El ministerio del tiempo, Season 1 (2015)

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El ministerio del tiempo [The Ministry of Time] Season 1 (TVE, 2015)

Score: Science-fiction on public TV doesn’t compensate for so much mediocrity.

In a mainstream TV dominated by junk reality shows and period soap operas it is indeed refreshing to get some publicly-funded science-fiction. Though it is as mediocre as the aforementioned reality shows and period pieces.

Apparently the Spanish government has access to a tunnel with a bunch of doors that lead to multiple times and places in Spanish history. They recruit people from different periods for missions that seek to preserve the integrity of Spain’s history as well as its best interests. The last batch consists of Alonso de Entrerríos, a soldier from the 17th century, Amelia Folch, a university student from the 19th century, and Julián Martínez, a nurse and a widower from the 21st century. They go in such silly missions as retrieving the recept for Gernika (the painting by Picasso), getting Lope de Vega on the right ship so he won’t die in a shipwreck or thwarting Franco’s meeting with Hitler.

The production is not really bad, then again, this channel makes so many period pieces they probably threw this together only using some spare costumes they had lying around. The acting just makes baby Jesus cry. In the line of the “best tradition” of Spanish acting, they never let you forget what you’re watching is not real. They don’t speak like my boss would speak to me or I would speak to my coworkers, they might as well be reading out of the script, with very unnatural intonation and expressions.

The comedy comes from the cultural clash between people from different time periods, and sometimes it is funny but it grows stale quickly, mainly because the context is seriously underdeveloped. The exchanges usually go something like this:

Julián: “We need an X”
Amelia: “What is an X?”
Julían: “It’s like a Y, only more modern”, where a Y existed in the 19th century but not in the 17th.
Alonso: “And what is a Y?”
*They look at each other and proceed to ignore him*

I’ve seen a lot of people around here who find the characters lovable and charismatic, but they just feel vapid and whimsical to me. Alonso de Entrerríos is especially obnoxious, maybe what an underdeveloped character from the 17th century feels like if thrown in the 21st and not allowed to evolve. He’s just like the Bud Spencer of the gang, who wants to fix everything by slapping the baddies with his flat hand. Facepalm for that caricature of Velázquez, whining to go and meet Picasso.

The rules for time travel are not clearly specified, which added to an underdeveloped context makes the whole thing quite insipid. When it’s not downright ridiculous: ***SPOILERS***

Supposedly you can’t go forward in time. Except that Amelia and Alonso do it every day to go to work. I get it: 2015 is the absolute marker for the present moment, obviously. They can take Romans to World War II and Medieval knights to the Stone Age, but they can’t go to 2016 to see who won the election.

Apparently the doors only work within Spanish borders, for some sort of diplomatic reasons. But they can go to Lisbon because it was a part of Spain in that time. They cannot go later to Berlin because it was not part of Spain in the 20th century, but they can’t even call there with their time-traversing smartphones. Apparently the issue is not only with sovereignty, also with roaming fees. And once they manage to get there, the call them using fucking landline phones from 1940.

In one episode it’s mentioned that there is a single door that is stuck in time and always opens to the same day and time and resets every 24 hours (”like Groundhog day”, says Julián, very full of himself). All these rules are totally ad hoc and presented each episode for the sake of that episode’s drama. So, does that mean that the doors are moving in time just like we are? That in times of Elizabeth the Catholic there was a door that opened to the Roman Empire and now opens to the early Middle Ages? Was the Middle Ages the absolute present back then or could they go to the Napoleonic wars if they liked? They never explain!

Well, at least in the first five episodes. I wanted to watch all of them but I couldn’t bring myself to stand so much boredom. After saving Lope de Vega, and the rabbi, and Alonso’s son, why the fuck can’t they save Julián’s wife? At least it doesn’t fail to capture the government’s contradictions and disdain for rules. At least that’s realistic. ***END SPOILERS***

All in all, a lot of people found it really entertaining and I’ll be happy for you if you do, but I found it mediocre, overacted and wasting a not too bad idea to underwriting.

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