This ambitious, four-hour mini, based on the ’60s Quinn Martin-produced series, is an above-average thriller, but can’t be ranked as classic sci-fi because the aliens are really peripheral. Portentous part one is better than the second, since it takes time to discover that the visitors from outer space don’t do very much.
Filmed in Los Angeles by Papazian-Hirsch Entertainment in association with Spelling Entertainment Group Inc. Executive producers, Robert Papazian, James Hirsch, James D. Parriott; director, Paul Shapiro; writer, James Dott; Trying to update the story, writer James Dott includes an excessive amount of social commentary. Handling of the “we are not alone” theme fails to provoke much wonder or willies.
Without a clear focus in the script, director Paul Shapiro has to focus on a fugitive beating the clock to avert a relatively small disaster; Shapiro does that well enough, providing familiar pleasures at a brisk pace.
Aliens here are environmental terrorists bent on taking over the world by exploiting humans’ knack for destroying the ecosystem. They feed on carbon monoxide and, after invading human bodies, go around chain-smoking, breathing in car fumes and bumping off environmental activists.
Dull but resourceful hero Nolan (Scott Bakula) has been programmed via a brain implant to kill an ecology professor, and he’s sent to prison. After his release, he looks for his wife (DeLane Matthews) and son (Mario Yedidia). She happens to have married the alien ringleader (Richard Thomas).
Nolan is framed for murdering a doctor who has evidence the extraterrestrials exist. The dead guy’s fiancee, Dr. Ellen Garza (Elizabeth Pena), investigates.
Roy Thinnes, who starred in original series, appears ever so briefly, reprising the role of David Vincent; he’s still pursuing the aliens and provides a little background before disappearing.
Climax combines a presidential candidate with an anti-pollution platform, a runaway subway train in Los Angeles’ new MetroRail system, some methane gas, a cop-turned-alien, and Bakula doing his best imitation of Keanu Reeves.
Pena is excellent as the intrepid doctor. Bakula’s character spends much of the time dazed and has relatively few lines.
Thomas is good at obsequious evil. Too bad we don’t get the chance to sympathize with the invaders: Even with two friendly faces, Thomas and Elinor Donahue (“Father Knows Best”) among them, there’s no chance to relate.
The aliens’ crooked pinkies fromthe original series aren’t prominent, and their limitations aren’t clear; without more details, audiences will wonder why these invaders can’t achieve their aims more expediently.
Garden-variety f/x are inconsistent, the best being pyrotechnics that aren’t alien-specific.
Since the good earthlings don’t stop the invasion, but only prevail in a small battle, the war will have to be won in subsequent programming. And despite its flaws, “The Invaders” is compelling enough for Fox to begin producing a follow-up.