exposure to The Invaders came from a 1967 Big Little
Book, catalogued #12, "Alien Missile Threat." Then Whitman
also released a novel for older readers, "Dam of Death,"
that featured a photo cover of star Roy Thinnes as architect
David Vincent. (see image at right)
books got read over and over in those days before the internet,
and any time I saw an adult with an extended little finger,
I had a hard time convincing myself he wasn't here to pollute
the Earth. These are the things that make a third-grader's
mind go round.
What I never actually did see, though,
was an episode of the television series. I knew who Thinnes
was, because an older cousin had a brief crush on him. And
when he showed up on The X-Files, I half-hoped he'd
be playing Vincent, years later stumbling into an even bigger
Finally, in 2008, we get the first season
of two on DVD. Perhaps it may surprise you that the series,
created by Larry Cohen, still stands up. Though it is a
Quinn Martin Production, thus looking very much like a sixties
television show, it still has a pretty good sense of dread.
If you're not familiar, the series begins
with its protagonist returning to Santa Barbara from a business
trip. Driving all night, he pulls over to grab a nap, which
is disturbed by the landing of a spaceship. Thus does his
nightmare begin, for as he tries to piece together what
actually happened, he discovers that the aliens have nefarious
(but in hindsight, really patient) plans for the Earth.
They can look just like regular humans for about twelve
hours at a time, detectable only because the different bone
structure of their hands cannot be disguised.
After failing to kill David Vincent, the
aliens seem content to let him rant and rave, knowing that
they've got enough of their kind in high places to discredit
him if he ever gets too close. You may notice some similarities
thirty years later on The X-Files, but The Invaders
makes no bones about its conspiracy. Instead, its fun comes
from the direct battle of wits between Vincent and …the
Aside from the pilot, the first season
episodes don't have the kind of building subplots that require
a specific watching order. The pilot, "Beachhead," establishes
the mythos, and each subsequent episode plays around with
variations on the aliens' plans. Thankfully, the episodes
are for the most part extremely well-written, focusing on
characterization. Of course, the series also has quite a
few guest actors who went on to bigger things, including
Suzanne Pleshette, Ed Asner and Roddy McDowall just before
he went ape.
Anchoring the whole thing, Thinnes turns
out to be a much better actor than his subsequent career
hinted. With matinee-idol looks and occasionally a hint
of madness in his eyes, he makes David Vincent believable,
even if no one around him actually will believe him.
The DVD set also has the luxury of Thinnes'
recollections of the series. He introduces each episode,
still pretty knowledgeable about his time on the series.
On the final disc, he also sits for an extended interview,
revealing his own thoughts about UFOs and marveling at the
ingenuity of the special effects artists on the series.
Specifically, he's still impressed at how
they managed to disintegrate aliens on such a TV budget.
Nowadays, you could probably pull it off on your laptop
computer, but back then, it was a pretty expensive proposition.
Overall, seeing this series at last was
a real pleasure, especially since it turned out to actually
be good. If you need a further testament to its quality,
notice that it did only last two seasons - this is actually
television that was a bit ahead of its time.
The only gripe I have with the collection
lies in its packaging. On the interior, it lays out its
five discs fairly well, but the exterior images have tried
to hide that this is a piece of sixties' kitsch. The title
is very much a bland 2008 layout, instead of the funky and
memorable logo from the series. As such, it might get lost
on a DVD shelf - it would be terrible if someone accidentally
picked up The Invasion instead.
Overlook that packaging misdirection and
take a look for yourself. I'm really looking forward to
a season two collection.