Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog Act I review

Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon's latest project is online now ... and it's a musical about a supervillain?

Dr Horrible

Remember the WGA strike? Those were fun times, weren’t they? Well, not really, but something good does at least seem to have come from it – a new Joss Whedon project! More specifically, a new Joss Whedon musical that you can watch online free. The first episode of Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog went live today and it’s… well, it’s very, very obviously a Whedon production.

Starship Troopers‘ Neil Patrick Harris (okay, okay, it’s Doogie Howser as a supervillain) plays the titular Dr Horrible, a wannabe supervillain whose inventions don’t quite seem to work the way he’d like them to. He’s not giving up, though – he’s determined to enter the Evil League of Evil, and he’s managed to get the attention of uber-villain Bad Horse. All he needs now is to steal the final component for his freeze ray (a weapon that will allow him to stop time and wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world that way) and then he’s practically guaranteed a place in the League. It won’t be easy to get to that point, though – especially not with Captain Hammer (“corporate tool”) constantly hanging around, saving the world and smarming it up all over the place, inadvertantly stealing Penny, the unrequited love of Dr Horrible’s life, right out from under his nose.

Okay, it’s not Firefly. But at three episodes long, and with Act I clocking in at under 14 minutes, it’s shorter, which is quite a feat. It’s actually quite a lot like Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s season 6 – obviously, there’s the musical element, a la Once More With Feeling but Dr Horrible is also very reminiscent of the evil geeks who tried, but mostly failed, to be Buffy’s nemeses…es in that particular season. Except Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog has the edge, because Captain Hammer is played by Nathan Fillion, who is clearly enjoying himself immensely.

Fillion is a fully fledged Whedon alumni, but Act I of Dr Horrible also features an all-grown-up (and virtually unrecognisable!) Felicia Day, who played a Potential Slayer in Buffy season 7. The Whedonisms stretch beyond the casting, too – the dialogue is very Buffy-esque, and who else would christen a mysterious science-y substance “wonderflonium”? If there are any Buffy fans who don’t enjoy this, I’ll be amazed.

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That said, it’s not perfect. The sing-along component would have been aided immensely by some subtitles, even optional ones, and the first Act starts off pretty slowly. The brilliant finale makes up for it, though, and the songs, well, the songs are ace, and there are so many of them! From the one about laundry day and the girl in the laundromat, the Bad Horse song (the thoroughbred of sin!), Penny’s begging song, Dr Horrible’s wistful “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” song, Captain Hammer’s co-option of that song and the duet with Penny, the musical content is all brilliant.

I’ll be counting the hours until the next episode goes online – Act II should be available on Thursday, and Act III on Saturday. Hopefully there’ll be room for some Captain Tightpants jokes, and if we don’t get to see Bad Horse I’ll be gutted.

Watch Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog at Dr Horrible.com, or download the episodes from iTunes. Or, for more Whedon-related reviews, check out our reviews of Buffy season 7.