1967: The U.N.C.L.E./Invaders connection

A first-season episode of The Invaders directed by Sutton Roley…

….and a fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode directed by Sutton Roley

The final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) included a major change in tone. The show got a lot more serious after a campy third season.

The primary reason was a change in producers. In came Anthony Spinner, a veteran of some Quinn Martin series. His time at QM Productions up to that point included being associate producer for the first season of The Invaders.

Spinner had written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Secret Sceptre Affair. But he also wrote a number of episodes for Quinn Martin series such as 12 O’Clock High and The FBI.

QM Productions hired Spinner for the Invaders, where he was deputy to the day-to-day producer, Alan A. Armer.

The show was a departure for QM — it was a science fiction series about how architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) tries to convince humanity the Earth is being invaded by an alien race.

The Invaders was a mid-season replacement series that debuted in January 1967 on ABC. Spinner departed the show after the first half-season and he landed as the new day-to-day producer for U.N.C.L.E.

Spinner, along the way, hired some contributors from The Invaders. Among them were writers Don Brinkley, Robert Sherman and John W. Bloch. Bloch, like Spinner, had also worked on a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode. Sherman’s U.N.C.L.E.’s script was among those that went unproduced because the series was canceled at mid-season.

But perhaps the most significant contributor from The Invaders was director Sutton Roley (1922-2007).

Roley was known for filming shots from unusual angles. He helmed two episodes of the first season of The Invaders, including one titled The Innocent.

The aliens try to fool David Vincent about their intentions, claiming they really want to help mankind.

The episode includes a point-of-view shot where Vincent, having not been fooled, looks up at the aliens.

Roley would direct three episodes in U.N.C.L.E.’s Spinner-produced final season, including the two-part series finale, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. The director practically duplicates his shot from The Invaders as we see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) look at people hovering over him.

For U.N.C.L.E., the changes brought by Spinner didn’t pan out. The show got clobbered in the ratings by Gunsmoke on CBS (a series which had been initially canceled but reprieved).

Nevertheless, a number of contributors to The Invaders had an impact on the tone for the final 16 episodes of The Man From U.N.C..E.

Footnote: The main guest star in The Innocent was Michael Rennie. He’d be the villain in the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Thrush Roulette Affair. Rennie would also return in the second season of The Invaders for the show’s only two-part story.

The Invaders CD set coming Oct. 17

Cover for The Invaders CD set

A two-disc CD set for The Invaders is coming out Oct. 17 from La-La Land Records.

It is the label’s second volume of soundtracks from television shows produced by Quinn Martin Productions.

It’s a limited edition release of up to 2,000 sets, according to an announcement on La-La Land’s Facebook page.

The show was perhaps the most unusual from QM and it only ran 43 episodes in 1967 and 1968.

The Invaders kind of flipped the format of QM’s The Fugitive. With The Fugitive, a lonely innocent man (David Janssen) is being pursued. With The Invaders, a lonely, determined man (Roy Thinnes) is pursuing invaders who want to take over the Earth. The show has a following that endured.

Some of the music, in fact, has an odd history of its own.

The initial composer for the series was Dominic Frontiere (1931-2017). Prior to The Invaders, Frontiere had been composer and production executive during the first season of The Outer Limits. That show was made by Daystar Productions and United Artists Television.

The producers of The Outer Limits made an unsold pilot for an anthology show called The Unknown. When the pilot failed to sell, it ran as an episode of The Outer Limits. A few years later, Frontiere took his theme for The Unknown and made it into the theme for The Invaders.

With the CD set, one disc is work by Frontiere with the second disc by other composers, including Richard Markowitz. He’s best known for his work on The Wild Wild West but worked a fair number of QM shows.

Meanwhile, below you can compare the titles of the unsold Unknown pilot and the titles of The Invaders. Besides the Frontiere music, each has a “ripping” visual. Thankfully, the “ripping” for The Invaders was silent.