The Invaders (1967): Season 2
A lot of people love a good old fashion conspiracy theory story. The idea that the truth is out there and few people are aware of it is a gripping premise for suspense, mystery and action. When you think of this topic in the context of television your mind most likely will turn to ‘The X Files’ with good reason. Actually, there was a predecessor that in many ways laid the ground work for that series. It was ‘The Invaders’ and it may have lasted on the tube for only two seasons but in that time it became a hit and later an enduring cult classic. In 1967 this was one of the most popular series around, especially for the age group I belonged to back then, teenagers. This was a time in history that the space program was in full swing with America and the Soviet Union racing towards the moon. An unpopular war in Vietnam was dividing the generations on the home front and the cold war was a constant topic of concern. The teens of that day were facing an uncertain future and this series not only provided a taut mystery to engage us but it also reflected the sense of doubt that we all felt. The basic premise was one that would echo decades later in the ‘X Files’. Aliens have come to earth to harvest the resources of our planet. Unlike the typical science fiction of the fifties they didn’t arrive in space ships armed with futuristic weapons. This invasion was terrifying due to its subtle nature. They were able to emulate the form of human beings and work on their deadly plan while walking among us. Like so many television shows from our youth that would help shape our entertainment preferences for the rest of our lives this is more that an old TV show. It is a piece of our cultural history. Thankfully the DVD distribution rights are held by CBS Paramount and they have proven a dedication to releasing these vintage shows for our continued enjoyment. The first season was released last spring and now the second and sadly last season is out on disc. This is a perfect time to return to quality television and add to your growing collection.
The series creator Larry Cohen was already a well establish writer in television when he came up with this show. He was obviously strongly influenced by the fifties Sci-Fi classic ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ and would go on to writer the script for one of the many remakes of that classic film. In the nineties there was an attempt to resurrect this series but it was even shorter lived that the original. The central theme of a group of aliens who are intent on our doom walking among us was a hold over from the infamous McCarthy era of the previous decade. The thought that your next door neighbor way be secretly working to bring about the demise of everything you hold dear is one of the strongest and most frightening concepts possible. It comes down to a matter of trust which is the core of every conspiracy theory ever created. While the ‘X Files’ used a pair of seasoned and experienced FBI agents the protagonist of this series was an individual. David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) was an architect who took a fateful wrong turn one night. He stumbled across a space ship and discovered the existence of aliens who were able to take on human form. Naturally no one believed him but Vincent became obsessed with revealing the truth to the unsuspecting humanity. This is a venerable plot device in literature for ages; the reasonable man alone as he faces a danger that threatens everybody. In some ways this theme was directly from many old westerns like ‘High Noon’. Danger is coming quickly but no one will life a hand to help prevent the looming disaster.
Vincent soon notices that the only way to tell an alien from a real human being is their little finger; they are unable to move it. It seems strange that a race that conquered inter galactic space travel and where able to construct and assume human form would not be able to overcoming this tell tale sign but the writers needed some visual clue to let the audience know who the bad guys were. It was bad enough that Vincent usually failed to convince others about the alien menace but there was something that helped to prevent him from gathering hard evidence. When an alien dies in human forms the body would disappear. The aliens are also nothing if not organized. By the time Vincent left the scene of a landing or enclave and came back with other people all trace of the aliens would be gone. The aliens could only survive for a limited time in human form and had to undergo regeneration on a regular basis. When they were getting close to their limit they would have problems breathing. This was a weakness that Vincent never seem able to use to its fullest in his battle. The aliens may have been very well organized but they seemed to have some troubles with security. Almost every week they would capture Vincent only to have him escape to fight another day.
In this second season the writers did begin to pull away from the lone crusader concept. Vincent started to meet other humans that were aware of the aliens or at least where prone to believe him. This added a new dimension to the show and some would argue that it pushed the series off track. I have to disagree. While the one man against the world theme was diminished it still held up. Vincent had to come up with ways to being others to his side. If they had relied solely on the individual theme the stories would have no direction. This was a natural extension of the theme. Even in the old westerns the sheriff was able to get some of the townsfolk to stand with him.
Like the previous season DVD set the episodes can be played with an optional introduction by Roy Thinnes. Sitting there with his bowtie he gives a little insight in the episode that fans will love. In the opening episode for the season Vincent hears about a woman who has no pulse. As it just so happens she is also recently married to a military officer assigned to NORAD, the nation’s primary aerial defense network. The aliens are working their way into key positions of the government and military. The aliens are able to control the minds of humans making them into unwitting accomplices. In this season the aliens are getting bolder. They impersonate the U.S. Air Force and are worming their way into the most sensitive positions in the nation. They are also getting a little careless such as when an entire town sees one of their bodies burn up.
Like so many of our favorite shows of this time period this one was part of the Quinn Martin Productions stable. They were the tops in crime dramas like ‘The Fugitive’ and I doubt there was not a single home in American that didn’t have at least one of these series as a favorite. This series was airing at the same time as the definitive TV Sci-Fi show ‘Star Trek’. This DVD release has all new episode introductions, a new interview with him and a commentary track for a pivotal episode. This is a must have that your whole family will love.