Crash-land into the wide-eyed wonder of Resident Alien

By Stephen Aspeling6 March 2024

Crash-land into the wide-eyed wonder of Resident Alien

Resident Alien is one of the most unusual shows you may watch, ever. It follows the story of an alien who crash-lands in the snowy mountains of Colorado only to pose as a doctor in the nearby small town of Patience. While the premise may remind you of Third Rock from the Sun, the classic sitcom about a family of aliens trying to study humanity and fit into society, this uninvited visitor’s mission is far more sinister. Resident Alien is an intriguing science fiction tale but has the genre-bending flexibility of Twin Peaks, able to switch up from dark comedy to gripping suspense in a heartbeat. Much like the alien that chooses to assume the identity of Dr Harry Vanderspeigle, Resident Alien’s shapeshifting ability keeps it edgy, nimble and unpredictable.

Watch the trailer for Resident Alien S3

The series stays true to the spirit of its origins, based on the Dark Horse comic books of the same name by writer Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse. Blending sci-fi, mystery and comedy-drama, there aren’t too many differences in terms of the basic set up beside it taking place in Colorado over Washington. The tone of the series adaptation is somewhat lighter and it does add a spin to the characters and narrative. Yet the driving force remains in full effect, making it accessible to mainstream audiences without losing the comic book’s fan base in its translation.

Enver Gjokaj as Joseph Rainier and Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in Resident Alien S3
Enver Gjokaj as Joseph Rainier and Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle

Most of the fun of Resident Alien is derived from its fish-out-of-water central concept around mistaken identity as an alien attempts to impersonate a doctor. This comedic element powered Third Rock from the Sun for wis seasons and ensures there’s a never-ending supply of awkward and funny moments as Harry tries to adapt to human customs and emotions. Instead of a family of aliens, this funny show centres on the day-to-day experiences and journey of one with a foot-in-mouth tendency. Add the calamity of Larry David’s call-it-like-it-is attitude and oddball community from Curb Your Enthusiasm and you’ve got yourself a powder keg of a comedy.

As he learns, at first by watching Law & Order reruns, the alien begins to wrestle with the moral dilemna of his doomsday mission as he softens to the townsfolk around him. Undetected by humans, it’s not long before Harry’s true form and secret identity is unveiled by the mayor’s nine-year-old son, who’s able to see past his disguise. Moving from Harry’s community integration in the first season to the prospect of offspring in the second season, the unfurling mysteries and ever-present doomsday threat keep Resident Alien as entertaining and engaging as its headline act.

Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in Resident Alien S3
Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle

As you’d imagine, the lead role in Resident Alien is demanding, requiring a fearless actor who’s able to keep a straight face while doing some pretty ridiculous things. That’s where Alan Tudyk comes in. Having an instantly recognisable face, Tudyk is probably best remembered for his parts in Firefly and A Knight’s Tale. However, one of his most memorable performances must have clinched the deal. In the hilarious dark comedy Death at a Funeral, Tudyk played a guest who takes the wrong pills and finds himself on a misadventure that culminates in him being stark naked on a rooftop.

Having a rubber face has its benefits and Tudyk’s hilarious performance as Harry serves as the bedrock for Resident Alien as the actor veers wildly from one scene to the next with deadpan precision. Trying to get by as an eccentric without revealing his dark secret to the locals, Tudyk oozes entertainment as the show’s star in Harry’s poor attempt to become ordinary. On that note, look out for the helpful and hilarious opening title’s “what to do” and “what not to do” infographics. Switching from one rubber face to the next, it’s a curious balancing act as the alien’s true form and things like shaving his chest remind you he’s keeping up appearances.

Sara Tomko as Asta Twelvetrees, Sarah Podemski as Kayla, Alice Wetterlund as D'Arcy Bloom and Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle in Resident Alien S3
Sara Tomko as Asta Twelvetrees, Sarah Podemski as Kayla, Alice Wetterlund as D’Arcy Bloom and Alan Tudyk as Harry Vanderspeigle

Tudyk is the clear frontrunner, counterbalanced by Sam Tomko as Asta Twelvetrees and supported by a game supporting cast. Best known for this role, Tomko is grounded, warm and thoughtful in her performance as Asta. These much-needed anchors keep Resident Alien earthed and allow Tudyk to do what he does best as a comical actor without losing touch with reality. While relatively unknown, the extensive cast features solid performances from Alice Wetterland, Judah Prehn, Levi Fiehler, Elizabeth Bowen and Corey Reynolds with a recurring guest role for Terminator’s Linda Hamilton. Good acting, casting and well-developed characters ensure the town of Patience extends beyond the four corners of the screen.

Another engaging element about Resident Alien is that in spite of being well-paced, it maintains a slow-burning sense of mystery. From the get-go, the series leverages its murder mystery as the death of the host has the town’s police duo on the hunt as clues add up. Then, as if a smouldering small town murder against the backdrop of the snowy Colorado mountains isn’t Fargo enough, the real reason behind Harry’s visit to our planet raises the stakes. Constantly swirling between these two major plot points, other intrigues rise up as Harry discovers who he can trust, an agency begins to track alien activity in the area and other extraterrestrial threats complicate matters.

Resident Alien enjoys graphic novel appeal and vivid storytelling with many twists and turns. There’s a surprising depth to the visually captivating SyFy Channel series, which is much smarter than Harry looks… as an alien or human. The edgy sense of humour keeps you entertained with a host of compelling characters to win you over. Yet, it’s the alien in the details that adds layers and provokes thought as themes based on the human condition come into play. At first a black-and-white quest, Harry’s moral dilemma deepens as he comes to understand the beauty of grey in matters relating to identity, morality and society.

Holding a 97% average on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1/10 IMDb score for Seasons 1 and 2, this critically acclaimed and beloved sci-fi comedy-drama is unleashing Season 3 in style as we speak. Watch Alan Tudyk take Harry on new comic misadventures as the absurd, playful and offbeat series cranks things up as a nemesis rises up, the grey alien threat escalates and more townsfolk are drawn into Harry’s precarious inner circle of trust.