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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cocoawoobie 1 month 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 2 months ago
I have the entire two year run on DVD.The dvds have excellent extras
Greg 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 months ago
I second that!!
ETristanBooth 2 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 2 months ago
Any chance The Immortal is on the waiting list?
Tampammm 2 months ago
Finally!!!

Been waiting for years for this to come back.
FredZ859 2 months ago
Finally! Something worth watching after Svengoolie. I've waited decades for The Invaders to return to TV. I hope MeTV runs all the episodes in order, (and the 11:00PM start in the Central Time zone works for me). Thank you, MeTV!
Pacificsun 2 months ago
Nothing wrong with the Invaders, sounds like a great addition to Sci-Fi Sat. But why in the world replace ST (which you had, removed, returned and now are replacing). Maybe it could be swapped with WW, now in it's 10th rerun cycle for that time slot.

Just a thought ....
SteveThames 2 months ago
Yay!!! This is the programming we need; tks Metv
NormHinderliter 2 months ago
I guess that everyone has the right to their own opinion. This is what makes the United States, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, so important. Every American has the right to think as we choose.
... your point being ....
Beta6 2 months ago
I loved the Invaders. But it as well as many other shows I loved are all on after midnight or just before. I don't have cable and I cannot record these shows..so I can never see them.
Moonpie 2 months ago
At last "The Invaders" are here! If only it was on a bit earlier than midnite.
SteveThames Moonpie 2 months ago
Like the Barnabas pic; DS showing weeknights 9pst on decades tv; current right before 1795 story line
AlanGuynes SteveThames 2 months ago
That figures. Our Decades channel was replaced by Start, which doesn't have a single program I'm interested in.
Tampammm AlanGuynes 2 months ago
Me too, I would pay to have Decades back!!

Once I got Start that channel then proceeded to the Finish line.
Moonpie SteveThames 2 months ago
Thank you. Unfortunately for me my anal cable co. took away Decades.
DuanneWalton 2 months ago
I've only seen the first episode. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, but I wish it was replacing LiS instead of Kolchak.
Mockschnel 2 months ago
According to series creator Larry Cohen, the extended little finger bit was actually a reference to homosexuals. The idea being that the stereotypical reference to effeminate gay men (who essentially had their own secret society among the "straight" population,) was a metaphor for the aliens who were attempting to infiltrate society.
cperrynaples Mockschnel 2 months ago
I've heard about the gay metaphor, and we all know the only open gay sci-fi character of the '60's was Dr. Smith...LOL! RIP Larry Cohen!
TVJunkie 2 months ago
I was too young to properly appreciate this gem when it first aired on TV. I did have a model of the alien ship. It was cool. The top came off so you could see the inside kinda like the Flying Sub model did. I remember that the theme music was spooky and sinister and I liked that. Can't wait to see this. It first came along in the sixties and I am now in my sixties. Pretty Coolidge Rita.
RobBush 2 months ago
Great show. I wasn't aware that it was coming to Me!
cperrynaples RobBush 2 months ago
This is news to me! Glad I got an AirTV to record it!
What's AirTV? Is it like a dvd recorder? I'm grateful that I'm able to record what I want through Spectrum's cable box. I don't have room for anything separate. Do you have cable? Just curious.
Speaking of being curious, I was wondering what show would be going bye-bye once The Invaders begins airing {this Saturday.} Like METV said, it will be on at 12:00 a.m. It's inserted into Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea's old timeslot, which will be airing 2 hours later, in the former timeslot of The Fugitive.
Oh! Have question for you? Are you aware of the fact that Michael Nesmith works for Amazon?
Well...he does and he doesn't. He's a a hearing impaired, designer/artist. I was totally surprised when I saw him! I literally read his name three times, to make certain I hadn't misread it! Looking back, I should've realized that there are folks out there with the same names.
Stephanie, AirTV is a recorder for OTA broadcasts, which is the only way to see MeTV in most markets! You hook it up to an external hard drive which saves your shows! Honestly, it's impossible to watch the best MeTV shows live, now I don't have to...LOL! Yes, I have heard about the OTHER Michael Nesmith!
cperrynaples cperrynaples 2 months ago
PS No cable, just streaming! Way cheaper with the right devices!
Thanks for the info. on AirTv.
Hmmmmm! Maybe I should think about doing that. {streaming, I mean.} I already have Roku tv, which has inside it: Sling, Hulu, Netflix and I think one other. But I'm so used to having cable...as the saying goes, "Old habits are hard to break."
I wonder if the "original" Michael Nesmith, is aware of his Amazon namesake?!?!
Someone neglected to point out you have to be able to get the OTA channels in the first place. Some markets have plenty (13+). Others, not so much. Might as well get an OTA antenna (Leaf) to check. And if you can't get the OTA channels (as many as you'd like) the antenna can be returned. 😉

Check out the reviews first: such as https://www.tomsguide.com/us/dish-airtv-player,review-4315.html
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