The Invaders

In the 1960s, it seemed that whenever you turned on the television, the same male voice would intone the name of the show you were about to watch and then continue, “… a Quinn Martin Production.  Tonight’s Episode,…”.  Quinn Martin produced streams of popular series like The Streets of San Francisco, Cannon, Barnaby Jones, The Fugitive, 12 O’Clock High, and many others including The Invaders.

Roy Thinnes starred as architect David Vincent, whose life changed forever after he took a late-night shortcut off the main road and witnessed the landing of an alien spacecraft.  The occupants that emerged were visually indistinguishable from humans but lacked a few human traits (such as emotions, or a pulse).  Some had deformed fifth fingers causing their pinkies to stick straight out as if they were at high tea.  Pure oxygen was poisonous to them and they had to regenerate about once a week or would die.  These other worldly visitors would incinerate if killed.

They had come to Earth because their own planet was dying.  They had not come as friends.  They intended to make Earth their home.

Vincent, together with friend and partner Alan Landers (James Daly), who was killed by the alien invaders, tried to convince the authorities of the alien menace (Lt. Holman, played by J.D. Cannon).  He was later befriended by millionaire electronics manufacturer Edgar Scoville, played by the late Kent Smith, who financed Vincent’s hunt for the alien infiltrators.

Alfred Ryder, better known to science fiction fans as Professor Crater in the early Star Trek episode “The Man Trap”, portrayed the alien leader in the 3rd-season episode “The Peacemaker”.

The Invaders ran from January 10, 1967 through March 26, 1968 and created a total of 43 episodes.  It was very much a product of its time, drawing heavily from the strong public interest in the developing US space program.  Real-life progress in the exploration of space had renewed discussions about the possibility of life “out there” and the influence of the Cold War was nearing its peak.  It presented the darkest view of encountering extra-terrestrial life.

The Invaders boasted some big-name guest stars, such as Roddy McDowell, Arthur Hill, Jeanette Nolan, William Windom, Andrew Duggan, James Whitmore, Peter Graves, Strother Martin, Edward Asner, Burgess Meredith, Ted Knight, Gene Hackman, Michael Rennie, Suzanne Pleshette, and an early appearance by Barry (“Brady”) Williams.

The production values were definitely representative of its 1967 origin.  Rather than showing the “alien of the week”, most episodes focused on a crisis that usually required David Vincent to escape.  He was kidnapped, beaten, tortured, and always managed to escape in the nick of time, usually after killing several aliens, causing them to incinerate.  He occasionally found the alien’s regeneration equipment, which seem to have been the forerunning of Star Trek’s Borg regeneration stations.

The single most recognizable symbol from this show, though, was the Invader’s alien ship.  Based on the classic “flying saucer” design, the saucer was mimicked in a number of faked UFO films throughout the late 60s and early 70s.  Presently, the Monogram model of this ship is a highly sought after collector’s item.

In 1995, the Fox network produced a four-hour Invaders miniseries that starred Scott Bakula as “Nolan Wood”.  This was more of a horror-style production than the original series.  The miniseries was only moderately successful and gained very mixed reviews.  Roy Thinnes reprised his role as David Vincent in a momentary appearance.  This remake deviated from the original version significantly, and showed how the aliens “possessed” humans and melted the flesh of their victims rather than merely appeared human. 

– written by John Pickard