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Syfy's 'Resident Alien' Has an Easy Time Fitting into the TV Universe
January 27, 2021  | By David Hinckley  | 162 comments

When we finally meet aliens on TV or movie screens, it's remarkable how many of them turn out pretty cordial. Mork, Alf, ET, Close Encounters.

Dr. Harry Vanderspiegle has no such benevolence in his alien soul.

Dr. Vanderspiegle (Alan Tudyk, top) alights Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy as the title character in Resident Alien.

He hasn't come to Earth to make friends or to nosh on Reese's Pieces. He's come to kill us all.

This makes him closer kin to the aliens in old-school low-budget horror movies, who never meant us any good. Fortunately for the human race, he lost his weapon of mass destruction when he crash-landed, so he is forced to assimilate for a spell while he tries to locate it under great swaths of Colorado snow.

Resident Alien is set in Patience, Colo., which gives it lovely mountain vistas and the winter feel of a town whose annual snowfall runs around nine feet.

It's based the Peter Hogan/Steve Parkhouse comic book of the same name, and it never forgets the "comic" part. The show's running humor softens some of the edge in Dr. Vanderspiegle's recurring declaration that he will carry out his mission.

He has been sent to Earth by the residents of his native planet who are tired of the fact that Earthlings are so stupid. On the evolutionary intelligence scale, Harry explains in one of his many narrative voiceovers, humans rate somewhere below lizards.

This is a problem because they will inevitably do something so stupid it affects other, more evolved beings in the universe. So it makes more sense just to wipe them out and pretend Earth never happened.

Dr. Vanderspiegle doesn't arrive on Earth as a doctor. He arrives as a more classic alien, with a green face, dangerous eyes, extra limbs, and a crab-like style of getting around.

But once he has landed and realizes it will take some time to find his weaponry, he must assimilate so as not to arouse suspicion.

Fortunately for him, he has crashed in a remote area, where he finds a cabin and assumes the identity of the human occupant he kills. Morphing into human form is part of his advanced skillset, and it makes him look human to pretty much everyone he meets.

That includes Patience Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds), Mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler) and, most importantly, Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko), the assistant in the town doctor's office.

Harry becomes a player in Asta's life when the town doctor is found dead and Harry gets an emergency summons to figure out what happened.

This gives him a level of assimilation he neither sought nor wants, but, here again, he's afraid of the suspicion it might arouse if he refused.

Meanwhile, he has been taking a crash course in human culture, learning English by watching Law & Order reruns.

While this gives him a narrow perspective, it guarantees viewers a string of gags about what is appropriate human conversation.

Asta becomes his unknowing mentor, taking even the most bizarre of his remarks in stride. She figures he's just an outsider, a guy who lives in a cabin in the woods.

Asta has her own issues, as does everyone else in town, and once Harry inherits the town doctor position, he's ideally placed to learn about them and sometimes find himself at their center.

He finds the townspeople generally good-hearted, which naturally starts to create a hint of a moral dilemma as he moves ever-closer to slaughtering them.

Resident Alien requires suspension of several disbeliefs, even beyond the premise of a one-man alien apocalypse.

Harry can be hilariously dense in his misreading of human culture one minute and deeply perceptive five seconds later. Asta has to shrug off or not notice some behaviors that could have been lifted straight out of The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

But Harry and Asta make a solid central team for an entertaining TV drama, and Resident Alien looks like it could become a round of good fun in small-town America.

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