Resident Alien TV REVIEW: A brilliant, comedic take on a serious comic book


Reflections are cleverly used to show us Harry's true form.

Even a well-versed comic book fan like me was surprised to discover that Resident Alien on SyFy is based on a comic book. Now that the second half of season 2 is about to start on August 10, here’s a handy primer to set the stage for you to jump on board and watch one of the funniest, most well-written and acted shows on television.


The very different-looking comic book Harry. At least the tv show kept the logo!

Resident Alien started in 2011 as three installments in Dark Horse Presents from Dark Horse Comics and the most recent miniseries was in 2021. Created by writer Peter Hogan and Artist Steve Parkhouse, Resident Alien is the story of an extraterrestrial that crash-landed/stranded on Earth. Using powers of suggestion, the alien is able to hide his true appearance from Earth residents, while he tries to blend in and survive until he can contact his homeworld for rescue. This alien quickly learns the local language and customs, and assumes the identity of semiretired Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, who lives in a lovely cabin on a lake in Patience, USA, a town most likely in the Pacific Northwest.

The alien also loves television, especially thrillers and crime procedurals. So when the local police show up at his doorstep needing his advice on a murder, he is resistant to help, but is secretly very eager to put his tv-learned detective skills to work. The only catch: the town’s mayor also twists his arm to stand in for the town doctor, who happens to be the murder victim. This becomes the premise of Resident Alien comic: a straight drama/crime procedural.

And this is where the comic and the tv series differ in tone: the tv series is not only a crime procedural, but is played for comedic effect. Not for the residents of Patience, but for us as viewers, who are experiencing events through the eyes and narration of “Harry.” Harry’s exasperation with and hatred of humans is also different from the comic book Harry, who is nothing but kind and empathetic toward them. Another big difference from the comics is Harry’s mission: on tv, his mission is to destroy the Earth. But as Harry spends more and more time around humans, he begins to regret his mission.

Another big difference from the comics to tv is how the viewer sees Harry. In the comics, Harry always appears as an alien. On tv, he appears to us as human, except when he lets his mental guard down or we see his reflection in a mirror, often in very cleverly designed shots.


The sheriff, Asta, and Harry

Most of the characters from the comic are in the tv series, but with a few gender and race swaps, with the story focusing on the relationship between Harry and a nurse at the town clinic named Asta, whose father is also a shaman-like local figure. Unlike the blah, jaded sheriff in the comics, the tv sheriff is an arrogant, almost foolish character, who takes himself way too seriously. Asta’s BFF D’arcy is the town’s Olympic skiing hero who owns the local bar, and chases every guy who walks in the door. The setting and eccentric cast of characters in the town of Patience remind me very much of another Pacific Northwest-located tv series, Northern Exposure.


The lead character of the show could not have been cast any more perfectly. Just when I thought I couldn’t appreciate Alan Tudyk as an actor more, he creates what is certain to be his career highlight in Harry the alien. Tudyk has developed a style of speaking that aptly captures what an alien with a different mouth structure would sound like when trying to speak English. It is halting, quirky, and hilarious every time he opens his mouth. Surely many takes are wasted because the actors around him are constantly breaking out in laughter. The tv design of Harry is much more sophisticated, with origins in a water-based life form, a welcome change from the stereotypical ET drawn in the comics.


D'arcy is a genuine scene-stealer

But what I like the most about this show is its heart. At its core, Resident Alien is a show about relationships, and every character’s relationships get developed and explored, and everyone is given meaty storylines.

Harry’s relationship with Asta may be the focus, but a sub-plot is the fact that Harry’s camouflaging skills are not perfect: some people are immune to his mental whammy, including Max, the mayor’s young son. When Harry realizes this, the show goes up a notch, with their mutual hatred, battling, and one-upmanship.


Harry vs Max is hilarious

Of course, what would a show about a stranded alien be without some government men in black pursuing him? There’s escalating action on that front as well in season 2.

Do yourself a favor and visit syfy.com to watch the first half of season 2, and get ready for the second half on August 10. However, Resident Alien is not really suitable for kids…it’s definitely a show meant for adults.

RECOMMENDED READING:

Dark Horse Presents #4-6 (2011) – First appearance of Resident Alien

Dark Horse Presents #18-20 (2012-2013)


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