The Invaders is an American science fiction television program created by Larry Cohen that aired on ABC for two seasons, from January 10, 1967 to March 26, 1968. Dominic Frontiere, who had provided scores for Twelve O'Clock High and The Outer Limits, provided scores for The Invaders as well. The series was later shown in reruns on the Sci Fi Channel. The series was a Quinn Martin Production (season one was produced in association with the ABC Television Network - or as it was listed in the end credits, "The American Broadcasting Company Television Network").
Roy Thinnes stars as architect David Vincent, who accidentally learns of a secret alien invasion already underway and thereafter travels from place to place, trying to foil the aliens' plots and warn a skeptical populace of the danger. As the series progresses, Vincent is able to convince a small number of people to help him fight the aliens, most significantly millionaire industrialist Edgar Scoville (Kent Smith) who became a semi-regular character as of December 1967.
Neither the Invaders nor their planet were ever named. Their human appearance was a disguise; they were never shown in their true form except in one episode, "Genesis", in which an ill alien researcher loses his human form and is briefly seen immersed in a tank of water. Unless they receive periodic treatments in what Vincent called "regeneration chambers", which consume a great deal of electrical power, they revert to their alien form. One scene in the series showed an alien beginning to revert, filmed in soft focus and with pulsating red light.
They had certain characteristics by which they could be detected, such as the absence of a pulse and the inability to bleed. Nearly all were emotionless and had "mutated" little fingers which could not move and were bent at an unnatural angle, although there were "deluxe models" who could manipulate this finger. There were also a number of mutant aliens, who experienced emotions similar to those of humans, and who even opposed the alien takeover. The existence of the Invaders could not be documented by killing one and examining the body: When they died, their bodies would glow red and disintegrate — along with their clothes and anything else they were touching — leaving little more than traces of black ash. On several occasions, a dying alien would deliberately touch a piece of their technology to prevent it from falling into the hands of humans.
The series was produced by Quinn Martin, who was looking for a show to replace the immensely popular The Fugitive, which was ending its run in 1967. Larry Cohen, the show's creator, had conceived two earlier series with similarities to The Invaders. Chuck Connors starred in Branded (1965) as a soldier court-martialed for cowardice, who traveled the West searching for witnesses and proof that he had acted valiantly, and Coronet Blue (1967) about Michael Alden, a man suffering from amnesia who was being pursued by a powerful group of people. All he could remember were the words "Coronet Blue".
Another inspiration was the wave of "alien doppelgänger" films which had come ten years before in the 1950s, typified by Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and the British film Quatermass 2 (1957), known in America as Enemy from Space. While these paranoid tales of extraterrestrials who lived among us, posing as humans while planning a takeover, are usually linked with a Red Scare subtext, Martin simply wanted a premise that would keep the hero moving around and that would explain why he could not go to the authorities (not only had the aliens infiltrated human institutions already, but most humans would dismiss a claim of alien invasion as a paranoid delusion).
The flying saucer design was influenced by two famous UFO photographs. The first case happened in 1965 in Santa Ana, California. On August 3, the highway traffic engineer Rex Heflin took several pictures of a flying craft, while working near the Santa Ana freeway. Heflin did not report his sighting, but the photographs were published by the Santa Ana Register on September 20, 1965.
The second is the Adamski case. On December 13, 1952 in Palomar Gardens, California, USA, the contactee George Adamski took a series of photographs through his telescope, of a bell-shaped craft, today well known as the Adamski Scout Ship. The upper hull, and flat top from the Heflin case were combined with the bell-shaped outer flange and three rings of the Adamski case. The five hemispheres in the bottom of the craft seem to emulate the three semispheres in the Adamski Scout Ship.
For many viewers, the theme of paranoia infusing The Invaders often appeared to reflect Cold War fears of Communist infiltration that had lingered from the McCarthy period a decade earlier. Series creator Larry Cohen has acknowledged that this was intended, along with a political theme for the series as a whole. In audio commentary for the episode "The Innocent," included in the first-season DVD collection, Cohen said his experience of the blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriters for alleged Communist connections inspired him to make "a mockery" of the fear of insidious infiltration of society, by substituting space aliens for Communists.
Cohen also acknowledged he was not the first to turn Cold War fears into science-fiction drama. As noted above, such fears had influenced such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Cohen also stated in his commentary that the political intent inherent in some of his creations, including The Invaders, was not always appreciated or shared by producers and actors.
The Invaders after the original series:
Since the 1960s, recurring public interest in UFO lore may have helped to revive interest in the television series, and commentary on the DVD collections acknowledges that, in private life, Thinnes has kept up a strong interest in UFO-related information.
In 1995 the series was reprised as a three-hour television miniseries also titled The New Invaders. Scott Bakula (of Quantum Leap and Star Trek: Enterprise) starred as Nolan Wood, who discovered the alien conspiracy, and Roy Thinnes reprised his role from the series of David Vincent, now an old man handing the burden over to Wood. The miniseries has been released in some countries on home video, edited into a single movie.
The pilot episode of the series, "Beachhead", was remade years later in 1977 for another Quinn Martin series, A Twist in the Tale (a.k.a., Tales of the Unexpected), where it was retitled "The Nomads". Thinnes also provided audio commentary for the official The Invaders DVD releases. He has also filmed special video introductions for every episode, which are an optional "Play" feature on the episode menus. The "in color" bumper follows each of these introductions.