformed little fingers which could not move and were bent at an unnatural angle, although there were "deluxe models" who could manipulate this finger. There were also a number of mutant aliens, who experienced emotions similar to those of humans, and who even opposed the alien takeover.
The existence of the Invaders could not be documented by killing one and examining the body: When they died, their bodies would glow red and disintegrate along with their clothes and anything else they were touching, leaving little more than traces of black ash. On several occasions, a dying alien would deliberately touch a piece of their technology to prevent it from falling into the hands of humans. In episode 3 (The Mutation) one of them tells David Vincent, "That's what happens to us when we die here on Earth."
The series was produced by Quinn Martin, who was looking for a show to replace the immensely popular The Fugitive, which was ending its run in 1967. Larry Cohen, the show's creator, had conceived two earlier series with similarities to The Invaders. Chuck Connors starred in Branded (1965) as a soldier court-martialed for cowardice, who traveled the West searching for witnesses and proof that he had acted valiantly, and Coronet Blue (1967) about Michael Alden, a man suffering from amnesia who was being pursued by a powerful group of people. All he could remember were the words "Coronet Blue".
Another inspiration was the wave of "alien doppelgänger" films which had come ten years before in the 1950s, typified by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and the British film Quatermass 2 (1957), known in America as Enemy from Space. While these paranoid tales of extraterrestrials who lived among us, posing as humans while planning a takeover, are usually linked with a Red Scare subtext, Martin simply wanted a premise that would keep the hero moving around and that would explain why he could not go to the authorities (i.e. not only had some aliens infiltrated human institutions already, but most humans would dismiss a claim of alien invasion as a paranoid delusion), however as the series unfolded the various 'disappearances' of people in episodes (killed by The Invaders, such as Vincent's partner Alan Landers—played by James Daly—in the pilot, etc.), those installed alien figures revealed to be aliens by Vincent thus having to withdraw (such as Edward Andrews' character in 'The Mutation' etc.) plus the surviving one or two key human witnesses in most episodes (from the third episode onwards) did rather alter the basic premise of the show to something deeper and more thought provoking early on.
The flying saucer design was influenced by two UFO photographs. The first case happened in 1965 in Santa Ana, California. On August 3, the highway traffic engineer Rex Heflin took several pictures of a flying craft, while working near the Santa Ana freeway. Heflin did not report his sighting, but the photographs were published by the Santa Ana Register on September 20, 1965. The second is the Adamski case. On December 13, 1952 in Palomar Gardens, California, USA, the contactee George Adamski took a series of photographs through his telescope, of a bell-shaped craft, today well known as the Adamski Scout Ship. The upper hull, and flat top from the Heflin case were combined with the bell-shaped outer flange and three rings of the Adamski case. The five hemispheres in the bottom of the craft seem to emulate the three semispheres in the Adamski Scout Ship.
Before each episode, an "in color" promo bumper, typical of most ABC programs of the era, appears, as ABC was the last network to adopt color programming: Next… The Invaders, In Color!
Then, following the bumper, each episode begins with a cold open, to help set up the plot of the episode to come. After the prologue, the main title appears, announced by Dick Wesson:The Invaders! A Quinn Martin Production. Starring Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent.
(A different shot of Thinnes' face was used for the second season.) This would be followed by the opening narration (by Bill Woodson):The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.
Then in a manner typical of Quinn Martin productions, Wesson would announce "The guest stars in tonight's story…", and finally, the title of the episode about to be viewed.
The type of spaceship by which the Invaders reach the Earth is a flying saucer of a design derivative of that shown in the contestable early 1950s photographs of self-proclaimed UFO "contactee" George Adamski, but instead of having three spheres on the underside, the Invaders' craft has five shallower protrusions. It was a principle of the production crew not to show them with set and prop designs and control panels that were utterly alien from the conventional human ones (such as H.R. Giger would later present in Alien).
They use a small, handheld, disc-shaped weapon with five glowing white lights applied to the back of the victim's head or neck to induce a seemingly-natural death, which is usually diagnosed as a cerebral hemorrhage. They also employ powerful weapons to disintegrate witnesses, vehicles and—in one episode—a sick member of their own race whose infection's side effects were resulting in unwanted notoriety. Also in their arsenal is a small device consisting of two spinning transparent crystals joined at their corners which forces human beings to do the aliens' bidding.
Cold War overtones
For many viewers, the theme of paranoia infusing The Invaders often appeared to reflect Cold War fears of communist infiltration that had lingered from the McCarthy period a decade earlier. Series creator Larry Cohen has acknowledged that this was intended, along with a political theme for the series as a whole. In audio commentary for the episode "The Innocent," included in the first-season DVD collection, Cohen said his knowledge of the blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriters for their communist connections inspired him to make "a mockery" of the fear of insidious infiltration of society, by substituting space aliens for communists.
Cohen also acknowledged he was not the first to turn Cold War fears into science-fiction drama. As noted above, such fears had influenced such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and especially I Married a Monster from Outer Space. Cohen also stated in his commentary that the political intent inherent in some of his creations, including The Invaders, was not always appreciated or shared by left-wing producers and actors. It should be noted that in an interview shown in the special features segment included on the DVD release of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, star Kevin McCarthy strongly denied any desire by director Don Siegel or the film's writer to connect the invaders to communists.
The Invaders after the original series
Since the 1960s, recurring public interest in UFO lore may have helped to revive interest in the television series, and commentary on the DVD collections acknowledges that, in private life, Thinnes has kept up a strong interest in UFO-related information.
In 1995, the premise was used as the basis for a three-hour television miniseries titled The Invaders (or The New Invaders). Scott Bakula starred as Nolan Wood, who discovers the alien conspiracy, and Roy Thinnes reprised his role of David Vincent, now an old man handing the burden over to Wood. The miniseries has been released in some countries on home video, edited into a single movie. The miniseries bore very little similarity to Quinn Martin's TV show, however; the aliens had no characteristics in common with their predecessors besides just 'looking human', and their technology differed. David Vincent—who made little more than a cameo—exits the story without explanation, and the miniseries has no continuity with where the TV show left off.
The pilot episode of the series, "Beachhead", was remade in 1977 for another Quinn Martin series, Quinn Martin's Tales of the Unexpected (known in the United Kingdom as Twist in the Tale), where it was retitled "The Nomads".
Thinnes also provided audio commentary for the official The Invaders DVD releases. He has also filmed special video introductions for every episode, which are an optional "Play" feature on the episode menus. The "in color" bumper follows each of these introductions.
The Invaders abroad
The show proved to be enormously popular in France (first aired in 1969 as Les Envahisseurs), and it is still a local favorite, inspiring books, comics, songs, comedy skits, and even TV advertising commercials.
In Italy, it became a popular "filler" for syndicated TV stations (like other 1960s series such as Hawaii Five-O and Mission: Impossible) in the 1980s.
The series also met with success in South America and Germany.
It was popular in the UK; it was shown there on ITV in the 1960s, with several repeat runs on BBC2 from 1983 onwards.
Despite its intentional Cold War overtones, the show also made it across the Iron Curtain into Hungary, where it was dubbed and aired under the title "Attack from an Alien Planet" (Hungarian: Támadás egy idegen bolygóról) between July 4 and September 5, 1980. The whole series, however, was never shown, with only the black and white versions of the following 9 episodes making it to the TV screens after prime time on Friday nights, in the sequence indicated (Season/Episode): 1/1, 1/11, 1/13, 2/12, 2/14, 1/4, 2/7, 2/6, 2/21. These 9 episodes were described in the media as the complete series, with no reference made to the existence of any other episodes. Newspaper reviews tended to be critical of the show being "more fiction than science". It was nevertheless well-received by viewers, as attested by references to it in popular culture at the time.
Ten books based on the television series were published.
Gold Key Comics published four issues of an Invaders comic book based upon the series in 1967-1968, years before Marvel Comics published their own, unrelated Invaders superhero series.
In popular culture
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) has released the entire series on DVD in Regions 1, 2 & PAL 4.