First shown: 28 November 1970 (US), 26 March 1971 (UK)
Director: Jeremy Summers
Writer: Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
John Horsley (Mr Leming)
Sam Kydd, Dervis Ward, Michael Brennan (Spaceman)
Ivor Salter (Policeman)
Brains is converting a black and white TV to colour. The gang pick up what appears to be a warning about aliens invading Earth, and find themselves menaced by the invaders. But in fact it is a publicity stunt for a new candy (sic) product, as the kids eventually find out after being transported to the headquarters of the "spacemen" and causing havoc. Their attempt to save the world itself becomes a publicity stunt.
Two high-speed chases in the junkyard; a couple of excellent moments of acting from poor Doughnut, terrified in the warehouse and then sick as a dog at the end; excellent buildup of menace from the spacemen, who get a leitmotif ripped from Holst via Quatermass, before we viewers are let into the secret halfway through.
And some more lovely visuals: Billie's hair standing on end with fright; the kids in camouflage; the spacemen prosaically drinking tea; the maze of cardboard boxes in the warehouse, every child's dream; and ἀγάπη wins again.
Less glorious moments
Doughnut's good moments are compensation for the ongoing fat-shaming. In fact he is the first to work out what is going on, and is then pushed by the others into changing his mind.
Although the spacemen drink tea, it looks like Mr Leming is finding more potent solace from the bottles on his windowsill.
What's all this then?
The source material here is obviously the famous (if not completely verified) panic caused by the broadcast of Orson Welles' radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds in 1938, combined with the following thirty years' accrual of alien invasion lore. A 1965 film with the same title as this episode, Invaders From Space, featured the hero Starman defending the Earth from aliens. The spacesuits (and indeed one of the spacemen) are recycled from the 1969 film Moon Zero Two, starring James Olson, Catherine Schell, Warren Mitchell and Adrienne Corri in a lunar crisis set in 2021 - I hadn't heard of this before but it sounds rather fun. You can see the suits in this trailer:
Glyn Jones had written a Doctor Who story, The Space Museum, five years earlier which similarly depends on a shift of perception - he doesn't seem to have realised it himself, but this was a trick he did rather well. In case you want to compare and contrast, here's the first (and much the best) episode of the story:
The spacemen walk along, and later drive along, Shenley Road in Borehamwood.
John Horsley (Mr Leming) was born in 1920 and played a variety of minor authority figures. The peak of his career came a few years later as Doc Morrissey in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1973-76, revised 1996). He died in 2014.
Sam Kydd (Spaceman) was born in Belfast in 1915 (to English parents who soon moved back to England). He had hit the big time as smuggler Orlando O'Connor in the 1963 TV series Crane and its 1965 successor Orlando. He also had small parts in The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and Moon Zero Two (1969). His last big role was as Frankie Baldwin in Coronation Street (1980-82). He died in 1982. His son, Jonathan Kydd, is an actor and voiceover artist.
Dervis Ward (Spaceman), born in 1923, was another actor who appeared in a lot of minor parts. He was in an episode of the Double Deckers predecessor, The Magnificent Six ½, and in its successor film, Go For A Take, so presumably was a friend of the house. He died in 1996.
Michael Brennan (Spaceman), born in 1912, played minor tough guy parts for most of his career, the most visible being Janni in the James Bond film Thunderball (1965). In 1972 he had a regular role as the sergeant major in The Regiment, a TV series starring Christopher Cazeneuve. He died in 1982.
The fourth Spaceman is uncredited; likewise the handsome chap in the TV advert.
See you next week...