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As Resident Alien Season 3 Airs, the Silly Sci-Fi Mystery Remains Perfect Comfort Television

Gilmore Gills.

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Major comic book adaptations have run the gamut from zombie thriller to gritty superhero satire and even frothy teen drama, but “alien murder mystery medical dramedy” probably doesn’t spring to mind. In 2021, however, that complicated premise not only became a reality, but turned into one of the decade’s most slept-on sci-fi shows. Now, its first two seasons are streaming on Netflix, and are well worth catching up as Season 3 airs on Syfy and Peacock.

Resident Alien is based on the Dark Horse comic by Peter Hogan and Steven Parkhouse, but in transitioning from page to screen, the story of an extra-terrestrial posing as a small-town doctor turned from serious and introspective to a kooky fish-out-of-water tale. The series follows Dr. Harry Vanderspiegle (secretly an alien who killed and replaced the original Dr. Vanderspiegle), only to find his reclusive life interrupted when the good people of Patience, Colorado ask him to fill in as the local doctor — and help solve the first doctor’s murder.

Dr. Vanderspiegle (both human and alien) is played by Firefly star and prolific voice actor Alan Tudyk. Resident Alien is his first lead role, and he makes the most of it. He speaks every line of dialogue like he’s struggling to get his mouth around the words, while also providing a voice-over of evil yet endearing internal monologue.

“I just want to kill everyone,” Alan Tudyk told Inverse in 2021, “and I’m just terrible. I’m terrible at pretending to be a human — the thing I want to destroy.”

Harry can use his natural camouflage to hide his true form, but it’s not perfect. In Patience, Max, the mayor’s nine-year-old son, gets a glimpse of him as an alien and becomes determined to reveal Harry’s true identity, turning the two into mortal enemies and providing much of the early comedy and drama.

While it’s sci-fi, Resident Alien also finds room for genuine human storylines that wouldn’t be out of place in a mid-2000s small-town drama: a bartender with dashed Olympic dreams, a floundering marriage, a constantly undermined sheriff’s deputy, and even a secret child. While these start as extra flavor, Harry somehow becomes the key to each subplot’s resolution.

The structure is also classic network TV. There are plenty of standalone episodes, which provide breaks to the season-long stories and let the characters loosen up a little. In one episode, Harry attends a UFO convention, angrily critiques attendees’ alien costumes, and ends up gabbing with the Ancient Aliens guy.

Nathan Fillion guest stars in Resident Alien as the voice of Harry’s octopus ally.


As the show progresses, Harry realizes he’s becoming more human than he realizes, and that he may not even want to destroy humanity even more. By Season 2, as more of Patience learns Harry’s true identity, the show becomes less about Harry versus the humans than Harry and his humans versus outside forces.

Later seasons also offer a galaxy’s worth of guest stars, many from Tudyk’s Whedonverse past. His Firefly co-star Nathan Fillion voices an octopus (a distant cousin of Harry’s alien species), and Dollhouse’s Enver Gjokaj appears as an alien hybrid. If you watch a lot of sci-fi, you’ll recognize someone sooner or later.

As a whole, Resident Alien is silly, slight, and a lot of fun. It feels like an artifact of a simpler era of television when comic book adaptation didn’t automatically mean a gigantic production budget and super-serious drama. Sometimes, all you need is a beloved character actor and a fantastic story.

Resident Alien Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix.

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