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The Invaders --
Season One

My first 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)

Both 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 alien conspiracy.

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 Invaders.

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.

Derek McCaw

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