“The Invaders. Alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination, the Earth. Their purpose, to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found…”
So begins, what is for me, unarguably the most atmospheric opening title sequence to any TV show ever made.
I remember watching this show when I was a kid during school holidays and its depiction of one man’s crusade against an alien invasion absolutely fascinated me. Watching it again today thrills me no less, and possibly even more because now I can appreciate it for its subtext, the general processes that went in to filming it and of course, the nostalgia – perfectly tailored slim-fitting suits (fashionable once again) and gas-guzzling cars with chewing gum suspension and Batmobile-like rear fins over chrome bumpers so deep and wide you could stretch out and sleep on them. Having been made almost half a century ago, there are certain things about the show that are a little simple but overall it holds up very well for a contemporary audience, particularly if one bears in mind the era in which it was made.
Roy Thinnes plays architect David Vincent, who one night witnesses the landing of a flying saucer and subsequently learns of an alien plot to take over the world. However, when he attempts to convince the authorities of his discovery he is not believed and is considered to be a bit of a crackpot. Thereafter, every episode begins with Vincent turning up at random locations around the U.S. with the belief that the weird or unexplained occurrence he has learned of in the area is alien in nature and therefore worthy of investigation in the hope that he can get his hands on some proof to back up his wild claim. Sadly for him, obtaining that proof is not as easy as he would like because the aliens are a resourceful bunch and experts at disappearing without a trace. More often than not, Vincent winds up at the end of each episode back at square one, no closer to being able to show the world the truth. Although, giving the man credit, he usually manages to scupper whatever plans the aliens were up to.
The reasons this show worked so well were numerous, not least because of the central concept of one man, a hero figure, fighting against a seemingly invisible force in order to save mankind. Many of the greatest stories ever told have that saviour figure at their core. Then there was the element of paranoia rooted deep within the American psyche at the time thanks to the “Red-Scare” a decade earlier and the lingering fear that communists were infiltrating every level of society with the intention of influencing and undermining the American way of life. Invasion of the Body Snatchers made in 1956 clearly reflected this obsession and was a definite precedent for The Invaders. But then, the same concern is still relevant today as we are all uncomfortably aware of the difficultly in trying to recognise a deadly enemy with a few pounds of Semtex strapped around their waist when they look, dress and talk just like the rest of us.
The Invaders was a finely put together show with excellent production values thanks to producer Quinn Martin who was at the time, already a big noise in television. Much of the filming was done on location which injected a measure of realism into the show too and the writing was gritty and generally dark in nature. There were no happy endings to this show; at best an episode would end with a mild sense of accomplishment and relief – yes, a single battle won but let’s not forget the main war continues.
Thinnes as Vincent was perfectly cast as the lonely hero and never failed to convince me of the nightmare world he inhabited. He was certainly a capable actor in the action scenes and although he made Vincent likeable, he portrayed him as a man carrying the burden of not being able to trust anyone, of harbouring utter hatred for the invader for destroying the life that he had had and essentially forcing him into a life on the road to continually pursue or be pursued. The show also had plenty of guest stars to keep things interesting and the acting was generally top-notch.
The wonderfully evocative theme tune composed by Dominic Frontiere (a regular of Quinn Martin productions) together with the opening titles that allows us to see aliens aboard a space ship heading towards Earth while a deep, leaden voice narrates the introduction are incredibly atmospheric and have been etched on my memory forever. Seriously, if you’re a sci-fi fan who enjoys shows like the X-Files and Dark Skies but you’ve never seen The Invaders, then I highly recommend you check it out. It only ran for two seasons and a mere 43 episodes were aired between January ’67 and March ’68 but it’s gritty, intelligent science fiction and well worth viewing.