(art by Aireen Arellano - to view larger version, click here)
SHOW: The Twilight Zone
EPISODE: “The Invaders”
FIRST AIRED: Jan. 27, 1961
Submitted for your disapproval, an unspoken rule, a blasphemous observation, a cold hard dose of reality-shaking truth: half of The Twilight Zone’s episodes were just not very good.
Of course, the classics are the classics are the classics: “Where Is Everybody?” “The Midnight Sun,” and “The After Hours” live on as witty and memorable forays into the darkest corners of the human condition. But for every “Eye of the Beholder,” the writers served up a pile of other episodes that remain forgotten for a reason.
In looking at the lackluster1983 movie, the 1985 or 2002 TV reboots, or countless attempts to translate the Twilight Zone format to niche audiences (VH1 mounted a supernatural music anthology series in 2001 called Strange Frequency), one might wonder why no one can seem to replicate The Twilight Zone’s creative success. It may have something to do with the fact that the progenitor series had a middling success rate itself.
Rod Serling and company were anything but hacks. They were brilliant, daring dreamers who swung for the fences weekly. But the very nature of an anthology series nullifies the most reliable rules of thumb that writers follow to engage a television audience. Familiar characters, settings, and themes aren’t at the forefront. Ideas take center stage. Suggestions. Offerings.
This is what most if not all Twilight Zone episodes were: not taut stories but provocative “What if?” prompts meant to do nothing more than propose a devilish idea and pin it with a neat little twist. Many of these episodes weren’t fully formed works of fiction. They were narrative zygotes.
All of this makes Season Two’s perennial classic, “The Invaders” that much more thrilling: in a five-season collection of hit-or-miss episodes that lacked resolution, meaty character arcs, or (let’s face it) good old-fashioned logic, this macabre tale of man vs. monster really does have it all.