In the years before cable arrived on the scene, broadcast television produced a series of memorable shows. Black-and-white blockbusters like “Dragnet,” “Gunsmoke,” “The City That Came,” “The Runner,” “Give a Gun, Gonna Go,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and color versions of “Crime Story,” “The -FBI, “Hawaii Five-O,” “Kojak” and “Mission Impossible,” immediately come to mind.
Among the different genres of TV, science fiction was one of the most popular. And with apologies to “The Twilight Zone,” “One Step Beyond” and “The Outer Limits,” the best was “The Invaders.” It was suggested: “What if you were the only person who could stop an alien invasion?”
During its 43-episode run of two highly rated seasons (1967-68), Quinn Martin’s new show caught the attention of American audiences and catapulted its young lead actor, Roy Thinnes, to international stardom. In 2004, TV guide placed Thinnes at number six on its list of “The 25 Greatest Sci-Fi Stories.” And as recently as 2008, “Invaders” has been regularly shown on television in Europe – in particular, France – where Thinnes has been seen several times.
After his success in “The Invaders,” Thinnes appeared in 1975’s big-screen movies. The city of Hindenburg and Airport 1975, and numerous television movies and series such as “From Here to Eternity,” “Falcon Crest” and “The X-Files.” However, for me, nothing he’s ever done equals his portrayal of the driven young designer, David Vincent, in “Invaders.”
Crooked Little Finger
During its popular run, Thinnes appeared as a guest on several television talk shows, including Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show.” When he flashed a crooked little finger at you – the symbol of his foreign enemies – Carson couldn’t stop laughing. But “Invaders” was truly terrifying and far from a funny affair.
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At the beginning of each episode, the sad voice of narrator William Woodson said: “The invaders. Aliens from a dying planet. Their destination, the world. Their goal is to create their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it started one night on a lost country road. It started with a closed, empty diner and a very tall man sleeplessly looking for a shortcut he couldn’t find. It started with the arrival of a ship from another galaxy. David Vincent has seen them. You know they took human form. Somehow, he has to convince a world that can’t believe that the nightmare has begun.”
Enhancing “Invaders” was an impressive array of well-known guest stars – some of them, but not all, featured aliens who appeared to be human.
Among them were Gene Hackman, Burgess Meredith, Suzanne Pleshette, Ed Begley, Jack Lord, Diane Baker, Peter Graves, Louis Gossett Jr., Peggy Lipton, Andrew Duggan, Edward Asner, Roddy McDowell, Kevin McCarthy, Ralph Bellamy, Susan Strasberg, Jack Warden, Richard Anderson, Linden Chiles, Shirley Knight, Joel Fluellen, Barry Morse, Michael Rennie, Kent Smith, James Callahan, Peter Mark Richman, Will Geer, D’urville Martin, Roscoe Lee Browne, Barbara Hershey, James Daly, Pat Hingle, Wayne Rogers, Raymond St. Jacques, Charles Drake, Ted Knight, Anne Francis, Diana Hyland, Andrew Prine, Arthur Franz and Eduard Franz.
But it was Thinnes’ funny, realistic portrayals of the individual who stumbles upon something he can’t explain—and tries to unravel its mystery—that made “The Raiders” a television hit for millions in the late 1960s. And with the exception of “Roots” and “Homeland,” no other TV series has generated as much talk in morning-after corporate offices from coast to coast.
The endless quest
In its first season – as was David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimball in “The Fugitive” – Roy Thinnes as David Vincent alone in his search for the truth. From his first encounter with an alien (Skip Ward), he learns that apart from a mutated fourth finger, the rest are just like us. Men, women, young and old. In order to survive in the earth’s atmosphere, they must constantly renew themselves in strange tubes in many secret places. His design partner (James Daly) does not believe him but is captured by the aliens and killed.
Vincent discovers that strangers without a heartbeat or heartbeat, do not bleed when injured and begin to burn before incinerating and disappear when they die, leaving only traces of ash. Their deaths shock and surprise viewers who initially don’t believe him, including his brother (Linden Chiles).
Starting with the pilot episode “Beachhead,” Vincent meets immigrants who look like people who have entered American life in high positions, such as police chiefs, military officers, politicians, business managers and everyday citizens. In his growing quest to expose himself, he becomes acquainted with alien leaders and finds himself in constant danger, constantly attacked, injured and even kidnapped, taken from a spaceship and under mind control.
Armed with strange guns that fire at targets—including humans—a mind-numbing crystal and a small circular device that causes bleeding in the brain, these aliens seem unstoppable as the spaceships keep coming. However, Vincent discovers that he can shoot them dead, and convinces many people of their existence.
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In the first episode of the season, a superhero-turned-businessman (Jack Lord) is tricked by aliens into helping them and paying with his life. The season ends when Vincent is accused of killing the head of a telecommunications company who stole a file wanted by aliens. Despite proving his innocence, he is unable to convince the police of their presence.
In its second season, Vincent learns that there are six others – known as believers – who share his knowledge, unite to fight and expose the aliens, and save the world. Led by billionaire businessman Edgar Scoville (Kent Smith), they hire the reluctant Vincent. After not trusting them at first, he repents and joins them.
Supported by Scoville, the team builds a complex system on an old FM radio station to track alien habitat and is able to thwart some of their plans to disrupt the American economy and military. In one of the best scenes—the two-part “Conference Meeting”—Vincent, Scoville and a foreign woman (Diana Hyland) who decided to rebel, thwarted the plan of the invaders to kill several world leaders at a conference called to solve the war problem. increasing the Earth’s radiation.
As an avid viewer, I hope, in vain, “Invaders” will continue for a third season. But it doesn’t happen, it disappointed me and millions of its fans around the world. But I have a great DVD of the entire series, and I can’t get enough of watching this, the best sci-fi TV series of all time.