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DVD Review: The Invaders – The First Season

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David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) is an ordinary man. He has an ordinary job as an architect. He attends meetings that take him long distances without seemingly much rest. Ah, the life of a go-getter must have been tough in the late 60s.

I mean, it had to be, according to the logic of the opening pilot of……

Drum roll!

The Invaders!

The 1967-68 cult television series is a sandwich made of a B-movie science fiction movie and the noir style of The Fugitive (which oddly enough was produced by Quinn Martin, who produced this show). Of course when you taste it you may feel a bit blahed by all the familar plot cliches. I don't get bothered by them because it's all about what you add to the sandwich — not whether the sandwich is completely new.

Like in The Fugitive, Vincent's journey is told with an off-camera narration. Also like in The Fugitive, the narration has a great way of setting up an already familiar situation with a sense of real fear. I wondered sometimes if William Conrad (Narrator for The Fugitive) and William Woodson (The Narrator For The Invaders) traded notes.

The irony is that despite it's short lived run from 1967 to 1968, Roy Thinnes himself provides a short introduction to each episode. I didn't find them to be too useful myself as they seemed to be more of an overview of the episode rather than a means of adding something insightful. These introductions however do provide a nice pointing out of some of the guest stars that would make a mark for themselves on the show (one of the best is an appearance from Hawaii Five-O's Jack Lord in "Vikor").

If you have a weekend to waste and you want to burn through all 17 episodes of the first season of this series, the team that made the DVD have made the smart decision to include a play all feature (with or without the Roy Thinnes introductions). This idea is much better than what Fox did with the first season of 24 where you basically had to select each individual episode even if the last one you were on ended in an exciting conclusion and you didn't feel like thumbing with the remote to get to that next chapter. 

 The aliens themselves are a rather simple design — they disguise themselves as human, have a crooked finger and when shot evaporate into a red glowing light. There was a few seconds where I got a sense they were going to go for the traditional full-on alien in the pilot, but I suspect that was just a tease. Showing that over and over again would have taken away the overall effect of not knowing who was the Invader and who wasn't.

But I think that was part of the appeal — you never knew exactly who was the Invader and who wasn't. Since they took a human form and basically learned how to mimic human characteristics, Vincent's constant challenge is to find a way to trust those that he meets. The slightest off-kilter action can mean he kills an Invader, or a regular normal person.

Much like The Fugitive, it's broken into four acts with a prologue at the end. This part I believe in preserving since I think television was better that way. People can get a sense of where they are in the story and remember which part to watch again just in case they see a rerun if they had to step away from the TV.

I would have liked J.D. Cannon (who played a Lieutenant in the pilot Vincent looked to for help against the Invaders) to play a sidekick along side Roy Thinnes. He would be a lot like Brass on CSI — a bit of a cynical prick whose willing to go along for the loopy logic of a nut job like Vincent in order to make sure he stayed out of trouble. But to keep with the western-like format that also is adapted from The Fugitive, David Vincent must fight the Invaders alone.

God, I sound like the narrator.

There's a commentator track on the episode "The Innocent", but that's largely a track dedicated to a lot of behind the scenes gossip from Larry Cohen, who created the series and felt subsequently unable to give much of his input with the show and most of the shows he made in his television career it seems (or at least it sounded that way as I listened to the track). I would have preferred if there was to be only one commentary track that it would placed in at least the pilot episode or the season finale. 

For those who are fans of cult television, rent this first before investing your money in it. For those of who are fans of this show, you might do well to rent a few episodes of Nowhere Man, another short-lived conspiracy program that aired on UPN in 1995. Just be sure you turn off the television and take a walk afterwords so that you don't start thinking the world is a living hell in a hand basket.

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