Cashing in on a "fascinating" Idea
Story by Ellen Torgersen
From the New Zealand TV Weekly April 15, 1968
This Colonel, see, he has this beautiful wife, and
every time The starts to make love to her, he can't
remember a thing. Wakes up with a terrible headache.
I feel like someone's been inside my brain, he
moans, rubbing his head.
His wife smiles seductively-she's been draining his
brain of top secret information with a little machine
I'll give you something to sleep, she says,
handing him a glass of water and a couple of pills
that look like aspirin but are really knock-out
pills. She kisses him tenderly, and holds him to her
bosom. He falls asleep, without seeming to notice one
She has no heartbeat. In fact, she has no heart. In
fact, she isn't human at all. She's an ALIEN.
That's part of a typical Invaders episode. If it's a
little hard to believe, it doesn't matter, because
people are strangely-devoted fans of the science-
fiction series about people from another planet who
are trying to take over the earth and enslave all of
Each week, Roy Thinnes plays David Vincent,
architect, who is trying desperately to get the
people on earth to wake up and realise just how much
danger they're in.
The gimmick is this, says Bob Wright, a TV
executive with the series.
Everybody is interested
in Unidentified Flying Objects and strange, scary
people from another planet who may be stronger and
more evil than we are.
But the series is not based on the monumental pile
of literature on the possibility of flying saucers
with people from another planet, he explains.
I suppose you might say we're just cashing in on
that idea. It's a fascinating one. After all, no one
really knows anything about flying saucers or beings
from another planet. The telephone seemed pretty
peculiar once, too.
Now in its second hold-your-breath year in America,
the series began with David Vincent, an American
architect, driving home late one night. He took a
wrong turn down a country lane. During the night-he
decided to sleep in his car and Wait until morning to
find his way-he saw The Invaders land.
Ever since, Vincent has been trying to get people to
believe he saw what he saw. But not a soul will give
him a particle of credence. They look at him with a
you're-a-nut look. He's grown quite used to
it. But he keeps on with his crusade-every week, for
30 or so weeks per year.
David Vincent will not give up, give an inch or give
in. They are here, and he intends to save the earth
We make sure the audience knows right away who the
aliens are, says Wright. It may take Vincent some
time to smoke them out.
But we prefer actors
playing aliens to have a b1ank,emotionless, staring
look about them.
Otherwise you can't tell them from other
people-those of us with hearts.
In various episodes, aliens have appeared in the form
of beautiful girls, a nun, a negro.
are based on a key human figure (aside from, David
Vincent) and a key alien figure, says Wright.
When we first started the series, one of our
promotional ideas was to send out Press releases
stating: "You could have been riding on the bus with
one of them this morning, and never suspected. The
postman might be one of them. Your dentist might be
one of them. You might be having lunch with one of
How does David Vincent-or Roy Thinnes--tell if it's
I have certain clues, says Thinnes, who never
smiles much on the show, but smiles amiably most of
the time, in person.
Sometimes their hands have
one little finger which sticks out at a funny angle.
When they're cut they don't bleed. And they begin to
glow when their electronic machinery breaks down- or
starts to break down.
And when they're in a really tight spot and have
to die, they take a pill which burns them up. It
makes quite a bright glow on colour TV.
In one episode I did, recalls Thinnes,
have this friend in a sanitorium who's gone crazy. I
think there's an alien around, but I can't find him.
Then I see one of the hospital guards being chased by
a dog. When the dog bites the guard on the leg, he
doesn't bleed. That's how I know.
The actors who are cast as aliens are sometimes
well-known like Pat Hingle of TV, movie and Broadway
fame, or complete unknowns.
We don't choose any
particular type, says Wright.
They just have
to get that blank look on their faces. Or sometimes a
look of evangelism. They are also required to open
their eye- balls a bit to stare. Often we've used the
same person over and over again, with different
They dress and look just like us, you know, he
says. He's been working on the show so long, he
sounds like he's beginning to believe every minute of
it. Does he?
Some- times I wonder about my
friends, he replied.
Thinnes doesn't have such problems. He's well aware
that it's just a good role.
But he qualifies as an intense young man himself,
which is why he enjoys playing the intense, young
character of David Vincent.
I wouldn't say I'm like David Vincent, he
I am not as driven, although things bother
me and I hate trivial concerns. But basically I have
a better sense of humour than David.
Thinnes, whose name rhymes with that famous ale,
Guinness, has a serious, sculptured face, and light
eyes with that indeterminate colour blonde-brown
hair. He looks intelli- gent, which is part of the
reason he is believable as Vincent.
This is a tough show to write, says Thinnes,
because even though these aliens are supposed to
be more technologically advanced, I have to win out
at the end of every episode. I have to be more
skilled than they, cerebrally.
Let's just say that sometimes the watching
audience just can't think about it too seriously-or
obvious problems of credibility are going to crop
up. Problems like:
Why are the aliens waiting so long to take over
Why don't the survivors of alien terror talk to the
Why doesn't Vincent take them to the police to tell
Why won't anyone at all ever believe him?
I admit all that, says Thinnes,
know what? Right now, I'm a lot more disturbed about
the war in Vietnam.
The earlier TV show featuring Roy Thinnes seen on all
New Zealand channels was The Long, Hot
Summer-a far cry from his current attraction
as the desperate David Vincent of The
Invaders. Pictured with him in this scene from
the now-defunct Long, Hot Summer, are
Dan O'Herlihy (Will Varner) and Ruth Roman (Minnie