Friday, September 19, 2014

Ahead of their time: "UFO" and "The Invaders"

By nature, good science fiction is meant to be "ahead of its time."

For television, Star Trek often touts itself as such.  The show predicted cellphones, virtual reality, and maybe even Spotify to hear them say it.  But just recently, I came across two online articles that eruditely explained why two science fiction series from the 1960s truly deserve that phrase "ahead of its time" as a moniker.  They are The Invaders and UFO.

The Invaders was a Quinn-Martin production that starred Roy Thinnes as an ordinary guy who finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy.  An advance guard of aliens have arrived on Earth.  They come from a dying planet and seek to take over our world for their own.  To do so, they're going with the "attack from within" trope.  Their advanced technology allows them to look as human as anyone else on Earth, allowing them to get in on the inside.  Since they look like everyone else, nobody believes poor Roy Thinnes.  Thus, drama ensues.

Nick Redfern examined The Invaders over at Mysterious Universe.  He pointed out that one of the show's spin-off novels had "a distinct zombie theme" where said zombies are really normal humans under mind control, thralls to their alien masters.  Given that, for better or worse, zombies are more popular than ever (I even give writing assignments over it), The Invaders may have anticipated the craze in lesser respects.  That fear of losing your identity to a control system is a big one for us meatspace creatures.  No wonder this show was such an influence on writers of The X-Files and even me.  My very visual definition of "UFO" comes from owning a model of the saucer used in the show (seen above).

Speaking of UFO, a show by Gerry Anderson of that very name was featured on io9.  It referenced how the cool gear and vehicles of the show seems to have predicted the military hardware of our day.

UFO is about a secret organization called SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) that defended the Earth against hostile aliens.  The war is clandestine and kept out of the public eye as much as can be but the skirmishes surface in the news from time to time as UFO sightings.  While the plot and characters were often intricate, it was the cool vehicles most of us watched for.  The enemy aliens would be met with Interceptor fighters launched from a Moonbase and even from a submarine.  There were also tank-like ground vehicles that were sick as hell.  In fact, the show had to have been a direct inspiration for X-COM: UFO Defense.

Today, the Marine Corps travels in their kickass V-22 Osprey.  Though airing in the late 1960s, UFO already had civilians travelling in such tiltrotor aircraft.  The previously mentioned interceptors bear something of a physical resemblance to the trouble-plagued F-35.  Plus, both the real and fictional fighters had VTOL capability...seemed to be a big selling point in Anderson's vision of the future.  Sadly, we cannot yet do anything as cool as launch a fighter from a submarine, but given the fact that most future tactical combat aircraft will be drones, such a launching platform may be more likely.

I'm sure it's in the black ops budget somewhere.

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  1. On Facebook, Jason said: "Oh, UFO. Gerry Anderson had the future all planned out for us, but we apparently didn't listen to him."

  2. On Facebook, Lee said: "The Invaders is my favourite TV show ever. Even to this day I still find myself checking out people's little fingers when standing in the bus queue!"

  3. Of course, THE INVADERS was a major inspiration for UFO., as it was one of Gerry Anderson's favorite American series and led to him recruiting Roy Thinnes to star in his movie DOPPLEGANGER.


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