Tuesday, January 1, 2013
The Invaders as Metaphor
We talked on The Sun about Roy Thinnes and his role in the proto-X-Files TV movie The Norliss Tapes, produced by the late, great Dan Curtis. Here he is another proto-X-Files, Larry Cohen's UFO invasion drama, The Invaders.
It's not hard to see the roots of Fox Mulder in Thinnes' deadpan-cool David Vincent or The Invaders' melding of political conspiracy, procedural crime drama and sci-fi. Take this, the occult detective conventions of Kolchak and the sexual chemistry of Steed and Peel on The Avengers TV series and you pretty much have a good elevator pitch for TXF.
Thinnes was cast on The X-Files as Jeremiah Smith for the two-parter 'Talitha Cumi'/'Herrenvolk', made while Chris Carter was literally working around the clock on both X-Files and Millennium. Perhaps sensing a missed opportunity, Carter brought Thinnes back for the pivotal Season Eight ep, 'This is Not Happening', a much better use of the character.
The Organization in the episode is nothing like the Mafia, it's on another level entirely. It's more like the secret society in Cohen's masterpiece God Told Me To, and the subtext and symbolism at work is remarkably similar as well. There's a violation at work here, genre boundaries aren't the only thing being fucked with in The Invaders. Another foreshadowing of The X-Files there.
But that's not what the fans want, is it? Most online X-Files fans gravitate towards the simple and distinctly unchallenging stuff- the monsters and the comedies. The stuff that is very comfortably unreal.
This impulse has only deepened in the days since 9/11- Lost and Battlestar Galactica might have had pretensions on top of their pretensions, but in the end they were both pure escapism. As reassuringly distant and safe as Gilligan's Island and well, the original Battlestar Galactica.
As with The X-Files mytharc, the aliens of The Invaders are simply metaphors for very, very real dangers, for forces that have only grown more powerful since the 1960s. There's no comfort in this series, which was its real downfall. The tension is unrelieved. For all its bows to mainstream TV convention, there's a dissonant note beneath the crescendoes, one that never quite goes away.
Note: This episode features an absolutely stunning performance by character actor JD Cannon.