DVD REVIEW: Paranoia is back with ‘The Invaders’ Second Season

Paranoia is back to claim another slot on my shelf of vintage TV DVDs. And its name is The Invaders.

This fine ’60s sci-fi series survived for a season and a half, for a total of 43 episodes. Its first season, already on DVD, began midseason in early 1967, amassing 17 episodes. Its second and final season, lasting a full year, had 26 installments.

As with CBS/Paramount’s first season DVDs, the second season — out Tuesday — includes on-screen intros by Invaders star Roy Thinnes. Now a dignified 70-year-old in a bow tie, he lends gravity, dignity and quiet enthusiasm to the setup. A commentary or two would have been nice as well, but I’ll always take such intros, as with Robert Conrad’s for the first season of  The Wild Wild West, Barbara Feldon’s for Get Smart and Jim Nabors’ for Gomer Pyle, USMC.

Plotwise, The Invaders spreads out a bit from its first season setup, but the futility of architect David Vincent’s (Thinnes’) quest to expose sneaky space beings does not. After all, if he succeeded, the show would end, though it wound up ending anyway.

In effect, The Invaders was in the mode of The Fuguitive, with a solitary “running man” who strives to reveal hidden evil and convince others that he’s blameless/sane. Both shows were from the same production company, Quinn Martin.

One thing that strikes me about this series is a strange, reality-busting quirk of its era, in contrast to today. This “Layman expert calls the shots” quirk also extends to monster movies of the ’50s.

Again and again, a man with no official authority (a scientist, a journalist, an architect on the run) literally directs/orders lawmen, government officials or military commanders what to do because, after all, he claims to have the most knowledge about something (a monster, alien invaders). Today, no way. The real authorities would not readily yield their control to an outsider. For one thing, if mistakes were made, they’d still be to blame, and CYA is the way of the world.

That said, The Invaders is choice creepiness, especially for those who, like me, cherish eerie, mysterious films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (particularly its 1978 remake). About the closest thing on today TV is Lost — and that’s not bad company.

Indeed, for low-budget ’60s TV, The Invaders is quite impressive. Its effects, though limited, are reasonably good, Dominic Frontiere’s theme music is strong and Thinnes makes a stalwart lead.

BTW, that’s the same Frontiere who scored the first season of  The Outer Limits with perhaps the best music ever written for TV. The Invaders’ theme is actually a piece he wrote for the OL episode The Forms of Things Unknown, which served dually as a pilot for a never-made series. Enter The Invaders and it found a weekly TV home, just as Jerry Goldsmith’s spirited theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture found an ongoing TV home as theme music for Star Trek: The Next Generation. As for Frontiere, you also can hear some of his OL cues and themes in his work for The Rat Patrol a few years later. Hey, if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best.

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