While it already draws some obvious comparisons to Northern Exposure, Syfy’s new sci-fi drama Resident Alien reminds me a bit of Dexter, the show starring Michael C. Hall about a Miami serial killer hiding in for all to see. Stay with me here: This series has been a source of division given its inconsistent quality and the hard work Hall has done to carry the show’s appeal squarely on its back, with most of the supporting cast being a little after the fact. This lack of balance seems to be the case with Resident Alien as well, at least initially. Based on the Dark Horse comic book series by Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse, the show centers on an alien disguised as a small town doctor, played by the endlessly talented and likeable Alan Tudyk. The series does well in her lead role – giving her ample opportunity to explore the many strange habits of our resident alien (aka Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle) and general confusion with the idiosyncrasies of humanity – but she doesn’t know. not quite how to use the rest of his eccentric. together.
There’s good potential that falls into the series’ pilot – an eccentric hour of familiar but fun fluff – to be undermined by its more confusing narrative choices. On the one hand: why is this show lasting an hour when it clearly wants to be a half hour comedy? Like … Alan Tudyk playing a trapped alien on Earth pretending to be a doctor, whose only knowledge of real medicine comes from television? Yes please give me all this physical comedy – no other tricks or twists needed Sadly, Resident Alien doesn’t leave much room for Tudyk to handle the craziness of the concept, as he’s too busy to do in the face of growing narrative wrinkles and side missions. , including a quest for his lost spaceship; a murder mystery in town; its need to stay ahead of some obscure types of government; and his plan to assassinate the only person in town who can see through his disguise (who happens to be a child, not that Harry cares) – and it barely scratches the surface. The show has more intrigue than it knows what to do with, but it’s at its best when it focuses on the characters.
Syfy has heralded the series as “the sci-fi, murder mystery, doctor drama that Earth needs now” and this mix of genres, tones and ideas is clearly on display – to the point that it doesn’t seem not knowing what it really is or how to best deploy the considerable talents of its cast – it’s an all-and-kitchen-sink approach that leaves Resident Alien feeling torn in too many directions.
Syfy’s Resident Alien: Season 1
But the generic, sloppy way the show’s world is fleshed out may be its biggest problem. While members of the supporting cast often steal their scenes with moments of dark and eerie humor, the character archetypes themselves – the inexperienced town mayor and his insipid wife, the suspicious sheriff and his downtrodden deputy, the handsome bartender, the ominous government agents – feel copied and pasted from a worn-out “supporting parts” manual that can’t contain a candle to Tudyk’s deranged central performance.
There’s something oddly dated about the set-up of the series too – right down to Harry’s love for Law and Order: SVU. While I can arguably watch Alan Tudyk do just about anything, his charm and relentless physical comedy abilities can only carry the series so far. Resident Alien is pretty fun, if half-baked sci-fi storytelling is your thing, but you can’t help but wish they settled on one idea rather than five.