Science fiction in Spain: El Ministerio del Tiempo
Spain has never been well known for producing science-fiction television series. True, I’m not the biggest expert on this, but right now I can’t really remember any series that has gotten my attention at any point. Until this year.
It was a normal day, and after dinner, I decided to switch on the TV because studying at 11pm was definitely not an option. I saw what seemed to be the start of some random Spanish show and I groaned in despair. My father asked what was going on, and I just replied “a Spanish show”. Please pardon my lack of patriotism when it comes to national TV series; there are some decent comedies but, in general, I’m not a huge fan.
An hour later, I was thinking “f word, f word, this is brilliant!” Here’s the trailer with English subtitles to give you a taste:
El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time in English) is a very well done mixture of science-fiction, adventure, drama, comedy and history. If you are learning Spanish, I strongly recommend it, although you will probably miss some of the pop culture references. The context is more or less the following: the Ministry is Spain’s best hidden secret, a place with several doors which take you to different moments and places in the past. Only the President, the King and a few other people know about it. Access to the different doors is controlled by Ministry patrols and everything is reported to the President. These patrols have to prevent intruders crossing the doors to the past or the present and changing history to their benefit.
In a way (and this is oversimplifying it too much) this is like a Spanish Doctor Who. The concept is very interesting, but it could go horribly good or horribly bad. Judging by the reviews I’ve seen, I’m not the only one who thinks the show is a big win.
There are three main characters. First of all there is Julián (Rodolfo Sánchez), a male nurse whose wife died three years ago and who would easily and willingly risk his own life. He was a happy man, but that tragic event darkened his personality. Then there is Alonso (Nacho Fresneda), a Spanish soldier who fought in Flanders and who was saved from a death penalty by the Ministry in 1659. Not the most communicative man, but a man of honour nonetheless. Finally there is Amelia (Aura Garrido), one of the first females who went to university in Spain in the end of the 19th century. She has photographic memory, and even though she’s ahead of her time, she’s a bit too naive for this century.
The three of them do a great job. I especially enjoy Alonso’s cultural shock, as he comes from 350 years ago; his fascination with motorbikes and his annoyance at (and later reluctant acceptance of) having a woman as a boss. The rest of the cast is very good as well, especially the patrol’s superior, Salvador (Jaime Blanch).
There are plenty of pop culture references and sometimes stereotypical jokes, which I personally love, almost no matter how cheap they may be. A good example of this is the moment when asked about what they should do in a certain situation, Salvador says, “We’re Spanish, right? Improvise!”
However, in my humble personal opinion, the pinnacle of the first season is Jordi Hurtado’s cameo, a reference to his alleged immortality which I’m sure made a lot of people laugh. Props to Jordi for his good sense of humour, by the way. Here’s that clip in Spanish for those who can understand:
Finally, it is also interesting to see some historical characters featured in the series, such as Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler, Lope de Vega (one of Spain’s most famous dramatists), Queen Isabel la Católica and Pablo Picasso, amongst others.
Sure, there are probably some plot holes here and there; it’s very difficult not to do them in this case. But if you are not too picky when it comes to that, it is a very enjoyable series. I’m personally looking forward to the second season, which will air in 2016.