NEW YORK (CNS) — The science fiction drama "The Nevers," currently streaming on HBO Max, is both an urban-gothic mess and a smorgasbord of unpalatable ingredients.

The program's objectionable elements range from gory violence, group sex, nudity and drug use to profane language, a fascination with the occult and a condemnation of organized religion.

This gruesome six-episode series is the brainchild of Joss Whedon, who struck gold in the 1990s with the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and, more recently, with two Marvel Comics-based "Avengers" films. To judge by the first three installments screened, his latest project is a dizzying mash-up of familiar characters and story lines, albeit with a feminist twist.

The period setting is the same gritty underbelly of Victorian-era London currently being explored by Netflix's "The Irregulars." On a sunny summer's day in 1896, a spaceship swoops across the sky, spraying pixie dust over the populace. This causes some people, mostly women, to acquire supernatural abilities (though no one flies like Peter Pan and the Darling children).

Those so empowered — or afflicted — are ostracized by society and collectively labeled "touched." They seek refuge in an orphanage run by Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams), a wealthy spinster. There they can safely explore their burgeoning gifts, making this a similar venue to the academy for mutants in the "X-Men" movies.

In the outside world, the touched have become the targets of an organized killing spree. Intent on rescuing them is a dynamic duo composed of Amalia True (Laura Donnelly) and her sidekick, Penance Adair (Ann Skelly). Amalia can predict the future while Penance demonstrates her mastery of electricity by the invention of nifty weapons and vehicles.

Thus, in Bond terms, Penance is "Q" to Amalia's "007." Together they come to the relief of damsels in distress all over the city.

The ladies have an ally in Detective Frank Mundi (Ben Chaplin), who's in love with comely touched opera singer Mary Brighton (Eleanor Tomlinson). Her ability is a siren call that can only be heard by those similarly enhanced. That makes her a valuable commodity, and she's hunted down by a crazed — and aptly named — villain, Maladie (Amy Manson).

Meanwhile, politician Lord Massen (Pip Torrens) leads a government campaign against the touched on the grounds that they represent a threat to the status quo. "There's a harmony to our world that's worth preserving," he says. "I want them under control even if it requires a bloodletting."

In a gratuitous subplot, Lord Massen and his fellow ministers frequent a "pagan sex club" run by the raffish Hugo Swan (James Norton). When he's not busy sharing his bed with representatives of both sexes, Swan specializes in extortion.

As will be apparent by now, "The Nevers" requires a user's manual to keep track of far too many characters and sudden changes in direction, especially after the aliens reappear and the motivation for their peculiar version of crop dusting becomes clearer. The effect of it all is far more bewildering than bewitching, so why bother?