The Invaders a 60’s Series with Lessons for Today
The Science Fiction television show The Invaders aired from 1967-1968. The special effects, by late ‘60s standards, were sometimes good and sometimes tacky. The series had many continuity errors within and between episodes. The series had superior acting and the episode plots were very good. The series’ premise is architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnis) made a wrong turn and witnessed a flying saucer landing. The saucer contained aliens from a dying world. These aliens were an advance party for a future invasion with the purpose of conquering the Earth. Making the lead character an architect was an excellent choice. This meant he was an educated, intelligent, and successful man. This used the Alfred Hitchcock formula of putting an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation. While he was educated he wasn’t educated in skills that would help him fight agents from another world. This meant the audience could identify with him. When faced with the reality he took it upon himself to face The Invaders.
The Invaders had many of the trademarks of ‘60s television shows. David Vincent was an eligible bachelor. Almost every episode had an attractive young woman as a guest star. Unlike the star of other shows David Vincent didn’t flirt with these women. His only focus was to stop The Invaders. David Vincent would travel to a different venue each episode where he would look for an alien problem and often find interpersonal problems of the characters. A number of episodes dealt with the issues of the ‘60s such as; The Vietnam Conflict, racial strife, The Cold War and the threat of a nuclear war.
Besides being a time capsule the series contains lessons that are still valid. This article contains spoilers for some of the series episodes. Here is a look back at some of the episodes to give a feel for the series, the times, and some lessons that can be gleaned from the episodes.
In the opening scene David Vincent is beaten, robbed, and left out in the desert. He is released from the hospital three weeks after a reported UFO sighting. Air Force investigators and reporters had come to the area but almost all of them have left. When this show first aired in 1967 the Air Force was still actively investigating reports of UFO sightings. The remaining reporter introduces him to Vikki (Suzanne Pleshette), a woman who claims to have seen a flying saucer. Vikki and the reporter are really aliens. Vikki acts curt towards David, apparently without cause. The plan is to lead David Vincent to the disabled space ship where the space ship technicians will incinerate him. When they come close to the space ship Vikki tries frantically to get him to look somewhere else for the space ship. She fails and the technicians fail to kill him. This puts them on the run. David realizes she is “one of them” and wants to know why she tried to help him. She reveals she is different, a mutation with the inherited trait of caring about life. One of the technicians finds them. David disarms him and in a hand to hand fight kills the alien. This is the first look audiences got of the iconic incineration on death of an Invader. David didn’t retrieve the dead alien’s ray gun. In the movies it was common for an unarmed, or lightly armed, person not to retrieve the weapon of the armed person they killed. Later at a farmhouse, Vikki tells David their differences don’t matter to her. David believes a relationship is impossible. He drives to a nearby town to telephone the Air Force investigator. When he drives away Vikki uses her communication device to inform the other aliens where David is going. It is unclear if her actions were because she felt scorned, if she decided to rejoin the other aliens, or for other reasons. Technician aliens come to the farmhouse to wait for David Vincent’s return. Vikki unsuccessfully tries to talk these aliens out of their intention to kill David. When David arrives Vikki is killed in the process of warning David he is walking into an ambush. Then there is a rifle vs. ray gun fight. David kills the Invaders then sees the space ship depart. A continuity error is during the fight at least two of the ray guns dropped away from where the aliens incinerated. The Air Force investigator arrives some time later. While there is no direct evidence there is strong circumstantial evidence David Vincent’s story is valid. The investigator tells David two days ago he would have discounted David’s story but now he’s not so sure. David Vincent sarcastically asked; “When will you be sure, when it’s too late?”
In 1960s television shows a common theme was if something had the outward appearance of a beautiful woman no matter what was on the inside; a stern personality, electronic circuitry, or extraterrestrial DNA, with the right stimulus the human femininity would seep through to the inside.
- The opening scene – Be wary of people who tell you what you want to hear.
- The ray gun continuity errors - Don’t be so sure just because you’ve seen something once that you saw it all.
- “When will you be sure, when it’s too late?” – Waiting for conclusive evidence to make a decision usually means making a mistake by default.
- The “star crossed lovers” – Don’t make a summary judgment a relationship with a person is impossible. Many people end up in happy marriages with the kind of person they never thought they would marry.
"When will you be sure, when it’s too late?”
— David Vincent
In the opening scene Anne Gibbs (Suzanne Pleshette) kills an elderly woman, Mrs. Willis, in a panicked rage. When she meets David Vincent she explains she is “one of them”. She was a result of an experiment with human emotions. She cared for her own life and when she gets angry she resorts to lethal force. The elderly woman wasn’t the first person she killed. Hank Willis (Will Geer), a retired sheriff and the husband of Mrs. Willis goes looking for Anne Gibbs. An Invader identified himself to Mr. Willis as an FBI Agent who was looking for Anne Gibbs and it was a matter of national security. David Vincent takes Anne Gibbs to the house of Professor Charles McKay (Richard O’Brien) and his son Eddie. David Vincent explained to Anne Gibbs when Professor McKay and his wife stumbled on an Invader base he crashed into another car in the panic to escape. His wife and the other driver died in the wreck and Professor McKay spent 18 month in jail for manslaughter. David Vincent left Anne Gibbs alone with Professor McKay for a minute and she panicked and seriously injured him. David Vincent realized they couldn’t stay there. Anne didn’t want to leave the injured professor alone and told David she though he was less human than she was. David told her he didn’t hit him and he didn’t kill anyone so she shouldn’t give him a lecture on humanity. David, with the help of Industrialist Edgar Scoville (Kent Smith), takes Anne to a building in Washington, DC. After a gunfight, where Anne kills one of the Invaders, they are a few feet from a room where they will meet high level people and Anne will give conclusive proof of The Invaders. Then Hank Willis show up and shoots Anne dead. He and 5 others, including a senior military officer, see Anne incinerate on death. The episode ends after the 6 witnesses made their statements. The evidence of The Invaders is still inconclusive. David and Edgar talk about how they could have ended the nightmare. David regretfully points out it would have ended if Hank Willis hadn’t been so human.
In 1960s Science Fiction shows it was usually stated how human emotions, which were distained by aliens who didn’t have them, gave humans an advantage. In this episode human emotions worked against the human race.
- Hank Willis had every reason to believe Anne Gibbs was a national security matter. Ironically it was even more important. He ignored this to get his revenge. - While your needs may be great there may be other considerations that are much more important.
- David didn’t hit Professor McKay or kill any humans – There is no moral equivalence between someone who does something for the greater good and someone who does something for their own or diabolical ends.
- Hank Willis was treated as a “has been” throughout the episode but caught up with Anne Gibbs – Don’t underestimate the seniors.
- Six credible witness testimony wasn’t conclusive – Credible witness testimony means nothing if the story is incredible.
- The Pursued and The Mutation both had actress Suzanne Pleshette and the same plot hole. According to the genre an Invader who couldn’t be with other Invaders would incinerate inside 10 days. – In fiction a writer who insists on accuracy and consistency could be passing up on a good story. In nonfiction a plot hole probably means it is in fact fiction.
In the opening scene Mrs. Laurie Keller (Antoinette Bower) is riding on a horse. She comes to a roadway when a doctor speeds by in his car. This startles the horse which throws Mrs. Keller to the ground. The doctor finds her lifeless and concludes she is dead. He walks to a nearby emergency call box and reports Mrs. Keller’s death. Moments later she wakes up, three other aliens are with her. Two of the aliens grab the doctor and drown him in a nearby body of water. When David Vincent learned of the story he suspected alien activity. He signs up for a tour of NORAD’s1 headquarters. NORAD security and the aliens were on to him immediately. He meets Major Keller (Jason Evers) and learns Major Keller’s first wife died of a heart attack 6 months earlier. It isn’t mentioned in the episode but according to the genre aliens sometimes caused a heart attack to make a murder look like a death from a natural cause. David Vincent is blunt with Major Keller and Major Keller abruptly ends their conversation. Later at NORAD David Vincent has another terse encounter with Major Keller. That night Mrs. Keller uses a jewel on her ring to put her husband in a trance. She uses two other small devices to get information on defeating the NORAD radar and leave a post hypnotic suggestion. She takes down notes with a pen and paper. Then she rides to a cabin where the aliens program a computer tape. She takes a computer tape home with her and puts it in her husband’s brief case. David Vincent followed her to the cabin. Some aliens spot him and mistakenly believe they vaporized him along with his car. The next morning Major Keller switches the computer tapes. David Vincent tells his story to Major Pete Stanhope (Simon Scott), the security officer, and Major Keller. Major Keller tells David Vincent, “What makes people like you so dangerous is there’s always a grain of truth in what you have to say.” Major Stanhope asks Major Keller to ask his wife to come in. David Vincent suggests he take a security detail with him. Major Keller indignantly tells David Vincent he doesn’t have to arrest his own wife. At home Major Keller learns his wife is an alien. The alien’s purpose was to establish a base on an island southwest of Alaska. Major and Mrs. Keller have a brief struggle over her gun. A shot rings out and Mrs. Keller glows red, falls to the floor, and incinerates. The aliens are 7 minutes from having their base. Major Keller sees the notes his wife wrote down. He calls Major Stanhope and warns him about the tape before and alien shoots him dead. Major Stanhope sends a detail over to Major Keller’s house. He asks the general for permission to switch tapes. When they switch the tapes the alien space ships appear on the screen and there is an immediate scramble. Scrambled aircraft are within two minutes of making visual contact with the flying saucers when the alien space ships receive the recall warning. The security detail finds Major Keller dead and a “Dear John” letter. The report attributes the UFOs to natural phenomena and the reel problem with Major Keller making a mistake because he was concerned about marital problems. Major Stanhope tells David Vincent to “keep at it” but gives no indication he would give David Vincent any assistance.
I viewed this episode when it first aired and it was my favorite. It directly involved the Air Force and the climax was an air defense scramble. In ‘60s television shows young, attractive women, who worked for the “bad guys” tended to switch sides, as in “The Mutation”. Many of the ones who stayed “bad” got off easy or got away, as in “Storm”2. Episodes where an attractive bad woman stayed bad and got what was coming to her were exceptional. This episode is typical of television shows and movies of the day in that someone, or something, other than the male lead did the dirty work of killing the evil woman.
- Major Keller, and probably his first wife, was targeted because of his job. – If you have a sensitive job, be careful of what you say about your job to anyone, including your spouse. The person you trust might inadvertently pass on the information to someone who is up to no good.
- Mrs. Keller used sophisticated technology to hypnotize her husband. She wrote down the information. Using an alien transmitter would have saved time. Major Keller finding the notes is what foiled the Invaders plans. - Using a crude method may seem economical and effective but it can be very costly in the end.
- “What makes people like you so dangerous is there’s always a grain of truth in what you say.” - A common trick to make people believe a lie is to begin by giving some true and easily confirmable information.3
- The episode turned on a matter of minutes; 7 minutes to landing on the island, 2 minutes till visual contact, Major Keller killed seconds too late. - Time is valuable always assume it is critical.
- The final report shows the flaw in Occam’s razor.4 - In this case all that was required was a distraught computer programmer and a coincidental natural phenomena occurrence. A programming error occurred on one of a set of computer tapes. The error masked a natural phenomena occurring the same morning the tape was mounted on the computer. Major Keller saw his wife’s “Dear John” letter then realized an obscure programming error he made, without looking at the punch cards or a printout, and called it in before shooting himself. While such is theoretically possible the probabilities are such it seems another entity should be added to the equation.
- Major Stanhope’s words to David Vincent to “keep at it”. - Statements of support without a meaningful offer of assistance are worthless.
1 North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), headquartered in Cheyenne Mountain.
2 The Invaders episode: Storm was Episode 12 of Season 1 with Barbara Luna guest staring as the alien Lisa.
3 One of the tactics of the 619 scam is to send an email to people and give a link to an actual incident, such as a plane crash. Then explain a person who died in the incident has a fortune in a bank and if you help them get the money out of the bank you will get a fortune.
4 Occam’s Razor - Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.
“What makes people like you so dangerous is there’s always a grain of truth in what you have to say.”
— Major Dan Keller
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on May 16, 2020:
Thank you for reading and commenting. It is the granddaddy of the sneaky space aliens genre. It was a very imaginative series. The disintegration effects were really cool.
Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on May 16, 2020:
I was excited to find this. I remember watching that series. It was extremely scary to me at the time as a nine-year old. I watched every episode in complete awe. I'd almost forgotten this series. I do remember, it seems every episode he spent trying to convince people aliens were invading but no one would believe him. I don't remember much more, but it was a terrific series.
Glad I found this. Great job. Thanks for filling in the gaps!
Robert Sacchi (author) on September 14, 2018:
Thank you for reading and commenting. I enjoyed watching this show. Because of the premise proof was always just out of reach for David Vincent. So all victories were only tactical.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2018:
I was in college when those television shows were aired and I was not watching that much television back then so missed seeing them. They sounded interesting from what you have written about that series.
Robert Sacchi (author) on July 25, 2017:
It was an ABC show. It was the grand daddy of alien invasion movies. The audience could also identify with David Vincent. For the audience there was always the question; "What would you do?" Hope you get a chance to watch some of the episodes.
C E Clark from North Texas on July 25, 2017:
I never got to see any of this, probably because it was on a different television station. We only got one station at our house out in the country when I was growing up -- CBS. But it sounds interesting and if I had known about it I might have visited a friend or something on the night or nights it was on because I always loved stories about extraterrestrial life.
Robert Sacchi (author) on January 02, 2017:
Thanks for reading. It was great series, with a great premise. The incineration on death was an excellent idea as special effects and a way of keeping proof just out of reach.
Al Greenbaum from Europe on January 02, 2017:
When I was at school we loved playing "The Invaders" in the playground. You know, the thing with the little finger. (A bit like Spock). I thought was great when the aliens turned to nothing, again, a bit like Star Trek and the engine room. I also remember the much parodied opening sequence. Great series.
Robert Sacchi (author) on July 30, 2016:
Yes, another one of my favorite television shows.
Brad on July 30, 2016:
Clever use of Maxwell Smart. I like the "would you believe" as well.
Robert Sacchi (author) on July 30, 2016:
Yes, the episodes ended with as Maxwell Smart would say, "missed it by that much."
Brad on July 29, 2016:
I didn't recall it was with Scott Bakula, but the flying saucers were good because it moved the story forward.
The incineration was necessary because it kept David from having any tangible evidence.
Robert Sacchi (author) on July 29, 2016:
You mean the 1995 mini-series with Scott Bakula?
Yes, the incineration on death was really cool. There was no, he wasn't really dead the first time.
Brad on July 03, 2016:
There was a follow up series continuing the Invaders where they showed the alien aircraft. They were like the ones in War of the Worlds.
The Invaders deaths were the thing I like the best, when they would just vaporize. As far as any deeper meaning, none.
Robert Sacchi (author) on September 07, 2015:
Thank you. Yes, your experience is another part of television history. Today many classic TV shows are available online. So there is little need to watch TV at odd hours to see that favorite show.
Absent Friend on September 06, 2015:
very interesting points.
I remember as a youngster sneaking up when I couldn't sleep, and catching some of these reruns. (4..0am UK late 80's to early 90's)
...but is there life on Mars, despite what we're told??