Sci Fi’s decision to pick up this “Dr. Who” spinoff from the BBC is more of a big “why,” inasmuch as “The Sarah Jane Adventures” appears to have been made for (and perhaps even by) the “Power Rangers” set. Broadly aimed at kids, with cheesy monsters and two youthful protagonists joining in the world-saving exploits, the series may be modestly entertaining for the moppet crowd but will test the patience of adults in this dimension or any other.
Young Maria (Yasmin Paige), who’s just moved to town along with her divorced dad (the parents here have about as much depth as in the Charlie Brown specials), espies neighbor Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) interacting with what looks to be an alien. Turns out after her travels through the time-space vortex with the good doctor, Sarah Jane has settled on Earth, where — posing as a journalist(!) — she quietly labors to thwart threats from aliens that spit out terrifyingly bad dialogue like “The time of man is over!”
In the 90-minute premiere (actually an ad-free hour on the BBC), Maria learns Sarah Jane’s secret as they seek to stop a soda-pop marketer that’s operated by slimy, tentacled aliens with nefarious goals. In shades of “Kyle XY,” they encounter a genetically engineered boy (Tommy Knight) who lacks a navel and comes to earth as a blank slate, soaking up human language and emotion like a sponge.
The whole thing feels like a 1960s throwback and looks to have been cobbled together for about 20 bucks. And while “Dr. Who” (and its BBC America spinoff “Torchwood”) has no shortage of Yank acolytes, this incarnation seems suited to kids who have just graduated to big-boy pants.
Nor does it help that Sarah Jane is a rather boring heroine, armed with a few gadgets and an alien computer. Fortunately, the adventures shrink to two-part half-hour installments after the premiere, with the next go-round involving even goofier aliens prone to fits of diabolical laughter and flatulence.
“There was only ever one man for me,” Sarah Jane explains to Maria in the opener, later sighing, “Life on Earth could be an adventure. You just need to know where to look.”
Unless you’re 5, try looking elsewhere.