Thursday, 5 March 2015

El Ministerio del Tiempo

El Ministerio del Tiempo (the Ministry of Time) is the title of a new Spanish television series, of which two episodes have so far aired.

It's based on the familiar sf idea of a Time Patrol: time travel exists, and a police force of sorts is trying to stop rogue individuals from changing history.

In this series, there's no time machine. Instead, there are doors between different time periods, many of them existing (why?) in a cavern under a building in Madrid (?) belonging to the top-secret Spanish Ministry of Time. Other doors exist elsewhere and are sometimes found by random individuals.

The series concentrates on the adventures of three new recruits to the Ministry who are sent on missions into the past, to preserve history as we know it. The recruits are Julián from 2015, Amelia from 1880, and Alonso from 1569. The strange thing about it is that they don't seem obviously qualified or suitable for their role as intertemporal secret agents: they just seem to be people plucked at random from the time stream. Julián is some kind of medic, Amelia is a university student, and Alonso is a soldier. All of them have some reason to accept employment with the Ministry: Julián was depressed after losing his wife in a road accident, Amelia was an early feminist in a man's world, and Alonso was about to be executed for losing his temper and attacking his superior officer.

We don't see them undergoing any kind of ability test or training, they're just recruited and sent out on missions. What if they fail? I wonder whether some future episode will consider this possibility.

Apart from the strange business of using untrained amateurs for important missions, this is a high-quality series. The actors, the scripts, the sets, the costumes all suggest that no reasonable expense was spared to do a good job. Compared with watching Doctor Who, Blake's Seven, or Star Trek decades ago, this is a leap up in quality. Even the supporting actors are good.

The episodes that have been aired are all available on the Web at

Unfortunately, the series is in Spanish with no translation at all. You can display a transcript of the dialogue in Spanish, and you can even copy it to Google Translate and auto-translate it if you like. There's also a little button for subtitles in Spanish. Subtitles in English would have been nice, but no, at least not at this stage.

If you have some Spanish, it's not difficult to follow. I'm not fluent, but I can follow it well enough, missing some details.

Of the three main characters, I'm most impressed by Alonso, who's fairly convincing as a patriotic 16th-century soldier doing his best for his country in unfamiliar circumstances. Julián is an experienced actor and an amiable fellow, he's fun to watch, but he seems surprisingly cheerful considering that he's supposed to be severely depressed about his dead wife. Both Julián and Amelia seem rather too self-confident, given that they've been suddenly recruited into a totally unfamiliar kind of job and repeatedly moved from one time period to another.

It's interesting to see what the characters contribute to the missions. Alonso is a soldier, capable of dealing with violence and connecting with ordinary people in the past. Julián knows 21st-century technology, has medical training, and seems adaptable. Amelia is presented as intelligent, and seems capable and self-possessed, but she's the youngest and least experienced of the team.

The first two missions are to 1808 and 1588 respectively. I suppose that all missions will be in Spain, which has a good deal of history to explore. I found it helpful to check out a little background info about the relevant parts of Spanish history in Wikipedia. I don't think there will be any missions to the future: we've already been told that there are no doors into the future. Which is rather odd, as years previous to 2015 clearly have doors into the future.