On January 10, 1967, the first episode of a new sci-fi themed TV series created by Larry Cohen was aired on ABC. Its title was The Invaders. Cohen is noted for his writing skills on the likes of such hit shows as The Fugitive and Columbo. He also directed the notorious and legendary 1974, movie, It’s Alive, and wrote the hit 2003 film starring Colin Farrell, Phone Booth.
The Invaders told the conspiracy-filled and fueled story of a man named David Vincent, who learns, to his horror and consternation, that hostile extraterrestrials from a dying, faraway planet have secretly come to the Earth and have infiltrated the human race.
Advanced alien technology has allowed the relatively small spearhead-style force to appear just like us, aside from a slight, telltale difference in their little fingers and distinctly emotionless appearances on their faces.
Vincent, skilfully and believably portrayed by actor Roy Thinnes, is pretty much a lone soul, doing all that he can to try and warn the world of the perils it faces from the growing alien menace now amongst us.
Coming across very much like a combination of The Fugitive and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and clearly acting as a big-time inspiration for the minds and writers behind The X-Files of more than a quarter of a century later, The Invaders was an intelligently-produced and thought-provoking show that, sadly, only lasted for two seasons, and collectively comprised of forty-three episodes.
Nevertheless, even today, nearly fifty years after The Invaders ended, the show continues to have a large, cult-like following all around the world, and particularly so in France, where both Roy Thinnes (who had a guest role in The X-Files), and his on-screen alter-ego of David Vincent are revered. And there is something else, too.
When The Invaders was at its height of popularity, and to help keep the publicity wheels turning at full force, a number of spin-off paperback and hardback novels were published. One of them was definitively zombie-themed.
Also demonstrating how The Invaders was a clear setter of trends, the title of the novel would most certainly be right at home in today’s world in which the zombie rules supreme. The book’s name: Army of the Undead.
In the story, the zombies are not mutated monsters, but humans who are enslaved, mind-controlled and now answerable only to their deadly, alien masters. The author, Rafe Bernard, does a fine job of portraying the zombies in a classically menacing style, as the following extract from Army of the Undead acutely demonstrates:
“The zombie that had been Danny Hicks thrust Vincent into the small hidden room. Vincent felt a sick horror at the realization that he was helpless in the hands of this creature – once a man, now an automaton doing the bidding of the Invaders.”
David Vincent finally manages to save the day, thwarts the latest dastardly attempts of the aliens to gain a greater foothold on our world, and destroys the zombies – one and all - in the process.
In view of the above, if a real world, undead-driven Armageddon really does one day unfold, then perhaps we should not look to secret military experiments, or classified biological research programs, for the answers as to how to combat and stop the disaster. Perhaps we should be looking to the distant, twinkling stars right above us.