8 out-of-this-world facts about The Invaders

This Sixties sci-fi thriller had a major influence on The X-Files, college rock and French pop culture.

Do you ever get the feeling that some people are from another planet? That is the thread of paranoia running through The Invaders, the brilliant and brainy television show featuring architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) and his quest to unveil an extraterrestrial invasion of Earth. Produced by Quinn Martin, who was fresh off his masterpiece The Fugitive, The Invaders likewise followed its unlikely hero on the run. The eerie aliens were never seen in the full form, only in brief glimpses, but they would show their nature in fiery red deaths.

The series tapped into the zeitgeist of the era, with echoes of the Cold War and counter-culture revolutions. For example, in one particular episode, "The Ivy Curtain," the Invaders are teaching college kids to conform. And it was no coincidence that the Invaders glowed red whenever they kicked it or shifted form. They were a literal Red Scare. 

Inspired by the underrated espionage series Coronet Blue and the creepy classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Invaders would have a profound influence on later sci-fi stories like The X-Files, V and They Live. The French were also super obsessed with it. 

Let's uncover some secrets of The Invaders.

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1. The show was into recycling — specifically music from 'The Outer Limits.'

In the spring of 1964, The Outer Limits wrapped up its mind-bending first season with its arguably its most artful, surreal episode yet, "The Form of Things Unknown." Skewed camera angles and impressionist lighting added an air of unease to the story, which featured the striking image of David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) entangled in a room of clocks. But, really, it was the jarring music from composer Dominic Frontiere that enhanced the unsettling vibe. Much of the score from the episode was utilized in The Invaders, right down to elements of the theme song. Frontiere later went to jail for allegedly scalping 16,000 Super Bowl tickets.

2. Roy Thinnes is the rare actor to appear in the two longest-running network dramas.

Just two scripted primetime dramas have ever made it to 20 seasons on American television — Gunsmoke and Law & Order. Invaders star Roy Thinnes appeared on both of them, three decades apart. On the Western, he was most memorably Ab Singleton, a man killed after buying a horse in "Jeb." On Law & Order, Thinnes was meant to have a large role. He portrayed District Attorney Alfred Wentworth in the series pilot, "Everybody's Favorite Bagman." When the series was picked up, the D.A. role went to Steven Hill.

3. Years later, Thinnes played a shape-shifter abducted by aliens.

There is little doubt that X-Files creator Chris Carter watched The Invaders in his youth. A similar current of alien paranoia runs through both series. The X-Files cleverly paid homage to its forerunners through casting. Darren McGavin, star of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, popped up in some episodes. Likewise, Thinnes appeared in a handful as Jeremiah Smith, a member of the mysterious Syndicate with shape-shifting and healing powers. Eventually, he ends up as a sort of shaman in an apocalyptic cult until a UFO takes him away to his presumable demise.

Image: 20th Television

4. The singer of the Pixies is clearly a huge fan.

Eighties alternative-rock pioneers the Pixies hardly kept their UFO fixation, what with alien-themed songs like "Motorway to Roswell" and images of ringed planets on album covers. That's largely the work of singer and frontman Frank Black, who further explored his fixation with the arcane on solo tracks like "Men in Black." But few of his songs displayed his influences like 1994's "Bad, Wicked World," in which he sings, "A ship that is not there / But he knows that it was / It made a light and a buzz… some won't believe / An architect named David Vincent."

5. The show is Jerry Lewis-level huge in France.

The French have a knack for developing cults around unexpected, overlooked pieces of American pop culture. Their Invaders fandom is a prime example, and it's not just the how of it but the when of it. Thinnes himself explained the genesis of the French Invaders phenomenon in a 2008 interview with Premium Hollywood. "Back in the early '80s, Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, who is a star anchorman with Télévision Française 1, he had a four-hour show on Sundays and he did a survey with the audience and asked… because they love American television, what would they like to see again," Thinnes said. "And they got a lot of calls about The Invaders, so TF1 bought a few episodes and tested it and got a huge response. So they began running the series." The reruns later jumped to cable and an "MTV equivalent," airing in reruns for two decades. 

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Suzanne Plechette twice sacrificed herself as a friendly alien on the show.

Not all of the aliens on The Invaders had wicked motives. Some helped David Vincent along the way. In particular, Suzanne Pleshette of The Bob Newhart Show stands out, as she turns up twice, as two different such aliens. In the second episode, she plays a stripper who also happens to be an Invaders, albeit a "mutation" who can feel empathy. So she helps David, dying in the end. This is the first time we see the glowing red death of the aliens on the series. In the second season, Pleshette appears again as Anne, a more hot-headed alien who also gives her life in helping David. Those E.T. must have loved shifting into the shape of Pleshette.

7. The Invaders dabbled in zombies, too.

While it was never a huge ratings hit, The Invaders nevertheless spawned an expanded universe of tie-in books and comics. Perhaps the must interesting pulp Invaders novel was Army of the Undead, which centers around the alien Invaders turning humans into mindless "zombies." What is perhaps most fascinating about its use of zombies is that the paperback hit stands in 1967 — a year before Night of the Living Dead. It was ahead of the curve.

8. The women of 'Lost in Space' staged a silent protest with an Invaders reference.

The aliens on The Invaders could convincingly assume human form, but like cruddy poker players, they had one signature "tell" — their crooked pinky fingers. According to John Abbott's book Irwin Allen Television Productions, 1964-1970, the female cast of Lost in Space, which was in production concurrently with The Invaders, grew frustrated with their limited roles on the show. Angela Cartwright told the tale of how she, June Lockhart and Marta Kristen stood in a row in a later episode with their little fingers extended, just like the aliens on The Invaders. They had nothing else to do in the scene, and thus sneakily did the pose to demonstrate their alienation. We had a hard time finding this particular shot. Did you ever notice it?

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TJ24TJ 6 months ago
Is The Outer Limits on your list to try to schedule someday?
JOELONG123 30 months ago
It would be nice if Netflix or whoever brought back the series Lost in space would do the same thing with the Invaders TV show!! And do as good of a job as they did with that lost in space series!!
JamesWinegardner 36 months ago
Best sci-fi show in the sixties... for being so advanced, they used marginal technology to conquer the world. I always wondered why they didn’t use more advanced weapons?
GHeyes17 43 months ago
I've been watching the reruns on MeTV and have become puzzled by something..... In one (maybe more) episode, an alien is shown with a bullet hole in his chest; presumably because somebody shot him. And yet, he didn't incinerate like most of them do when shot.

What's up with that? Can we presume that a chest wound is a non-vital organ?

Clearly, something storyline-driven but I'm wondering if anyone else caught that too?
gardenbob 48 months ago
I like these older series
Lefluers1 gardenbob 45 months ago
Nothin like em
crockster1 48 months ago
Someone please make a mini series that is true to the original show. If it is well written and acted it would be a huge hit. I watched the original seri es when I was 9 and 10 years old. Had to watch it on a b/w tv in those days. Thanks to ya'll I finally get to see it in color.
Owen 51 months ago
I wish they'd put invaders, kolchad and Manix on during prime hours. Manix is so much better the Barnaby jones or Cannon. Well ahead of it time on story line, race issues and action. Just saying.
Owen 51 months ago
Been a big fan since i was a kid. I can't believe nobody mentioned castaway Mary Ann being an archeology student. Wow!
Also, started watching the movie "the aliens are coming". Just the first five minutes made "Buck Rogers in the 25 century" look like a big budget series.
BrendonStevens 54 months ago
Never understood why they just didn’t kill Vincent. They certainly were advanced enough to carry it out and be rid of him. Also any aliens who were capable of interstellar flight should have been able to take over the earth without much difficulty.
jrmaul BrendonStevens 43 months ago
Then no show. That’s no fun.
Moverfan jrmaul 40 months ago
It's like Al Yankovic said (referring to another successful series)--"I know Darth Vader's really got you annoyed/But remember if you kill him, we'll all be unemployed" ("Yoda" to the tune of "Lola" by the Kinks, for those who are wondering).
Jim 54 months ago
Very much enjoyed the program and actually had a model kit of the saucer craft that was made during that time. The saucer shape seems familiar, like the Haunebu Saucer craft the Nazis were supposed to have built.
jrmaul Jim 43 months ago
Similar to Pizza Hut too.
WayneStation 56 months ago
I like how at various times when the aliens are taking their leisurely time to kill him David Vincent just suddenly pulls out a gun and starts shooting.
Nikola 57 months ago
𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑰𝒏𝒗𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔: 𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒏 𝒃𝒆𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒂 𝒅𝒚𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒆𝒕.
𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏: 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑬𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒉.
𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒑𝒖𝒓𝒑𝒐𝒔𝒆: 𝒕𝒐 𝒎𝒂𝒌𝒆 𝒊𝒕 *𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓* 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒍𝒅.
𝑫𝒂𝒗𝒊𝒅 𝑽𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒉𝒂𝒔 𝒔𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒎.
𝑭𝒐𝒓 𝒉𝒊𝒎, 𝒊𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒏𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒐𝒏 𝒂 𝒍𝒐𝒏𝒆𝒍𝒚 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒕𝒓𝒚 𝒓𝒐𝒂𝒅, 𝒍𝒐𝒐𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒂 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒓𝒕𝒄𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒉𝒆 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒇𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅. 𝑰𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒂 𝒄𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒆𝒓𝒕𝒆𝒅 𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒓, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒂 𝒎𝒂𝒏 𝒕𝒐𝒐 𝒍𝒐𝒏𝒈 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒔𝒍𝒆𝒆𝒑 𝒕𝒐 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒖𝒆 𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒋𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒚.
𝑰𝒕 𝒃𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒂𝒏𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒇 𝒂 𝒄𝒓𝒂𝒇𝒕 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒂𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒈𝒂𝒍𝒂𝒙𝒚.
𝑵𝒐𝒘, 𝑫𝒂𝒗𝒊𝒅 𝑽𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑰𝒏𝒗𝒂𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆, 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒕𝒂𝒌𝒆𝒏 𝒉𝒖𝒎𝒂𝒏 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒎.
𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒉𝒐𝒘, 𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒆 𝒂 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒍𝒅, 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒏𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝒎𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒉𝒂𝒔 𝒂𝒍𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒅𝒚 𝒃𝒆𝒈𝒖𝒏...
Nikola Nikola 57 months ago
Hey look they re-posted my comment that at first they banned me for posting that and said it "contained unusual characters/symbols"

I know at places like facebook they still use the same text as netscape did 25 years ago BUT it seems that bold text in cursive would not be called "contained unusual characters/symbols"

So 3 days later I get an email from them saying they had to check my post and see if it was against a "rule"..........funny thing it IS absolutely a MAIN part of this program and anyone that ever watched this program knows that.
Instead the post was deleted and the box popped up telling me I was BANNED here......and that was very easy to see and when you are a programmer with 10 computers in your house you KNOW how websites and computers work and even the basics of *text* and just using tiny black text on a white page background is older than when they made Three Stooges tv program so you think they would figure out the basics at MeTv by now........ok lets see if they allow this post........probably will since I used that 150 year old newspaper text.
JERRY6 Nikola 53 months ago
Seems they allowed your post unusaual type and all
cocoawoobie 59 months ago
He got better looking with age. I remember his X-files episodes but couldn't place him til I saw the credits, hmm nice.
MichaelEasterwood 60 months ago
I have the entire two year run on DVD.The dvds have excellent extras
Greg 60 months ago
Happy to see The Invaders on Saturday night I liked Kolchak but I was tired of it. I don't think people that live in cities realize how many Over the air channels they can get. If you go to https://www.antennaweb.org/ it will tell you OTR channels you can get.
JoeSHill 60 months ago
"THE INVADERS" may not have been a huge success for The ABC Network during the course of its two-season run, but It exploited an untapped area of creative science fiction by mixing a heavy amount of paranoia. the space age equivalent to "THE FUGITIVE"s Richard Kimble, the "David Vincent" character that Roy Thinnes played was an original and brilliant piece of storytelling so expertly done by the late Larry Cohen, who also created "CORONET BLUE" for CBS that same year. In the 43 shows that were produced, viewers were so involved every week watching poor David Vincent futily trying to convince people and especially the authorities that alien beings have arrived on the Earth. this was a special kind of show that used creative writing and superior scripts that introduced viewers to a new type of science fiction drama that was almost in the vein of "THE FUGITIVE". ten years after ABC canceled "THE INVADERS", Quinn Martin produced a short-lived anthology series called "Quinn Martin's TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED" for NBC in early 1977 and made an episode called "The Nomads", which was actually a remake of "THE INVADERS", complete with the original sound effects. after QM sold his production company to Taft Broadcasting in 1979, QM Productions later made "THE ALIENS ARE COMING", a 1980 NBC Movie Of The Week, but that pilot film just didn't fly! neither did FOX's dismal 1995 miniseries that Aaron Spelling tried to do with "QUANTUM LEAP" actor Scott Bakula-and although Roy Thinnes reprised his "David Vincent" role, the concept failed to capture the originality of his 1967 series!
Sooner 60 months ago
This is one of the great shows with a really excellent actor and scripts. Sorry you have to put the really good shows on when I need to be in bed so I can get to work early in the morning. Why not put the crummy shows like the beaten to death MASH on late instead.
Moonpie Sooner 60 months ago
I second that!!
TJ24TJ Sooner 6 months ago
I DVR shows so I won't miss them and can also zip thru the commercials.
ETristanBooth 60 months ago
I had never seen this before, but I'm watching the first episode now, and it's pretty good. This episode also has James Daly from "Willoughby."
AgingDisgracefully 60 months ago
Any chance The Immortal is on the waiting list?
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