Home > Reviews > Thoughts on Quinn Martin’s THE INVADERS

Thoughts on Quinn Martin’s THE INVADERS

On Monday, Syfy ran a marathon of the first eleven episodes of Quinn Martin’s 1967 television series The Invaders.  This is a series that I’ve read about, but by bad luck I’ve never actually managed to see it before.  And since it was a holiday, I ended up watching nearly the whole marathon (aside from one episode that looked so silly I decided to skip most of it).

The Invaders was an interesting show, but it had problems.  The premise was that “architect David Vincent” (that’s how the narrator introduces him for some reason, “Starring Roy Thinnes as architect David Vincent”) happened to see a UFO landing and couldn’t get the authorities to believe him.  Investigating further, he discovers suspicious-acting people with little fingers that won’t bend, and when he confronts them, one of them fights him until suddenly the guy seizes up and starts glowing red (a nice effect apparently achieved by the actor hiding a bright red light in his hands, pointed at his face).  From that point on, Vincent is convinced there are aliens infiltrating Earth, and they make more than one attempt to kill him.  The rest of the series is basically Vincent trying to track down and defeat alien plots across the country and futilely attempting to prove their existence to the authorities.

The show had some creepy charm and decent production values.  In one sense, it had an unusually serialized quality for a ’60s show, in that Vincent progressively learned more and more about the aliens, their nature, and their gadgets over the course of the show (although one episode, “Vikor,” is evidently aired out of sequence, because it shows him witnessing for the first time how the aliens regenerate their human disguises, but in the previously aired episode he already knew about it).  But aside from that, it had a lack of continuity typical of the more episodic shows of the day.  In the pilot, toward the end of the episode, he became convinced that the aliens wouldn’t try to kill him again since he’d raised too much publicity with his accusations and it would look suspicious.  Presumably that was to justify why he was able to go on functioning on a continuing basis.  But in subsequent episodes, the aliens routinely tried to kill him, even to the extent of devising elaborate plots to get at him.  Not to mention that episode 2 features a scientist who’s been even more vocal about the alien plot than Vincent, and yet the aliens blow up a whole plane to try to silence him and then succeed in staging a fatal car accident.  Why would they be so blatant in targeting that guy if they were trying to avoid drawing suspicion to themselves?

And really, it’s hard to believe that nobody but Vincent is catching on to this.  The aliens have devices that fake heart attacks and cerebral hemorrhages to make their murders look accidental, but there are so many of those murders that you’d think somebody in authority would recognize a pattern.  There was an episode in which a military officer (Dabney Coleman) witnessed an alien himself and tried to convene a Congressional hearing with Vincent as a witness, but the alien Magnus (Michael Rennie) blackmailed Vincent (by threatening innocents) into discrediting himself and scuttling the hearings.  But it’s hard to believe Coleman’s character would’ve fallen for that or given up so easily.  (And by the way, Dabney Coleman looked surprisingly square-jawed and heroic in 1967, a far cry from the smarmy and/or villainous characters he later became known for.)

Apparently, he’s somehow able to continue his normal life, since people know how to contact him with alien sightings, plus he apparently manages to continue earning enough of a living to feed and clothe himself.  So why don’t the aliens get to him at his home?  It’s a paradox that isn’t adequately explained in the half-season I’ve seen.  Also, in most episodes, he gains additional witnesses to the reality of the aliens’ presence, but they never seem to come back and help him out with convincing the authorities; he remains perpetually a man alone.  I gather this changed later on in the series as he finally gained a recurring ally, but it took long enough.  (There’s never any physical proof of the aliens, since they burn up and vaporize when they die, and usually take their equipment with them.)

And if Vincent’s so hell-bent on finding proof, why does he never bring a camera with him when he infiltrates alien nests?  Plus The Invaders suffers from the same problem as the later paranoia-driven series Nowhere Man — namely that the protagonist’s paranoia always fails him at just the wrong moment and he trusts people he should know better than to trust.   For Earth’s sole champion against invasion, David Vincent is really a pretty incompetent guy, except when it comes to fighting his way out of deathtraps.  In fact, bellicosity and stubbornness seem to be his only real strengths as a hero.  In the pilot, he had no really solid reason for being convinced he’d seen a UFO rather than dreaming it, or for  suspecting the “campers” just because they didn’t corroborate his story and had stiff pinkies.  He ended up attacking them with very little provocation, and it was just luck that he ended up finding out the guy he attacked had anything to hide.

But like I said, the show’s production values weren’t bad.  The opening and closing narration is by Bill Woodson, who was a major and prolific TV announcer for decades and had a good rich voice.  He’s perhaps most famous for Superfriends, but of course he used a much more serious, sedate delivery here, and it works very well.  The music is mostly by Dominic Frontiere of The Outer Limits, and in fact the pilot features a lot of stock music from that show.  Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to write a lot of music for the show, and the same limited number of cues seem to get used over and over.  Plus the main 3-note motif for the show is exactly the same as part of the Mission: Impossible theme, which is distracting.

The visual effects are by Darryl Anderson of the Howard Anderson Company, one of the main FX houses that was doing Star Trek at the same time this series was on.  So The Invaders no doubt benefitted from the experience Anderson gained doing a production like ST, which for ’60s television was unprecedented in its FX demands.  One thing Anderson did particularly well here was the effect of the aliens glowing red and disappearing when they die.  The glow often begins while the aliens are still falling, and the rotoscope work — the handmade animation of the red glow fitting the contours of moving bodies — was superbly done.  I would’ve expected they’d require stationary bodies like in the ST transporter effect, but they didn’t.

So The Invaders is a decent show, but not one of the greats.  Hopefully I’ll catch the rest of it someday, but my curiosity is more idle than passionate.

  1. January 26, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve not yet seen the show myself, although I’ve been reasonably spoiled re: the run of the show via Starlog‘s episode guide books. Seems like this is one series due for a “do it right” remake.

  2. Thierry Millie
    January 27, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Hello Dwight,
    I have seen most of the episode on French TV when i was way younger… And even if i had an interest in it at the time, i think the serie is probably better left that way.
    I’m not saying they can not make something interesting with it. (although the concept of Alien invasion is kind of boring by now)
    But i do think there are so many new tales to tell, why keep on redoing things?
    Of course i do know that’s it guarantees a certain amount of notslagic viewers but that’s not very creative. And to begin with the subject of the Invaders is really basic. That’s probably why the remake with Scot Bakula was so bad…
    At least the remake of V (kind of the same kind of story) is based on a more complex set of characters and a story that exploits deeper dephts, like for exemple a sort of adaptation of the Milgram’s experiment on how to turn people into butchers.
    Plus if they do a remake now David Vincent would probably turn out to be a teenager chased by Vampire’s aliens !lol!

  3. Ron Chinchen
    November 19, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Its easy in this more sophisticated age to find fault in what was effectively a 60’s cold war series, limited by a much smaller budget than today’s series. I could go through almost every program of the 60’s and 70’s, and for that matter 90’s and Noughties (00’s) and find significant faults.

    The show therefore needs to be seen in its context and also was one of the very first series of its type (an original which we rarely get these days). I lived through that period and for its time, it could be said to be well ahead of that time in its ideas and presentation. For me and many others I knew at this time, it was one of the spookiest TV shows we had seen. Mind you I was in my late teens, but that was an age of the commie under the bed and fear of invasion from Earthly sources. This was the War of the Worlds type production that Orson Wells used in the 30s.

    I felt its basic premise was very clever and very simple. It was basically The Fugitive in part in reverse, where Vincent is chasing his one armed man (the Aliens) from site to site and in the process involving himself in the lives of various disbelievers who come to believe.

    Sure there are holes, such as Vincent’s inability to hold onto the evidence or members of the alien invasions. But is that any different from Monks inability to catch his wife’s killer, The Mentalists inability to catch Red John, Burn Notice’s characters inability to find who ‘burned him’, Smallville’s Kent’s inability to finally fly until the end. Such a revelation or discovery ends the show’s anticipation. You have to be realistic about this, in that you are watching a TV production that wants you to keep watching, not real life.

    As a person who lived through that period I count The Invaders easily in my top 5 SciFi series of all time, in part because of its simplicity and limitations that left so much to the imagination. Most shows of today leave little to the imagination, lack the suspense and fear, rely heavily on effects to cover their ‘holes’ and frequent rehashing of story lines.

    My only regret is that season 2 of The Invaders lost a little of that fear and suspense, though it remains in my mind far superior to most SciFi series of today.

  4. September 12, 2013 at 11:46 am

    It was a show ahead of it’s time. I think they did very well with the story lines..

  5. June 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I recall waching a few episodes of the series when I was a kid and though wanting to like the show, found it dull. Rediscovering it on DVD, I find it a nostalgiac thrill and am impressed with the production values not only of the FX but of the cinematography (night shots were actually shot at night and not day for night and there’s a lot of location photography with particularly good use of desert and small town locales). Frustrating however, is the lack of real continuity. Vincent teams up with a rich corporate guy or a policeman or whoever and yet never seems to want to build a network of cooperating investigators (admittedly that happens in season two but by then everyone that he met in season one is forgotten). I imagine his efforts are financed by that corporate tycoon he helped in the third episode! Not a show I’d rave about to others, but if you’re an SF TV fan dying for something new to discover, The Invaders might be the place to do it!

  1. July 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

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