I have written previously about the pilot episode of Spain's new hit time-travel TV show, El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time). Since then, the first 8 episode season has concluded, and the show has been renewed for a second season by clamoring popular demand. I did a lot of the clamoring. In my opinion, it was one of the best TV shows I have watched this year, and believe me, I watch a LOT of them.
Here are 5 things I absolutely loved about the Ministry:
The characters I gushed about in the pilot only got better as the season progressed. Amelia, the 19th century Spanish version of Hermione Granger, got to be the official boss of the trio, which I found really cool (usually "brains" and "leader" are two separate characters). An added bonus is that she knows the most about history, even though she is not the most "modern" of the three.
Next to Amelia, the "boys" also showed their very best. Alonso, the 16th century soldier, became the heart and soul of the team - a really lovable big softy. Julián, the 21st century guy, took a graceful supporting position, respecting the higher competence of his teammates whenever the situation required it. The group dynamic was not only excellent between the tree, but also between the rest of the ministry staff.
2. The continued culture shock
Unlike in other time-travel shows (I'm looking at you, Sleepy Hollow), culture shock accompanies the characters all the way through the season, and shows up in delightful small details. Alonso never learns to open vacuum packaging, and doesn't understand why women can vote; Amelia is shocked into silence by the sight of an airplane. The writers even paid attention to which changes they would take to more easily - the 16th century soldier learns to ride a motorbike and shoot a gun fairly quick, but struggles with changes in ethics and society. Amelia adjusts well to culture, but has trouble following government policy. All in all, their adjusting to the 21st century is a work in progress that does not get handwaved away.
3. The cameos
Since there is a definite educational aspect to the show, many famous characters from Spanish history make guest appearances, from Queen Isabel (played by the same actress as in the hit show Isabel) to a slightly neurotic and very lovable Velázquez who works as the ministry's sketch artist. Each episode is full of historical Easter eggs, and characters that inspire their own memes (such as Fifty Shades of Lope de Vega).
The show doesn't take itself very seriously, even if it pays close attention to historical detail. It is peppered with witty one-liners and off-hand history jokes, as well as well-placed time-travel situation humor. One of my favorite scenes is the glance at the Ministy's "smoking room" - a time-gate that leads to a theater's back door where people from all historical eras can stand around smoking in their various costumes, and no one bats an eye. All episodes, even the most action-oriented ones, are balanced out by delightful writing, and the obvious fun the creators had with it.
Once again, attention to detail. Time agents visiting another era have to dress accordingly - but on top of authenticity, the designers also went for fun, and each mission brings up some new surprises in the fashion department, whether they travel into the 15th century, or the 1980's.
My favorite episode of the eight was probably No. 4, which was an awesome mix of (very meta) Isabel-references, some serious jabs at the Spanish Inquisition, and a medieval Groundhog Day.
With that said, I have seen most of the show twice by now, and I plan on watching it all over again.
And here are 5 things the fangirl in me hopes to see in Season 2:
1. Jaime el Conquistador and Queen Violante
This is the Hungarian in me speaking, but I would definitely lose my mind if Queen Violante made an appearance. She was a Hungarian princess married to one of the most famous kings of Aragon in the 13th century. She was a remarkable woman, and I would love to see her cross path with the Ministry.
The show has not gone to the Roman era yet, but it has been established that it's possible. Clearly, as a Classics person, I would pay to see that.
3. Crossover with Carlos I
TVE is currently working on a follow-up show to Isabel, based on the life of Charles V, Isabel's grandson and Holy Roman Emperor. Since the Ministry has already crossed with Isabel as a joke, they might do it again with Carlos.
4. The other ministries
It has been established that the Spanish government is not the only one that can travel through time. I hope they will elaborate on that. In my mind, other European countries would get their own Ministries too, and we'd end up with glorious spinoff series all over the place. *cough*Hungary*cough*
5. Moorish Spain
I would love to see an episode take place in Granada or Andalusia before the Reconquista. TVE has been known to shoot its shows inside the Alhambra and other historical sites. I could watch more of that all day, every day.
Conclusion: Watch. This. Show.