Over the weekend, I finished watching Season One of 1967’s TV show ”The Invaders”
. It all went much faster than I had expected. For one thing, I was keeping my wife company while she was frantically working on her latest novel, and decided to play one DVD after the other on my laptop, with earphones on. Another reason I quickly went thru the remaining 11 episodes is that it was a pleasure to rediscover the series nearly 40 years since I last saw it, as is evident from my earlier posts(1)
Yes, there are limits to the kind of stories that the premise allows because, if David Vincent managed to convince the authorities that aliens have infiltrated human societies, that’d be the end of the series(2)
. Still, it manages to tell entertaining tales that don’t rehash each other.
Episodes 5 thru 8 had focused on the Invaders’s seduction of our own industries into building the very weapons that will lead to our conquest. The following episodes show the aliens using an even more efficient tool – our own human nature. When our compassion as well as our greed can be turned against us, it makes you wonder what it is that keeps one human going, in spite of the allies that he picks in the midst of his struggle.
At the beginning of Episode 9’s ”Quantity: Unknown”
, a plane crashes and there are no traces of its pilot. But there is a mysterious cylinder in the middle of the wreckage, and the aliens want it back. It was quite a pleasure to see James Whitmore as the police officer whose family had been killed by the Invaders, and Susan Strasberg as the scientist studying the cylinder.
Episode 10, ”The Innocent”
reminds us of the price that Vincent had to pay when he embarked on his mission. When a military officer – played by Dabney Coleman - asks him to be a witness to a Commission that could do something to stop the Invaders, it looks like it’ll all have been worth it. But that’s when Michael Rennie's alien gives Vincent a choice between the immediate rescue of one human life and the chance that he might save the whole species.
In Episode 11’s ”The Ivy Curtain”
, Jack Warden is a former test pilot who now flies a charter plane, barely able to make ends meet, and with a much younger wife, played by Susan Oliver, who constantly reminds him of his failures. Then one day, he realizes that one flight’s passengers are not human. He’s given a choice between death and becoming wealthy. All he has to do is to go all over the country when the need arises and bring members of their species to a remote New Mexico school, where they will be taught how to act more like humans, how to turn our own fears against us.
Episode 12’s ”The Betrayed”
should be of special interest to SF fans as it was written by Ted Sturgeon
. Ed Begley and Laura Devon play a father and daughter willing to betray anybody to protect each other even if it means they’re helping the Invaders.
In Episode 13’s ”Storm”
, the Invaders are using a device that creates freak storms all over Florida’s eastern coastline, but it’s just a test run before their ultimate target – Washington DC. Joseph Campanella plays the priest who eventually realizes that, as a gesture to mock human beliefs, his church is nothing but the control center from which Barbara Luna and others operate the storm device.
In episode 14’s ”Panic”
, there is an epidemic of people found frozen solid in spite of the countryside’s scorching weather. Vincent traces it all to a sick alien played by Robert Walker Jr. The chase takes them to an isolated cabin where a young woman, played by Lynn Loring, embittered from a bad marriage lives with her father who cares very little about the rest of humankind. Or so does RG Armstrong’s character think about himself when he realizes that there are beings out to wipe humans out. Maybe this answers my earlier question, about what keeps David Vincent going in spite of the odds – that he can rekindle the flame in enough people that there is
Episode 15’s ”Moonshot”
gives some answers to an observation I had made in an earlier post about the series. The Invaders hide in plain view in human society, but don’t appear to have infiltrated the echelons of power in government. This story made me realize that they haven’t been among us long enough to have climbed up very far. Also, it’s very difficult to replace people who already have a well documented existence, not without tipping others - like Peter Graves’s character - that something is wrong. It doesn’t help the aliens such as John Erickson's 'astronaut' - come the time for a medical exam - that they have no heart beat.
It’s not normal for people to die of suffocation in the outdoors, as happens at the beginning of Episode 16’s ”Wall of Crystal”
. Enters Burgess Meredith’s character. No, he’s not a bad guy. On the contrary, he’s a Walter Cronkite journalist who realizes there’s truth to Vincent’s apparent madness. The bad guy here is played by Ed Asner, an alien with a cynical attitude and unafraid of drastic measures deal with Vincent’s constant interference – going after the latter’s family, which has suffered from his quixotic quest.
We come to Season One’s 17th and final episode, ”The Condemned”
. In it, Ralph Bellamy is a man who realized who he’s been renting his failing company’s facilities to, and that it's the hub thru which alien communicate with their homeworld. The story finally deals with something that should have already stopped Vincent’s fight just as surely as if the Invaders had taken him aboard one of their starships before tossing him out the airlock. Quite a few humans have died, and quite a few aliens passing for human, so one would think he’d have left a trail of death so egregious that the police would have taken him in before young people see him fight with someone who then falls off a cliff.
When I first saw the TV series, translated in French, all those decades ago, the series stopped not here, but with an episode in which we find that Vincent and others are starting an organized Resistance. I thought it was a great place to end, unresolved but with hope. What I didn’t know is that this ‘last’ episode actually was the first story of Season Two. It’s my understanding that this when plots started repeating themselves. I may one day see for myself, or I may decide to let the story end the way I remember it.----------
(1) Season One – Episodes 1 thru 4:
Season One – Episodes 5 thru 8:
(2) Mind you, if the show had been conceived in this cynical age, Vincent would then realize that the authorities already knew, or that his revelation have triggered a race by various human factions to sell the rest of us out. I know, it’s weird to think of the Sixties as less cynical than today, in spite of Vietnam and Watergate.