Classic Sci Fi TV: Our ongoing look back at many of the classics of science fiction and fantasy television.
What Is It? In this series, architect David Vincent uncovers a silent invasion by aliens that have taken up human form and goes on a crusade to stop the invaders and convince others of their threat.
When Did It Air? ABC, 1967-1968, 2 Seasons Totaling 43 Episodes
Starring: Roy Thinnes, Kent Smith
Created By: Larry Cohen
Is It Must-Watch Sci Fi TV? Not necessarily, but worth a look as one of the first shows following the alien invasion theme.
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The Skinny: This show has become close to legendary among 60’s sci fi entries and the shots of the saucer-like alien spaceship descending to Earth are iconic from the era. But it has not dated quite as well and falls just short of being counted as a must-watch sci fi TV show (and I see Invaders fans heading my way now with torches and pitchforks . . .). It starts out well enough by establishing a level of paranoia that tapped into the Cold War fears of its day. But instead of zeroing in on the underlying terror at the core of its premise, the show all too quickly went to the procedural format. For all practical purposes, it became The Fugitive with aliens as the antagonist (not coincidentally, ABC had brought that show’s creator Quinn Martin onboard as executive producer). Invaders creator Larry Cohen had envisioned a more serialized format for the show, similar to nighttime soap opera Peyton Place which was popular at that time. But ABC wanted to play it safe with this alien invasion drama and that may have kept it from developing into the classic it could have been. The stories were mostly self-contained, though Vincent did manage to slowly convince others of the truth of the invasion and ultimately pulled together a group of alien fighters with a wealthy backer. The episodes can be fun to watch, especially with all the notable guest stars that made appearances (Gene Hackman, Roddy McDowell, Dabney Coleman, Suzanne Pleshette, Barbara Hershey, and many more). But they do start to blend together after a while and have a familiar feel because this show or another had already covered similar territory. But it is worth watching some of the early episodes as well as some of the later ones when Vincent is no longer fighting alone to get a feel for the overall show. And the final episode did provide some resolution as Vincent managed to convince some high government officials of the threat, but I’m sure fans would have liked a more satisfying ending similar to what Quinn Martin’s The Fugitive delivered.
Cancelled Too Soon? Yes. This show bowed at mid-season in January of 1967 and initially pulled decent numbers, but those slipped notably by the end of its first year. ABC considered replacing Roy Thinnes as the show’s lead because they did not feel he was very likeable. That didn’t happen, but the show went through some behind the scenes shakeups during its second season and was shuffled around the schedule. The ratings continued to decline and ABC decided to ax The Invaders after only a season and a half.
Essential Episodes: You can find a ranking of all episodes plus a full synopsis and more over at TheInvaders.tv.
Revival: In 1995, an Invaders mini-series aired on FOX which starred Quantum Leap alum Scott Bakula and saw Roy Thinnes appear briefly to pass the torch on to a younger alien fighter. Apart from the original lead’s appearance, though, this version had very little in common with the 1960’s series and it failed to launch a further continuation of the franchise. Since then, there have been talks of a big screen reboot, but nothing substantial has arisen from that.
Did You Know? Series creator Larry Cohen original intended The Invaders to air as a twice per week serial with a cliffhanger in the middle. The show did not follow that format, but Cohen claims ABC “borrowed” that idea for its Batman series.
Further Reading: You can read a very interesting behind the scenes look at the show at ClassicTVHistory.com.
Buy The Invaders on DVD from Amazon.com: