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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 secret: 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 big life questions like: "Are human beings worth saving?" and "Why do they fold their pizza before eating it?"

The show premiered in 2021 and has aired two seasons, with a shortened third currently filming.

This show provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Harry starts calling Ben "Mayor Snowflake" after hearing Sheriff Mike call him that, not realizing it was an insult.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The series is set in the fictional town of Patience, Colorado. The comics on which it was based are set in Patience, Washington.
  • 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.
  • Adult Adoptee: In the season 2 finale, Harry seriously considers adopting the 28 years old son of the Alien Tracker who recently died. However, the man makes clear that he wants to leave on his own.
  • An Aesop: Most episodes have a lesson of some sort that they are trying to teach, even if only mostly subtly. These are usually summed up in Harry's thoughts at the end of the episodes, such as "Killing may make humans feel strong in the moment, but what I've begun to realize is, true strength comes from choosing not to kill. Maybe being truly human is about choosing to love instead. But with that love comes the pain I feel inside me." or "Humans have discovered that there is strength in numbers. But maybe the strongest thing in their life is the person they are closest to. Everybody needs a friend, especially when they are in danger."
  • 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 choose to live in a place like that unless they were looking for somewhere to hide.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Just like in the comic, Harry knows English, only instead of being an experienced speaker, the TV version learned it in a matter of months by binge-watching Law and Order.
  • 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.
  • Atlantis: Harry offhandedly mentions Atlantis was real, and apparently its destruction came about due to being overpopulated.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology: D'Arcy's painkiller addiction shows symptoms more consistent with a stimulant. Opioids in particular tend to present more as somnolence and central nervous system depression.
  • As Himself: Giorgio Tsoukalos is one of the panelists at a UFO convention that Harry and Asta visit, shamelessly pushing his book, and seeming to actually get a lot of details about Harry's galaxy right. He appears in the second season as a prisoner in General McCallister's black-site on suspicion of being an alien. Harry, in his alien form, frees him, recognizing him from the convention. For his part, Giorgio is thrilled to see Harry again, as an alien, and shouts that he knew they were real.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Judy and D'Arcy are initially teased as bitter enemies until it becomes clear that they're actually good friends exchanging banter. They will regularly trade vicious barbs before transitioning to more amiable talk. In "Welcome Aliens," Judy seems truly upset that D'Arcy almost died, though she also uses it as an excuse to get a free drink.
  • Bad Future: "The Alien Within" reveals the truth about Goliath: He's actually Harry from a distant future where the bad aliens succeeded in destroying all human life and reducing the planet to a wasteland.
  • 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 murder 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 of 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.
  • 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. The sheriff, Isabelle, D'arcy and the meddling kids all try to get a look inside.
  • Dead Person Conversation: After mixing sleeping pills and alcohol, note  Harry passes out and argues with the corpse of the real Harry Vanderspiegle. When he decides to disintegrate Dr. Vanderspiegle's corpse with his doomsday device, the body talks to him again.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Harry is forced into this role when the townspeople of Patience need a new doctor.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Asta, D'Arcy, Ben, Judy, and Liv grew up together in Patience. Old memories and classmates' names regularly come up in conversation.
  • 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. This continues to be the case in the second season, though she does eventually have an episode in which she doesn't appear.
    • This is also the case for Elizabeth Bowen as Deputy Liv Baker. However, unlike Garretson, Bowen is credited as starring cast in the second season.
  • Free-Range Children: Max and Sahar bike all the way to Harry's isolated cabin without notifying their parents on multiple occasions. Not even getting pulled over by the sheriff deters them.
  • Furniture Assembly Gag: The opening credits parody this - they are presented as IKEA-style how-to guides for real-life situations an alien masquerading as human would find himself in on Earth, with red Xs to depict comically failed results and similar checkmarks for how things theoretically should end up.
  • 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 Mashup: 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 necessary gene turning up in his tiny town in the middle of nowhere are one in a million.
    • And, inversely, Max doesn't know what Harry's human "guise" looks like, and can't identify the picture of the real Harry as the alien.
  • The Greys: While they do not appear on the show in the first season, 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. Then comes the second season and they are revealed to be the new Big Bad, who are planning to desolate the Earth and succeed in an alternate timeline.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Greys. 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. The second season establishes that their intentions are far more sinister.
  • Green Aesop: The goal of Harry's Kill All Humans mission is to revert humans' influence on the Earth.
    Harry: If a chicken sits on an egg for the right amount of time, you get a perfect little chick...but if you do not care about the egg, and you leave it in the sun, it rots and stinks. The Earth is the second one.
  • Humanity Ensues: The whole point of the series.
  • Humanity on Trial: Harry is sent to Earth to Kill All Humans. By the end of the first season, he has changed his mind.
  • 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.
  • Intergenerational Rivalry: Between Harry and ten-year-old Max. However, Word of God says Harry's emotionally around the same age.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: In the second half of season 2, Sheriff Mike has to deal with his counterpart from Jessup after Ben claims that a murder that happened in Patience actually happened in Jessup.
  • Kids Are Cruel: After Max creates his alien wanted posters, almost all his schoolmates either mock or avoid him. He makes a friend in Sahar by picking up the binder that a bully had knocked out of her hands.
  • Kill and Replace: The real Harry Vanderspeigle is murdered in the pilot so the alien Harry can have a human form. Several episodes feature Harry's continuous attempts to keep the body hidden.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: The cowboy who encountered Harry in his alien form is killed by Lisa, whose orders were to deliver an alien to the general without anyone knowing about it. She comes close to killing various others who come too near the investigation for her liking.
  • Local Hangout: Harry goes to Joe's Diner on a daily basis, which makes it easy for Max to find him. The 59 is also this due to being the one bar in town.
  • Medication Tampering: The town doctor who suffered from diabetes is killed by someone poisoning his insulin injections with botulinum.
  • 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.
  • No-Tell Motel: Among Judy's jobs is working the desk at the Copper Ridge Motel, a seedy motel on the outskirts of Patience. In the second half of season 2, Harry and Asta dump a body there.
  • Not Stayingfor Breakfast: Darcy struggles with this a lot and takes a major step towards opening herself towards intimacy when she reverses this trend.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the original comic, Harry is always shown as an alien, while the show usually depicts him in his alien "disguise" so that the lead actor isn't saddled with wearing major prosthetic makeup through the whole show.
  • Previously on…: Each episode starts with a recap of previous events.
  • Psychic Powers: Harry and his genetic relative Octopus both have psychic powers. Harry can alter memories, while Octopus speaks telepathically and can heal amnesia.
  • 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.
  • Running Gag:
    • Harry's love of Law & Order, because he learned how to act human and speak English 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.
    • Nathan Fillion is the voice of the Harry's cousin 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 McAllister even snaps at David for "watching too many movies" when he calls them that.
    • Harry and Asta discuss E.T. in "Girls' Night," in which Harry calls E.T. an idiot, albeit sexy and very attractive.
  • 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.
  • Small Town Rivalry: Patience and Jessup, which is first brought to attention when the mayor of Jessup produces a tourism ad that takes shots at Patience's recent gruesome events.
  • Stranded Invader: "Harry's" xenophobic people sent him as an advance scout to wipe out life on Earth for them, but things went haywire, he crashed his ship in middle of nowhere Colorado, and he lacks the resources to get back. Much of the show's comedy comes from his horrible attempts to blend in and his annoyance at how much he is Going Native.
  • String Theory: Sheriff Mike builds a board of the crimes that had occurred (Sam's murder, washed-up foot, fake prescriptions). Deputy Liv's secret board is much more detailed and offers new insights.
  • Special Guest:
  • Spies In a Van: David and Lisa do their planning and monitoring from an RV.
  • Stealth in Space: Harry's spaceship has a cloaking device that kept it from being discovered. That is, until the two agents track Harry to the landing location.
  • Title Drop: In the second season finale, "I Believe in Aliens," Deputy Liv Baker finishes her interview, part of a series of interviews of alien experiencers, with the phrase.
  • Title In: Flashbacks are labeled with the time and location first in the script of Harry's language, then in English.
  • Trojan Prisoner: Towards the end of the second season, an alien hunter gains access to a secret military base by bringing in an alien, namely Harry. This was all part of a ruse, and Harry breaks free once they are inside.
  • True Sight: In the first season, two people (Max and one-off character Peter Bach) have the one-in-a-million genetic mutation that allows them to see through Harry's human disguise.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Very few people comment or look askance at Harry's bizarre behavior and speaking style, which normally would probably make them think he has a mental disorder or something.
  • 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.
    • "Alien Dinner Party" sees an alien shoot and kill David Logan in the opening scene. This is followed up with the egg that Harry found in the previous episode hatching an alien baby. Said baby then clutches Harry's head and reveals a communication from a fellow alien that his people are not coming because there is another alien species already on Earth planning to try to take it over. Harry is shot by a man from human Harry's past, then Asta shoots and kills the man. However, in the process, D'Arcy stumbles upon the scene.
    • "The Alien Within" reveals the truth about Goliath - he's actually Harry from a distant future where the Greys wiped out all humans.
  • 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 flashback opening of "Heroes of Patience," showing the original Harry injecting Sam Hodges's insulin with botulinum, revealing that The Dead Guy Did It.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Harry's backup job as Patience's therapist is dropped after "Homesick," though it is later revived in the second season.
    • The idea of Harry having a job at all is dropped after "The Green Glow," even though that episode strongly implies that he needs one. "An Alien in New York" reveals that he discovered a "money bag" inside the cabin filled with numerous stacks of $100 bills, apparently a pay-off to the human Harry Vanderspeigle for having killed Sam Hodges. But this still doesn't explain why he was so worried about getting a job, unless the money bag was a later discovery. Once again, it ends up coming back in the second season when Harry again agrees to be the town doctor.
  • 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 is because she never wanted to be a bartender in the first place, 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 is eventually explained as having a Dark and Troubled Past.


Video Example(s):


Don't Tell Mrs. Patel... Yikes

In "Escape from New York" from "Resident Alien," Dr. Smallwood accidentally mixes up Mayor Ben Hawthorne's file with that of a woman named Mrs. Patel and tells him that he has an aggressive form of colon cancer. Before he can really process this, Nurse Ellen Cho shows up and explains that Dr. Smallwood mixed up the files. Dr. Smallwood says that this happens sometimes. "Should it?" asks Ben, pointedly. "No," deadpans Ellen.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / FileMixup

Media sources: