Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The best time-travel TV show you are probably not watching this season

Eat your heart out, Ichabod Crane.

Following the resounding success of Spain's high-profile, three-season historical TV show Isabel (also available on Hulu now), Spanish TV has once again gone and done it: This week sees the premiere of a brand new series that ambitiously encompasses the entirety of Spanish history through time travel. And damn do they do it right.

El Ministerio del Tiempo (Ministry of Time) is the story of a secret government agency that oversees the "doors of time" that lead to various points and places in Spanish history. The agents, recruited from many different eras, are responsible for keeping the country's history on track in the face of unforeseen complications, such as rival (French) time travelers trying to change the course of past events. The three main characters are Julián, a 21st century paramedic, Amelia, a 19th century early feminist and university student, and Alonso, a dashing 16th century soldier. They are all picked for their unique qualities and struggle with their own problems in their own eras, but come together as a team for missions to save the past and present of Spain. "Without them, the future is history."

The show is remarkable for a number of reasons:
(Mild spoilers)

1. It gives its audiences the benefit of the doubt. Instead of trying to spell out everything repeatedly ad nauseam, they allow the viewers the courtesy of assuming they all graduated a high school history class. The writers throw themselves with obvious enjoyment into their own country's culture, and drop names and references like they are hot; all needed explanations are made by the three protagonists, who often have to explain things to each other as well (and it's not always the 21st century guy that knows the answer).

2. It does culture shock and does it well. While Sleepy Hollow was dubbed by some of my friends as "the 5 minute culture shock," MdT pays attention to detail. Characters awkwardly try to figure out whether they should kiss, shake hands, or bow. Alonso is endlessly mesmerized by cars, but in return Julián has to admit on the first mission he doesn't know how to ride a horse. The absolute winning moment for me, however, was when Amelia was taken into the 21st century, and her (female) boss started her training by introducing her to the miracles of tampons. Apparently feminine hygiene products are even exempt from the Ministry's "no objects allowed outside their own time" policy. Brownie points.

3. It has a sense of humor. There were several moments where I burst out giggling; MdT doesn't take itself too seriously, and that makes the whole show endearing. Good acting adds to moments of humor, and some throwaway lines make the Ministry all the more likable. Because who else would you want as a sketch artist to catch potential suspects if not Diego Velázquez?...

4. It combines entertainment with education. Since it is based on Spanish history, once again RTVE is using the power of entertainment to teach viewers more about their heritage. The website, just like Isabel's, is full of extra information, social media links, timelines, interviews, the works. There is clearly a lot of effort that went into linking the adventures on screen to what really happened. According to historians, obviously.

Long story short: Time (heh) to brush up on your high school Spanish and crack open some history tomes. I'll definitely be a regular viewer.

4 comments:

  1. I've loved the concept of time travel since I was a kid. I have to admit I've never heard of this show before but Ministry of Time sounds awesome. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation, Csenge. :)

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  2. This sounds interesting. I've just recently decided to become a school teacher of history.

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  3. As a spanish die-hard follower of the series, I LOVE that you appreciate it this much ^_^

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  4. For those of us who don't speak, hear or read Spanish, this article in English is useless to us for enticing us to follow MdT. I followed links to see if episodes were available in English too.
    It's not even available in the USA.
    USA's Timeless show doesn't seem to be copyright infringement. There's only so much one can do with time travel stories, change the past or future.

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