Thursday, March 08, 2018

El Ministerio del Tiempo (Season 1)

Way back in 2016, I was excited about a TV series called Timeless.  It was about three people who travel through time, chasing a rogue agent bent on changing history for the better.  I was saddened to find out that the series had been canceled after only one season.  A few days ago, I found ou that I could at least watch El Ministerio del Tiempo on Netflix.

El Ministerio del Tiempo, which translates as the Ministry of Time, is about three agents who travel to different years through doors.  Julián Martínez is a paramedic recruited from the present.   He is a widower who hasn’t gotten over the loss of his wife.  Amelia Folch is a woman from the 19th century.  She’s studying to be a doctor when it wasn’t common for women to do so.  Rounding out the main agents is Alonso de Entrerríos, who was recruited right before his execution.  He was a solder from Seville in the 16th century.

The idea is to keep history as close as possible to what is recorded in books.  Sometimes, this means making sure things go as planned.  In the second episode, a writer named Lope de Vega is found to have enlisted on a ship that is known to have sunk.  If he’s not put on another ship, he’ll die before he becomes famous.  In other cases, it’s a little less certain.  The three agents have to find a receipt that may not actually exist, leading to some thinking outside the box.

The TV show comes from Spain.  In fact, the show is limited largely to that country, as the Ministry’s jurisdiction is limited to Spain’s history.  As such, a few of the historical characters will be familiar.  One of the recurring characters is Diego Velázquez, who is employed by the Ministry to do facial composites.  Pablo Picasso is central to one episode while Salvador Dalí appears in another episode.

There were a few cases where I didn’t recognize a name I felt I was supposed to know.  One was Jordi Hurtado, who is apparently known in Spain.  He doesn’t appear to have done anything outside of Spain, so I don’t feel bad about not recognizing him.  Another episode centered around meeting someone named Lazarillo de Tormes.  I had never heard the name before and I’m not sure how famous the work is outside of Spain.  Apparently, he’s regarded as a fictional character.

Interestingly, there was an American character captured after being able to travel through time.  When asked how the American agency was able to manage time travel, he admits that America has tunnel for traveling through time, a reference to The Time Tunnel.

I found that the cultural barrier didn’t detract from enjoying the show.  I was able to follow the episodes without much difficulty.  I will say that the series does seem to follow the Novikov self-consistency principle.  Whereas Timeless doesn’t seem to have a problem with shifting history, it doesn’t appear that the main characters’ actions have much influence on the present.  No one disappears unexpectedly.  You don’t have authors writing three extra books by the end of the episode.

The series doesn’t really play this up, which is a good thing.  It can get somewhat tedious if not handled well.  I hate to watch a movie go through the motions.  Either it happened the way history recorded or we see how it would at least appear that way.  The series focuses more on the characters and what motivates them.

All three characters have a past of their own.  This comes up to varying degrees.  Julián is having trouble getting over the loss of his wife, for example.  He occasionally goes back to see her.  Also of note, as in timeless, is an implied future between Julián and Amelia.  Apparently, I’m going to have to wait for the second season to see what happens.

There are a few other similarities with Timeless.  Fans of similar shows will probably enjoy it.  Netflix does have English subtitles, which were somewhat difficult to read, mostly because I didn’t have enough time to read them.  If you can’t read quickly, you’re going to have problems following the show.  (In case you’re wondering why I didn’t use English audio, the only two options on Netflix are Spanish and Portuguese.)

I did get some more good news after finding out about this show.  It looks like Timeless was brought back for a second season.  It’s pretty rare to see that happen, but I’m not complaining.


jose said...

Fun fact: Timeless was created after a failed negotiation to license The Ministry of Time format to the United States.

The Spanish producer sued and settled.

Brian Kuhl said...

Yeah. There are a few similarities that are way too obvious.

Unknown said...

This show is much more interesting than Timeless because you get to see things from a foreign point of view. Whenever a reference comes up that I'm unfamiliar with, I pause and look it up on wikipedia - so I'm getting a lesson on Spanish history while enjoying the excellent series.