Pod People (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
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Pod People (also known as Body Snatchers) is the colloquial term for a species of plantlike aliens featured in the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 remake of the same name and the 1993 film Body Snatchers. They are not to be confused with the 2007 film Invasion of the Pod People, though they share similar themes.
History from the novel
The Pod People are a race of nomadic, extraterrestrial parasites originating from a now dying planet. Realizing that it was only a matter of time before the planet's resources would be completely depleted, the pods somehow evolved the ability to defy gravity and leave their planet's atmosphere in the search of a new world to colonize. For millennia, the pods floated in space like spores, propelled by the solar winds, some occasionally landing on inhabited planets. Once there, they would replace the dominant species by spawning emotionless replicas; the original bodies would then disintegrate into dust once the duplication process was completed. They would then consume all of the planet's resources, only to then leave in search of yet another new world. Such a consumption was apparently the fate of the civilizations that once inhabited Mars and the Moon. The Pods' sole purpose in life was that of individual survival, with no attention given to the civilizations they conquered or the resources they squandered. The duplicates had lifespans of only five years, and could not sexually reproduce. Their invasion of Earth was short-lived: unable to tolerate the sheer determination humanity displayed in defense, the Pods abandoned the planet, leaving behind a small population of duplicates, who died shortly after.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 film)
One of the pod people hints at their extraterrestrial origin and purpose without fully explaining it. In the end Dr. Miles Bennell, played by Kevin McCarthy, gets away from the town and tells his story to a psychiatrist. A truck carrying pods is involved in an accident; thereafter the psychiatrist believes the story. He then asks the FBI and police to quarantine the town. The audience is left to only wonder whether they were successful or not. The original ending was less hopeful about the fate of humanity, ending before McCarthy escapes to a psychiatrist. The final shot is of him standing in the middle of a highway shouting warnings at passing cars and then directly at the camera.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film)
The origin of the Pod People clones in the 1978 film remains the same as in the first film adaptation, though again only suggested. In this film, we see the aliens in their pre-invasion form. They appear as gelatinous creatures who abandon their dying world somewhere in deep space. Once they land on Earth, they assimilate leaves and become pink flowers; the aliens eventually begin growing the larger, 6-foot-long (1.8 m) pods. This time, those subverted can scream in an eerie high-pitched alien voice, which is apparently used to alert other pod people of humans in their midst who have not yet been taken over. They also seem to exhibit a kind of extra-sensory perception. When one character stabs his almost formed pod double, another pod person immediately emits the alien scream.
This version does not end with the same hope with which the novel and previous movie do, but ends with the pod people taking over almost everyone on Earth. The movie shows several ships being stockpiled with pods to be sent out into other parts of the world. In the very last scene, Veronica Cartwright's character is happy to see the hero, played by Donald Sutherland, only to hear him emit the alien scream. It is thereby implied that despite their best efforts, they were unable to stop the alien force, and that Earth is apparently doomed.
There is a difference in the pods between the original film and the remake. In the original, the pods burst open and begin duplicating Miles and his friends while they are wide awake. In the remake, the pods and flowers stay dormant until the humans are asleep. The alien duplicates are also far more overtly emotionless than the ones in the original film, to the extent that, apart from "leader" duplicates such as Dr Kibner, they do not appear to be able to even feign emotional states and reactions. It is unclear whether the duplicates eat, though we see one drinking water in a scene at Elizabeth Driscoll's apartment..
Body Snatchers (1993 film)
As in the 1978 film, these pod people emit the same high-pitched scream to indicate non-converts among them. Their extraterrestrial origin is hinted at even less (only suggested through a pan-in of the galaxy during the opening credits, and a statement by the duplicate General that they've traveled "light-years"). The bodies of these Pod People also shrivel and disintegrate when they are killed, just like the originals. As with the 1978 remake, this version seems to preclude any hopeful conclusion by the ambiguous ending in which the two leads land after seemingly destroying the pod people, only to find that the pilot who helped them land is apparently one of the aliens, reflecting back to the eerie warning earlier stated: "There's no one like you left."
The Invasion (2007 film)
In The Invasion, the invaders are changed from pods to an alien virus that is contracted through liquids. Once the person falls asleep, the virus rewrites human DNA. The aliens then vomit a gelatinous substance into liquids to help the invasion continue. When the invasion gains considerable strength, the pod people transform humans by directly injecting them with the substance, under the guise of "influenza vaccines". As it continues across the globe, entire world conflicts are resolved, including the Iraq War and Darfur. However, it is discovered that people who had certain illnesses during childhood were completely immune to the virus. A vaccine is created and the entire pandemic is cured within a year; those infected, after being treated, are unable to remember events during their infection, "as though they were in a deep sleep". Similar to previous incarnations, the virus can kill its human host. This is hinted at when Carol takes a picture of a human being converted and sends him into cardiac arrest. It is actually evidenced during Carol and Gene's exchange on the commuter train:
Carol: Where are your parents Gene?
Gene: They didn't survive. Your family is my family now.