Full disclosure: the Streisand effect is in full force here. The only reason I know about a Spanish-language show called El Ministerio del Tiempo is because of a lawsuit. Specifically, a lawsuit by Onza Partners against NBC over copyright infringement, as the latter’s show Timeless might—just might—be ripping off a Spanish TV program. Especially when there were supposed to be talks with Sony to develop said show in an English-language format, but NBC put their own show into production anyway. And right around the time that those talks ended…
Confused? Don’t worry. All that means is that, instead of watching Timeless on NBC, this news made me want to give Televisión Española a try. I am, after all, of Mexican descent, and I could use a chance to brush up on my Spanish.
Known in English as “The Ministry of Time,” this series focuses on a secret task force within the government of Spain, whose mission is to monitor the flow of history. Whenever someone tries to use time travel to change the past for their own ends, these heroes jump in to stop them. Our heroes include Julián Martínez, a modern-day paramedic; Amelia Folch, a university student from late 19th-century Barcelona; and Alonso de Entrerríos, a 16th-century soldier from the Army of Flanders.
What’s interesting is how time and the passage of history relates to each of the main three characters. Alonso is a patriotic soldier who has to go down in history as an executed traitor in order to join the Ministry. Amelia is a brilliant mind who wasn’t appreciated in her own time, or by her own family, because of her gender. And Julián is a brave soul who wouldn’t mind going back in time to stop his wife from dying in a car accident, since losing her put him on a dark and dangerous road as an emergency nurse.
In terms of cinematography, the crew at Televisión Española know what they’re doing about as well as anyone at NBC or even the BBC. The production value is stellar, with more emphasis on historical attire and simple stunts than flashy CGI. There’s more emphasis on costumes, archaic styles of speech, and contrasts between modern and classic perspectives to create all the tension for a dramatic series about time travel.
I will say that, sometimes, the show did have one or two predictable elements. Some characters turned evil (or good) for odd reasons, but for the most part, everything was pretty consistent with our main characters. I also admit that I needed subtitles on because the dialogue moves fast and freely. Yes, the subtitles were in Spanish también, but I’m a reader by nature, so I wasn’t taken out of the story when I watched and read.
Honestly, this premise is exactly what I always wanted Doctor Who to be. For all the time that the Doctor spends around the 20th and 21st centuries on Earth, he could have been doing so much more with people from different eras. I always wanted him to expand on the promise of having out-of-their-time companions like he did in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” In El Ministerio del Tiempo, I get exactly that. It humanizes people from different eras. And it gives a chance to show science fiction at its best.
El Ministerio del Tiempo is available through RTVE.
Bibliography: El ministerio del tiempo. Created by Pablo and Javier Olivares. Directed by Marc Vigil, Jorge Dorado, and Abigail Schaaff. Written by José Ramón Fernández, Paco López Barrio, Javier Olivares, Pablo Olivares, and Anaïs Schaaff. Perf. Aura Garrido, Rodolfo Sancho, Nacho Fresneda, Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, Jaime Blanch, Juan Gea, and Natalia Millán. Onza Partners; Cliffhanger; Televisión Española. La 1 (network). Original broadcast: February 24, 2015 – present.