(Warning: mild spoilers)
They aren’t coming. They’re already here.
It’s a spiffy concept for a show: Mr. Everyman Joe McDoakes (So You Want To Invade Earth?) gets plunged up to his ears in intrigue and peril when he finds out, quite by accident, that aliens have targeted Earth for an invasion…an invasion that’s already begun. To further complicate things, these invaders can disguise themselves to resemble average humans, and they seem to have a deeply entwined network set in place, ready to overthrow Earth as we know it. Now Joe must spend his days traveling these great United States trying to convince people that the enemy walks among them. And the enemies are aliens. And no, he’s not crazy.
Sound fun? I thought so. And if the main character was any good at carrying on rational, mature discussions, we might have had to end this thing after one pilot movie once he leads the world to the truth and organizes a revolt to throw the alien threat from our planet. Luckily for us the star is a socially inept moron, but we’ll get into that in a minute. First there’s the intro to tackle.
The Invaders ran from 1967-68, and color TV was still a big thing, ladies and gentlemen. To capitalize on this vibrant, if slightly radioactive, trend, shows would have all kinds of eye-watering hues plastered on their title cards and opening sequences and the crewmen’s socks in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, so upon snapping on the old set–should you be fortunate enough to possess one in color–you would often find yourself being smacked in the face with something like this:
And if that wasn’t enough, the show itself was preceded by something like this:
…complete with a narrator informing you that The Invaders, IN COLOR MIGHT I ADD, was coming on television. You see all those colors? There’s at least four there, so strap in for a wild ride.
The Invaders was a Quinn Martin production, as the announcer will be sure to remind you lest you are unable to read the black cursive swimming in its nauseating sea of fuchsia, and if your television knowledge is up to date you’ll recognize that name from things like The Fugitive and 12 O’Clock High (the show, not the movie, so the Savage vs. Gallagher debate is still on the table for later). Martin’s shows covered a wide range of topics, but there’s a comforting format to all of them. Everything was arranged into “acts” and “epilogs”, with the opening like so: an announcer reading the show’s title, followed by the immortal line, “A Quinn Martin/QM Production”; next would be clips of the actors and guest stars for that week, with their names read aloud. If you were wondering how to say the bizarre moniker of your favorite 60s character actor but had too much dignity to ask, Quinn Martin was your man. Then would come the “Tonight’s Episode”, and the corresponding title, liberally sprinkled with clever transitions from section to section. 12 O’Clock High’s opening transition from episode to intro is absolutely my favorite; The Invaders’ makes me feel like I’m at some obscene magenta-colored rave that proceeds to crawl out of the TV and try to eat my face.
If you were lucky, the opening sequence also had a narration and clip montage to remind you what the heck you were watching. The Invaders has one, but we’re not lucky and we’re not going to watch it. On to the storyline.
In the pilot, our Joe McDoakes–aka David Vincent–architect extraordinaire who maybe does some architecting about twice in all the time we see him, is driving home one night when he gets lost and ends up in the middle of nowhere. He’s so tired he decides to get some sleep before he careens into a ditch and kills himself. Well, lucky for him he picked the #1 Alien Landing Hotspot in the area because he wakes up to a gigantic spaceship touching down right before his big beautiful eyes. Upon realizing what’s happening, he makes it his priority to alert the world that aliens are among them and planning to overtake Earth and enslave humanity and force us all to watch Battlestar Galactica reruns. He may be a humble architect, but he accepts this mantle of responsibility with quiet, uncomplaining dignity.
Well, besides all the yelling and wild accusations and panic attack in the hospital, but anyway. Told you it sounded fun.
It doesn’t take much for me to watch a show. You put in a face that’s nice to look at and I’ll be good the entire time, plot or no plot and budget be hanged. That said, The Invaders isn’t a bad show. It’s a great show. As a bonus Roy Thinnes, portrayer of doltish architects, is very easy on the eyes, and this is proven in nearly every episode with random women, alien or otherwise, throwing themselves at him from all directions until he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
The character of David Vincent cuts a dashing figure indeed, with his fashionable Sansabelt suits (called Sans-a-Pants in my family, but that’s neither here nor there), love of monstrous Ford LTDs, and that architect’s salary that makes it possible for him to rent a different one of those monstrous Ford LTDs every episode. Even if the show itself was crud, he’d still be fun to watch. Did I mention this show wasn’t crud? It’s not.
With the pairing of Roy Thinnes’ looks and talent alongside the epic plot concept presented in the pilot, you’d think this would make for an unstoppable whirlwind of action and drama with David Vincent spreading the truth like wildfire and the world rallying behind him. Well, we’ve got the action and drama, but Elmer Gantry he is not. David Vincent is not a convincing man, or else the show would have ended in three episodes with him persuading world leaders to take action and nuke the heck out of their alien attackers.
No, though Vincent oozes charm from every pore of his good-looking being, it is dispelled instantly the second he opens his mouth. He’s brash, occasionally sullen, and slightly hysterical five seconds into a conversation when he realizes his poorly constructed arguments are getting no one no place. The end result is that nobody wants to believe him simply because of his tinfoil hat attitude, often until it’s too late.
Handily, this means the show lasts longer, stretching itself into two beautiful, beloved seasons before Vincent and the few he’s managed to convince who haven’t been chased off or just plain killed drive off into the sunset in an unreasonably large ’67 LTD to go save the world.
There’s one thing Vincent is good at besides alienating people (sorry), however, and that’s getting hurt. The man must have frequent flyer miles for every hospital in the country. He’s constantly being beaten, kidnapped, knocked unconscious, shot, and stricken with mental anguish and paranoia over the fact literally everyone he decides to trust turns out to be an alien and he’s too dumb to see it. This propensity to injure himself is made clear right off in the pilot, with him getting beat up and working himself into a lather in a hospital room; the second episode is no kinder, but that’s another story for another time.
Unlike The Fugitive, there is no definite ending to the saga of Architects vs. Aliens, and that’s okay. It lets me imagine all the hijinks and stupidity Vincent gets himself into long after the curtain has closed on the final act. The Invaders only gave us 43 episodes, but what wonderful episodes they were. Don’t take my word for it, though. Go forth and watch, and see if you too don’t start eyeing people’s pinkies a little more carefully next time you run to Walmart for a box of corndogs.