Syfy’s new series “Resident Alien” (premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m.) puts a clever spin on a fish-out-of-his-universe story.
Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle (Alan Tudyk, “Firefly,” “Con Man”) keeps to himself in the small town of Patience, Colorado (population 1,000) – that is, until the police show up at his isolated cabin and demand his help with a possible homicide.
Harry has a secret.
He’s only been living as a human for four months.
Harry is an invader from another world sent to this planet with a doomsday device to destroy all humans.
“If the universe had a scale for intelligence, humans would land right below lizards,” he says.
A stray lightning bolt dinged his ship mid-flight, and he crashed into the Colorado mountains. If he can locate his doomsday device, he can complete his mission.
Until then, he’s stuck with us, with our annoying needs, gross bodies, and utterly bewildering sarcasm.
Despite his weird vocal inflections and phrasings, Harry is able to fool everyone – except 8-year-old Max (Judah Prehn), who was apparently born with a genetic mutation that allows him to see Harry’s true form.
This is a problem requiring a simple solution – for Harry. He’ll just have to kill the boy.
No one is ever going to confuse Harry with any cuddly “My Favorite Martian.”
Along the way, Harry experiences whiskey, dancing, bowling, and all-too-human pangs of loneliness.
As the new doctor at the town clinic, he figures five minutes on the internet should bring him up to speed to treating patients.
Nothing can help with that bedside manner.
To one 80-year-old, he advises, “Do you like Christmas? Celebrate it before June.”
As Harry navigates life in the town, he is forced to get to know some of its residents.
Nurse Asta Twelvetrees (Sara Tomko in an affecting performance) keeps the clinic running, even though she has some serious – and dangerous – emotional baggage.
Town mayor Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler, “Mars”) is Max’s father, and far more naive than the child. Sheriff Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds, “The Closer”) is a bully; Deputy Liv Baker (Elizabeth Bowen) seems timid, but is far more on the ball than anyone gives credit.
Based on a Dark Horse comic, “Resident Alien” can get quite dark – as in next week’s episode, when Harry fantasizes about all the ways he can eliminate Max – like dropping a piano on his head.
Luckily for us, Max is resourceful, and Harry is hilariously inept.
“Resident Alien” is truly a showcase for Tudyk, and his offbeat choices power every story beat.
In flashbacks, we see how he learned to speak from studying “Law & Order’s” Lenny Briscoe and how he discovered, through some brutal trial and error, how to eat and walk like a relatively normal person.
It’s not right to call Tudyk a scene-stealer. It’s more like he’s walking away with the entire network.