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Series / Resident Alien

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The other kind of illegal alien.
Welcome to Patience, Colorado. I am in the middle of nowhere, a tiny town three hours from the nearest city on roads that are impassable half the year. Nobody in their right mind would live in a place like this...unless they had something to hide.
Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle

An adaptation of the comic series by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, Resident Alien is a Syfy original series starring Alan Tudyk as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, a semi-retired doctor in the small town of Patience, Colorado. Unbeknownst to all those around him, Dr. Vanderspeigle has a big secret unknown to any of them: he's an alien who has crash landed on Earth and is now hiding among them.

Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life... but things get a bit rocky when he's roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world. As he does so, Harry begins to wrestle with the moral dilemma of his mission and asking the big life questions like: "Are human beings worth saving?" and "Why do they fold their pizza before eating it?"


Initially planned to premiere Summer 2020, however production was stalled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the first episode aired on January 27, 2021 instead. A link for a teaser can be found here and a seven minute clip was released at NYC Comic-Con 2020. On March 17, 2021, two weeks before the show's first season finale, Syfy announced that they had renewed it for a second season.

This Show Has Examples of...

  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In the original comic, Harry was a benign alien who crash landed on Earth and was passing as human to keep himself hidden until rescue arrived. Here he murders the real Harry Vanderspeigle for his identity and was not only on a mission to wipe out humanity, but fully plans to get back to it once he finds the device that his ship was carrying for that purpose.
    • The government agents hunting Harry in the comics were very much Punch Clock Villains - people doing their job of tracking down alien life without malice, with the lead agent in the latest volume even making a point of non-fatally incapacitating a nurse at Harry's clinic while planting bugs. Here, Lisa murders a witness to Harry's arrival in only her second scene, and implies it's on orders from above.
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  • Adult Fear: It's usually played for humour (albeit of the dark variety), but Max's ranting and raving that the new doctor is an alien only he can see - leading to his self-admitted recruiting a friend to break into Harry's home - definitely gets serious when his parents get so concerned about him they seriously consider sending him away to a school in Georgia where he can get psychiatric help. Remove the fantastic elements of the series and suddenly seeing a young boy have a seeming break from reality is quite sobering for any parents watching.
  • Alien Abduction: We learn that aliens do abduct people, and once even took an unborn baby from its mother's womb somehow. At a UFO conference numerous people talk about being abducted and other encounters with aliens. Given this, at least some of their accounts are probably true.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The series takes place in the small town of Patience which is apparently three hours from the nearest city with roads inaccessible most of the year. Lampshaded by Harry who points out no-one in their right mind would chose to live in a place like that unless they were looking for somewhere to hide.
  • All Myths Are True: Harry confirms to Asta at the UFO conference all the reported aliens do exist (his people didn't get seen before apparently).
  • Appeal to Nature: Harry tries to justify his plan for genocide against humanity by saying everything dies in the end, and it's only humans that won't accept this as simply natural.
  • Area 51: In episode 6, the US Army find Harry's spaceship and lock it in a facility in Roswell, New Mexico.
  • Artifact Title: The series is called Resident Alien because the alien blends in by taking on the identity and job of a human doctor and because it's loosely based on the comic by the same name. However, by the sixth episode he has been replaced at the clinic by another doctor and by the eighth, the other most major character on the series knows that he's an alien and was never really a doctor.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Judy and D'Arcy. Even though D'Arcy's best friend is Asta, there's a healthy banter between the two.
    • In "Welcome Aliens", Judy seems truly upset that D'Arcy almost died. She also uses it as an excuse to get a free drink.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ben (the show's resident Extreme Doormat) and Kate (his pushy but well-meaning wife) kick the shit out of trained government agents David and Lisa when Max and Sahar are in danger.
  • Big Bad: General McAllister, who is ordering two agents - Lisa Casper and David Logan - to find Harry the alien and kill any human who gets in their way.
  • Black Comedy:
    • So, so much of Harry's feud with Max, from his Double Entendre laden bar conversation with D'Arcy where he cluelessly cops to his various killing attempts (and that it won't be the last time, either) while she's flirting with him to his Indulgent Fantasy Segues about killing him, including blowing up his house and dropping a piano on him.
    • When Max tries to convince Sheriff Thompson about seeing an alien, the sheriff tells him in annoyance to go watch Oz - a show famed for its violence and Prison Rape - to see what happens to people who wind up in jail.
    • After being found drinking fresh milk from a live cow, Harry can only yell "it was consensual!" as he's chased away.
    • Isabelle cooks meat for the alien who has assumed the form of her husband from a package that was part a set covering the body of her real husband.
    • When asked to name one thing he doesn't like about New York, Harry's blunt response is "9/11".
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Harry brushes off Asta's bewilderment that he was able to smash her 220-pound ex-husband through a wall one-handed by telling her he does yoga. Later he tries to pass off being a squeaky-voiced adult on the phone to Max as having had a terrible tricycle accident in the past.
    • The first guy to see Harry on Earth runs away in terror, leaving his hat and horse behind. By the time he recounts his story to government investigators he's recounting it as some sort of Dirty Harry-esque standoff, complete with absurd tough-guy dialogue.
    • Sheriff Mike Thompson and Deputy Liv Baker come to the Patience Health Clinic and start questioning the nurse Ellen about the intern Jay, believing that Jay might have stolen one of the murdered doctor Sam Hodges's prescription pads. They ask Ellen what she thought of Jay and Ellen replies that she always thought that Jay was a bit shifty and quiet, like she was hiding something. Then, Asta Twelvetrees, Jay's mother (though that's not generally known yet because Asta had given her up for adoption) comes over and asks what's going on.
      Ellen: They think Jay stole the prescription pads. I said she was nice and would never do that.
  • Brick Joke: Harry learns English through watching Law & Order. When the Hawthornes ask him about New York he simply describes the premise of the show.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Deputy Liv is routinely belittled and ignored by the sheriff (who openly prefers his dog as his favourite deputy), and Harry finds out in episode 3 she has a terrible backstory in accidentally causing her parents' divorce when she was younger after she discovered her dad cheating. Even the bucket she uses to store her soda ends up carrying the original Harry's severed foot at one point.
    • Mayor Hawthorne is a genuinely Nice Guy who absolutely cannot catch a break. The sheriff routinely mocks him and at one point steals his office to investigate the murders, his wife blames him for Max's ranting about aliens thanks to letting him watch E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Harry keeps spilling his therapy secrets to anyone that wanders into their sessions and he ends up violently ill on the lake while dredging for the original Harry's body after accidentally eating dog treats and getting seasick. In the finale he even admits he admires D'Arcy's fearlessness because he's scared of everything.
  • Cassandra Truth: Max being the only person who can see Harry as an alien but no one believes him. Eventually, he realizes the constant accusations will do nothing so he and Harry call a truce.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Harry looking up how to do a circumcision ends up helping him stave off Mike by using a baby's foreskin as a substitute for the skin sample Mike demanded from the severed foot of the real Harry fished out of the lake.
    • Max's posters of Harry turn out to have far-reaching consequences when Lisa sees one and realises it's a lead she can use to find the alien.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: D'Arcy does this several time in "End of the World As We Know It" as she free-climbs out of the crevasse.
  • Dead Man's Chest: After finally finding the real Harry's body, alien Harry hides it in a cooler in his basement, underneath a pile of frozen meat.
  • Due to the Dead: Asta cuts off part of her hair to honor Sam's death at Dan's urging, going by their people's traditions, which she stores in a box.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Played for drama (mostly); Harry cleverly lays out a series of photos, including Sam Neill and his own human form, and asks Max to ID him - and Max, who's unable to see Harry as anything but an alien, can't, further convincing his parents he's gone nuts.
  • Fake Guest Star: Meredith Garretson appears as Kate Hawthorne in every episode of the first season and has a fairly significant role, but is nevertheless credited as a guest star.
  • 555: The Hawthorne family phone number, as seen on Max Hawthorne's "Have you seen this alien?" poster regarding the Harry Vanderspeigle alien, is a 555 number.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Harry Vanderspeigle was this to his wife, Isabelle, so naturally she's more than a little thrown off when the alien Harry Vanderspeigle signs the divorce papers the second that she asks.
  • Gender Flip: Honey is now replaced by the mayor's son Max as the only human who sees Harry's true form.
  • Gaslighting: Harry does this to D'Arcy when she discovers the body of the original Harry and she calls him out on it. Harry also tries this unsuccessfully on Max and, to an extent, Max's parents.
  • Genre-Busting: The promotional poster for the series describes it as being "The sci-fi murder mystery doctor dramedy Earth needs now."
  • Glamour Failure: As in the comics, certain humans can see through Harry's disguise, and by what Harry terms "some bullshit" the mayor's son Max can see his true form. Harry even states the chance of a human carrying the gene needed turning up in his tiny town in the middle of nowhere are one in a million.
  • The Greys: While they haven't appeared on the show (yet), Harry does mention them by name multiple times, and considers them to be insidious assholes with an ass fetish. From what is seen of the aftermath of their activities on Earth, Harry may have a point about them being assholes. Jury is still out on the fetish though.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Greys. They have yet to make an on-screen appearance, but their actions play a crucial role in episode 9, as around the early 1990s they kidnapped multiple humans (for unexplained reasons) including an unborn baby right out of his mother's womb and so the vengeful father Peter Bach stalked and attacked Harry wrongly believing Harry to be responsible let alone aware of this infant kidnapping.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Harry accidentally smacks the sheriff in the crotch with a bowling bowl, much to D'Arcy's delight.
    • In "Welcome Aliens", a female abductee does so to Harry when he tries to cut an "implant" out of her arm.
  • Gut Feeling: Asta's father warns her something is off about Harry. When she jokes that "you have a bad feeling about everyone," he tells her that's the problem: he has no feeling when it comes to Harry.
  • Humanity Ensues: The whole point of the series.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Secrets," when the Harry alien refers to the lake the foot of the human Harry was found in as "my lake" to D'Arcy, she tells him that the lake belongs to the state of Colorado. She asks if he's trying to impress her and suggests that he be a little less needy and a little more sensitive, because somebody's died, then shouts "Come on, can we see the foot?!"
  • IKEA Erotica: Discussed. When he shares a cup of coffee with her in the morning, Harry describes everything he and his wife are going to do in the sack in meticulous, mechanical detail with a deadpan tone, gradually boring her. Then the sedative kicks in and Isabelle crashes to the floor.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • Harry continually insults everyone around him - calling the mayor "Mayor Snowflake", telling Asta his being much smarter than she is is just fact - and has a final examination of the murder victim's body at the funeral. In front of his widow and all the other mourners. It's not because he's kind of a dick, as Asta puts it, but because he's got no idea of how humans interact beyond watching TV shows.
    • Played more dramatically when Harry stands up D'Arcy on their date so he can go look for his ship's device, leaving her sad and lonely by the end of the episode.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Gloriously and deliberately invoked by Sahar in her attempts to get Max and Harry to call a truce; she threatens that she and Max will hold their breath until they pass out, and Harry will be blamed. This overlooks the fact that in a public setting like the diner at least someone will be able to see Harry never touched them, and also that Max's credibility level is zero even with his own parents - but it's clear Sahar has correctly guessed Harry won't pick up on how ludicrous this threat is, and he backs down.
  • Insult Backfire: Harry's cluelessness about social interaction leads to a lot of this.
    Asta: You want facts? OK, I'll give you two. One, you're kind of a dick.
  • Internal Reveal: The finale sees two in the space of as many scenes; first Asta realises through various little clues what actually happened to the real Harry, then David reveals to Max and Sahar that Harry's actually on Earth to kill everyone.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: The reason Harry's ship crashed was because the night he arrived on Earth was during thunderstorm; a bolt of lightning struck his ship and damaged the engines.
  • Little Green Men: They don't appear in the flesh but Harry says they're real and very cute.
  • Local Hangout: Harry goes to Joe's Diner on a daily basis which makes it easy for Max to find him.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Asta is revealed to be Jay's mother, the result of a Teen Pregnancy that Sam helped Asta go through and helped her give her up for adoption. Asta holds some internal conflicts about whether or not she did the right thing giving her up, having seen the lifestyle Jay is putting herself through.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: When D'Arcy offers Harry more whiskey in "Homesick," he refuses, saying that the last time he drank it, he tried to kill someone. D'Arcy takes it as a joke or at the very least an exaggeration, having no idea that he really did try to murder the boy Max Hawthorne for being able to see through his alien disguise. She quips that if he does kill someone, he should make it look like an accident or else he won't be able to go bowling with her the next evening. This makes him decide to try again with Max. He first considers a gas explosion, and eventually settles on cutting the brakes on Max's bike, based on a comment of D'Arcy's about breaking bones while skiing. However, Max only ends up needing stitches, which Harry himself has to sew.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Having No Social Skills and little idea of how humans operate in general, Harry's response to really aggravating humans is generally to try and kill them. In the space of the first episode alone he tries to kill Max for being able to see through his disguise and later comes within a breath of strangling Asta's abusive ex-husband to death after seeing him assault her, to which even Asta reacts in horror. Later on he immediately grabs a knife when Max's mother comes to see him about his claims Harry's an alien, before realizing she thinks her son is making it all up.
  • Never Found the Body: One of Harry's many problems is finding the body of the original Dr. Vanderspeigle. After throwing him in the lake on the night he assumed his identity, he now worries the corpse will wash up on shore and expose his ruse. It washes up in episode 3, with Harry managing to get to it before anyone else.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Harry gets confused after Max and Sahar tell him that the Men in Black don't necessarily dress in black, with some being women. This confuses him, naturally, so he asks why they're called that. Sahar retorts that it's cooler than saying "people in clothes".
  • Not Himself: Isabelle, Harry's wife, is very aware that her husband's acting really strangely. Naturally though she doesn't realize this is because he's dead, and "Harry" is an alien imposter.
  • Odd Friendship: Once the whole "trying to kill/expose the other" thing is put behind them, Harry enters this with Max (and by extension Sahar), with Harry using the boy to find his ship's components and Max coming over to see how he's doing the following episode.
  • Parental Abandonment: Asta's mother abandoned her when she was little, and Dan raised her after that. We never hear what became of her birth father. Later she gave up her baby as a teenager under pressure from Jimmy, the father, who said they were too young to be parents.
  • Parental Neglect: Harry's able to convince Max's mother that Max's "stories" about his being an alien are the result of his making them up to get her to pay attention to him. As she's a teacher at his school, her public displays of affection only end up embarrassing her son further.
  • Parental Substitute: Sam Hodges, the prior doctor, was this to Asta due to her falling out with her own father over her teen pregnancy. Harry recognizing it's one of the reasons she's taking his death so hard is one of the first major glimmers of humanity he shows. Dan before was also this for her, as he isn't her birth father but raised Asta as her mother abandoned her when she was little (we don't hear what became of her birth father).
  • Perception Filter: Played With. Initially, unlike the comics, Harry's human form is a physical transformation (and a painful one) at that, but his true alien form can be seen in any reflective surface - indicating it's a combination of illusion and physical changes.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Harry accidentally makes Mike go on a rant about PC culture when he tries to throw him off his trail by pointing out that the Serial Killer he's looking for could be a woman.
  • Precision F-Strike: Subverted: when Harry rips down all Max's posters of him, he tries to rub it in with insults like "dickhead" and "shit for brains". Unfortunately, his command of social situations is poor enough that Max basically shrugs it off and ends up verbally embarrassing him again.
  • Real Person Cameo: Yup, that's Giorgio Tsoukalos at the UFO convention.
  • The Reptilians: According to Harry, this species is trying to conquer the universe by breeding hybrids on Earth, but they won't succeed because they're "gross" and have "serious hygiene problems".
  • Revealing Cover Up: Even while he thinks killing Max is easier, Harry does realize that if something happens to the boy in a town this small right after he made such crazy accusations against Harry, it'll look suspicious.
  • The Rez: Patience is within driving distance of a Ute reservation where many of Asta and Dan's extended family and tribe live. Notable in largely averting the standard varieties of the trope.
  • Running Gag:
    • Harry's love of Law & Order, because he learned how to act human by watching episodes of the show. Early on he makes a "chung-chung" noise when he makes a dramatic revelation.
    • In "Secrets" Harry mentions that he should have spent more time doing his job and less watching L&O marathons.
    • He describe his "hometown" of New York City by paraphrasing the intro.
    • When he imagines getting a job as a tattooist, he puts the face of Jerry Orbach on his client.
    • When Harry mentions Jerry Orbach to Max, Max has no idea who Orbach is.
    • Harry using vulgar terms in a medical context such as "tit" instead of "breast" or "prick" instead of "penis."
    • Harry realizing too late that something is funny and gives a forced, awkward laugh.
  • Shout-Out: In the "Pilot," Max Hawthorne has a poster for ET The Extraterrestrial on the wall of his room and his father is mentioned as having let him watch E.T. E.T. was an Amblin Entertainment production and Resident Alien is from Amblin Television.
    • In "The Green Glow", Nathan Fillion does the voice of the Octopus. Fillion and Alan Tudyk were on Firefly together.
    • Everyone who realises what Lisa and David seems to describe them as Men in Black using dialogue from the movie. General Mc Allister even snaps at David for "watching too many movies" when he calls them that.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Initially an entirely one-sided example on Harry's part; he regards Max, the mayor's hapless young son, as a grave threat after it turns out he can see his true form through his disguise. Slightly darker than normal in that Harry then tries to kill him when drunk, while poor Max can only run away screaming. Following that, Max is still paranoid about Harry but otherwise has become more willing to stand up to him and even prank him out of spite, effectively becoming a more straightforward example of this. They finally grow out of it in episode 5, after some spectacular Insane Troll Logic from Sahar Harry is unable to get past, calling a truce where Max stops trying to expose Harry and in return Harry calls off trying to convince his parents he's insane.
  • Special Guest:
  • Spotting the Thread: Harry is able to figure out Jay is actually Asta's daughter by how they have the same facial structure and habits of eating and such. Naturally, he has to blurt this out in front of Asta's family, who had no idea.
  • Truthin Television: D'Arcy's depression mirrors that many Olympic athletes go through after their intense athletic careers come to a close
  • Villain Protagonist: Harry is the main character, and his long-term goal is wiping out humanity.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: D'Arcy and Judy, the clerk at the bowling alley who got a pelvic exam from Harry.
  • Wham Line:
    • At the end of "Birds of a Feather," Harry has just discovered Max and Sahar passed out on his basement floor. He is dismayed to find them still alive, but bags them up and takes them upstairs, only to discover an unknown woman in the cabin. He asks her how she got in, given that the door was locked. She tells him, "I have a key. I am still your wife."
    • At the end of "Heroes of Patience", Harry sees Max has stowed away in his spaceship, and says, "This is some bullshit."
  • Wham Episode:
    • "End of the World as We Know It" sees Asta finally discovering Harry is an alien, as well as Lisa discovering one of Max's posters of Harry's alien form.
    • "Welcome Aliens" has D'Arcy break into Harry's home - and discover the real Harry's corpse in the freezer.
  • Wham Shot:
    • If you had avoided most trailers, the opening scene of Harry in the back of the police car and the mirror showing his true alien form is jarring.
    • In-universe for both Max and Harry as the boy sees the doctor in his true alien form.
    • The flashback to the night "Harry's" ship crashed on Earth...and then showing that Asta witnessed it.
    • The opening of episode 4 showing Harry dreaming of a nice day out on the town...then activating his device which vaporizes everyone around him and showing what he's planning to do for the entire planet.
    • The opening of "Heroes of Patience", showing the original Harry injecting Sam Hodges's insulin, revealing he was Abigail's accomplice in the murder (or that he framed Abigail, depending on what theory you believe).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Harry's backup job as Patience's therapist is dropped after "Homesick".
  • World of Jerkass: Played with; while most of the main characters have unpleasant edges initially, there's reasoning for it shown as the series goes along. Asta's initial snappishness with Harry is shown to be down to his replacing her Parental Substitute Sam, D'Arcy's being a complete prick to her patrons seems to be her trying to impress Harry (whom she has a crush on), Max's increasing weirdness is understandable considering Harry tried to kill him (twice), Mayor Hawthorne's incompetence is because he's a well-meaning Extreme Doormat and Deputy Liv is more tragic than anything else. Even the sheriff's dickishness seems to be partly down to both frustration he's stuck in such a middle-of-nowhere job and delight the murder finally gives him something to do.


Video Example(s):


One of Them Owes Me Money

In "Welcome Aliens" from "Resident Alien," Asta Twelvetrees and the HughMann alien Harry Vanderspeigle attend an alien convention, Harry searching for tech to repair his device. They attend some panels and Harry compliments a guy (guest Giorgio A. Tsoukalos) for praising the aliens as teachers of the ancient architects, reveals that the astronauts did land on the moon and had their bodies taken over by aliens, and provides wry commentary on several alien species, revealing that they do exist. ("insidious assholes," "jerks, so cheap," "they are cute, but they so know it," "one of them owes me money," "they're actually very nice.")

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllMythsAreTrue

Media sources:

Main / AllMythsAreTrue