Roush Review: ‘Resident Alien’ Plays This X-File for Laughs

Resident Alien
James Dittinger/SYFY

There’s something off about the new doctor in Patience, Colorado: his weird fixed grin, his slightly disembodied speech patterns, and a laugh that sounds like a bark. If they only knew that Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk) is, under his suit of skin, a crash-landed ET on a mission to destroy humanity — what a pity he can’t find his doomsday tools.

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Will the alien grow to like humanity, or will his disguise be uncovered before he has time to?

Tudyk, a versatile comic and voice actor, is a sci-fi veteran with projects as varied as Firefly and Rogue One‘s K-2SO to his credit, and he makes the most of his role in Resident Alien. He animates Harry with bizarre vocal inflections and a rubbery face of confusion, awkwardly learning the ways of humankind by watching endless repeats of Law & Order — the Jerry Orbach variety, thankfully. With fewer social cues than The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper, Harry is awfully blunt in his new role as town doctor, enlisted against his will to investigate the murder of his predecessor, but he’s trying. Oh, is he ever trying.

Though his initial instinct is to regard our species with contempt — “If the universe had a scale for intelligence, humans would land right below lizards” — the longer this alien walks in Harry’s shoes, the more he gets in touch with such human feelings as loneliness, self-doubt, jealousy, and hangovers. (“Alcohol must not affect humans the way it does us. If it did, they obviously would never drink it,” he says.) This is a comic book character come to entertaining life, and Resident Alien (adapted by Family Guy‘s Chris Sheridan from a Dark Horse comic) is a fun blend of sci-fi intrigue and knockabout humor.

Only one resident — and with him, we — can see the menacing and bug-eyed monster within: the milquetoast mayor’s young son, Max (Judah Prehn), whose “boy who cried alien” alarms make him the Road Runner to Harry’s Wile E. Coyote, haplessly trying and failing to silence the kid. Their cat-and-mouse games are the best part of the show, which slows considerably when sentimental subplots intrude to help Harry better appreciate the species he’s meant to destroy.

Even so, this X-File is extra special.

Resident Alien, Series Premiere, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 10/9c,Syfy