The Invaders (1967): Season 1
One of the greatest things about the DVD format is how it can return us in time to our childhood. This is especially true with the increasing trend of studios that release some of our favorite television series of those times. One studio has managed to collect the rights to many of these series; Paramount. One of the latest they are releasing on DVD is ‘The Invaders’; a 1967 cult classic for all Sci-Fi fans. While the show may not be as well appreciated by younger audiences but for those of us around back then it is a piece of our personal history. I was a teenager when this series was originally on television and it was a must see. In 1967 the Viet Nam war was a concern for everybody; most certainly boys approaching draft age. The cold war was in full swing and although McCarthy was a decade in the past the fear of communism was still very much alive. Many were afraid of an invasion by the Russians either through direct nuclear attack or more subversive means. It was the later that helped this series become so popular with the American audiences. The basic premise of the series was Earth was being invaded by aliens from a distant planet. They did not come in force like we saw in flicks like ‘Earth vs. the flying Saucers’. Instead they took human form and walked among us as they plotted to take our planet from us. While this plot was handled better in film with the original ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ this television series struck a chord with the public. It only lasted two seasons and even die hard fans will debate the series jumping the shark in the second year. Now the first season in its entirety is ready to take it’s place in your DVD collection.
The series was created by Larry Cohen who has continued to have a long and successful career mostly in television. In 1967 he used this science fiction vehicle to tap into the collective fears of the audience and provide one of the most memorable shows ever. He even wrote a continuation of the series in 1995 which did not go over too well. In that year he also penned one of many remakes of the original ‘Invasion of the Body Snatcher’ so this was a theme that would pop up throughout his career. The aliens in this show for the most part looked like regular human beings. The main way to tell them apart from earthlings is they were unable to move the little fingers of their hands. Much to the chagrin of the hero when they died their bodies would self destruct in a flash of light leaving nothing to prove their existence. This show demonstrated one of the primary functions of science fiction. It is able to tackle serious social issues in a way that it was not overt and could be taken as just an entertaining story. A series about commies infiltrating our society would never have been given a chance on television but just make the invaders aliens from another world and you got something that the public would accept. It also contained another them that will always be popular with the American public. This series was concerned with one man trying to do what he knew was best and vital to the survival of the human race. Since evidence was almost impossible to come by no one would believe him. Yet, great American individual that he was, he kept going; moving all of the country to track down the proof he needed to finally be believed. This spirit of the individual made this series ‘The Fugitive’ for the Sci-Fi set.
The DVD set begins with an introduction by Roy Thinnes who played the lead, David Vincent, an architect. He explains that the first episode also served as the pilot for the series. While the DVD was being mastered they did find an extended version of this pilot and it is provided here as an extra. Not only was there additional scenes and material contained in it the extended pilot had a different ending. Like another ‘Quinn Martin’ series, ‘The Fugitive’ the basic plot was re-introduced at the start of each episode. While Vincent was returning home from a business trip he was driving down a puddle ridden back road. Just remember kids, there was no GPS back then so more people did get lost on the roadways. It was just past four in the morning and Vincent was looking for a short cut. What he found would change his life forever. He drives over a sign that proclaims the road he is on is closed. He finds a sign for a dinner and goes in that direction only to discover the building had been long deserted. He decides to pull over anyway and get some much needed sleep. He is woken up by a strange sound a lights in the sky. He looks out the car window to see a flying saucer landing nearby. The next morning he drives back to Santa Barbara to report what he saw to the sheriff. There he tries to convince Police Lt. Ben Holman (J.D. Cannon) what he witnessed. The police called for Vincent’s partner Alan Landers (James Daly) to see if Vincent was prone to seeing things, in other words, a drunk. Holman is dismissive to Vincent sure that he was probably just overly tired from his long drive. Finally Holman gives in and drives Vincent out to the dinner. Vincent had reported that the dinner was ‘Bud’s Dinner’ which the sign did say when the audience was shown it. When Holman and Vincent get there the sign was changed to ‘Kelly’s Diner’ casting more doubt on Vincent’s story. There is also no sign of a space ship. As Vincent looks around he sees a young couple nearby camping. They tell the detective that they have been there all night and never saw anything unusual. No one but Vincent seems to notice but the couple is unable to move the little fingers of their hands. Later that night Vincent goes back too talk to the couple. The husband is notably out of breath and very anxious to get going. As we would learn later they are aliens and he was getting close to his mandatory regeneration time. Just as the man is about to kill Vincent with a rock he begins to glow red.
In almost every episode Vincent gets close to finding proof or convincing someone but the aliens are well entrenched in our society and manage to discredit him. Vincent also would appear to have the world’s record for alien abductions. He gets kidnapped by them on a fairly regular basis. Often they try to use some alien gizmo to pull information directly from his brain. Along the way the aliens come up with numerous plots against us ranging from setting off a nuclear bomb to taking over industrial facilities to make more of their required regeneration chambers. Vincent does meet the occasional sympathetic alien such as one who is working as a nightclub dancer and feels ostracized by her own kind. The dated technology is highlighted in one episode when Vincent has to find a computer tape with information about the invasion on it. Yes, back in the old days computers took up whole rooms and the means of storage was magnetic tape.
This is a fantastic that brought science fiction to the television public. It dealt with issues and fears that the audience could identify with. It was also produced by Quinn Martin, a name America trusted for great crime dramas on TV. This was a departure for Martin from the crime format but the look and feel of the series was much like others of his stable of shows. This added to the acceptance by the audience. Even if they were not particularly Sci-Fi fans the presentation of the show was familiar to them. CBS-Paramount has the whole first season here, all sixteen episodes. This was a mid-year replacement starting in January of 1967 so it wasn’t the usual 25 episodes most series had then. The video and audio has held up very well over the years and the mastering here has restored much of the color and contrast. For extras they give you something special. Beside the previously mentioned extended pilot there is a new interview with Thinnes and three season one promo spots. This is something that everyone should add to their collection.