A Good Spanish Sci-fi TV Show? Yep

What’s the most shocking news of the year? Twin Peaks‘ comeback? X-files‘ possible reboot? No. The ultimate mystery in the 2015 television landscape is that J. and I are watching a Spanish series.

Let’s face it, most of the current Spanish TV shows are just bad copies of international products: Velvet is a lame version of Mad Men, Gran Hotel was Downton Abbey without money or talent, Bajo Sospecha tries to emulate a nordic thriller, Victor Ros was Sherlock without the Cumberbatch(es), Cuéntame un Cuento was a pretentious mix between Black Mirror and Once Upon a Time, and Isabel was… you don’t even need to know.

After the end of the infamous Isabel, TVE, Spain’s public network, started to promote what looked like a Spanish Doctor Who: a group of people travel through time and space to maintain the history exactly as we know it. Surprisingly, the trailer didn’t look quite bad, the costumes were great and the protagonists didn’t try to act like if they were in a theatre (a huge problem in Spanish television). And then the first episode was aired.
I was in a hate-watching mood at the beginning of the episode, but… it wasn’t that bad! I had a struggle with myself but finallly I had to accept that… I like it. It’s true that the dialogues were poor and the jokes were too politically correct, but there was something more important: personality. El Ministerio del Tiempo (literally “the ministry of time”) is not a copy of Doctor Who, it’s our own sci-fi TV show.

Apart from the dialogues (which are improving in every episode), the main characters are something more than an excuse: they have motivations, their own fears, families, etc. and even I’m starting to empathize with the main girl: a feminist and academic woman from Barcelona in the XIX century.

The second and third episodes had serious problems with the narrative rhythm: they were slow, predictable and didn’t add relevant anything to the mythology of the TV shows: plain filler episodes. However, this week’s instance was something different: we learned about the origins of the ministry, enjoyed a Groundhog day structure and even witnessed a temporal paradox. Like the second episode of Penny Dreadful, these were the 60 minutes finally sold me the show.

One aspect that El Ministerio del Tiempo shares with the British TV show is a historical and didactic spirit: we meet relevant artists such as Velazquez and Lope de Vega, important historical figures that most of the Spanish people don’t know like El Empecinado, and many others.

Like I’ve said before El Ministerio del Tiempo has many problems but if you like TV shows, sci-fi fiction and you live in Spain, you have no excuse. You don’t even need to look for subtitles!

The Homecoming Queen

13 thoughts on “A Good Spanish Sci-fi TV Show? Yep

  1. Franpagu says:

    I’m lucky because I like TV shows, sci-fi fiction, adventures, and I live in Spain. What a great product by TVE!

  2. ldeirdre says:

    Isabel was a fantastic show and cuentame is quite good as well. It looks when reading your post that Spaniards have only been able make a good episode of this particular ministerio del tiempo and as if it was a miracle that can never repeated. Come on. Not all shows done in the UK or the US are masterpieces. Try to rate the shows and not the country where they come from!

  3. Maria J. says:

    I must confess that I’m a fan of El Ministerio del Tiempo myself. About your review, although I agree with its positive general tone, in my opinion you have misunderstood the kind of humour of the series, which is quite ironic. And let me tell you that although irony seems to have a politically correct appearance it never is.

    From your comments I guess you are a woman and if you aren’t Spanish, you live in Spain at least. This is why I can’t understand that you weren`t able to appreciate some jokes, like the French at the bookstore quite shocked after knowing that the Peninsular War was called Independence War, the Alcázar brothers –the two heavies giving directions to the French- in the Gran Via where they have been every day since “Madrid Rock” closed, Velazquez being responsible of producing the identikits, the continuos references to the Atlético de Madrid, the annoyance of the Ministerio’s civil servant in the 19th century when he learns about the salary reductions due to the crisis, Julian’s competition with Lope de Vega reciting Leño’s lyrics in opposition to Lope de Vega’s baroque poetry, Alonso de Entrerrios bewilderment when he is nicknamed Alatriste, Amelia’s confusion when she is explained how to use tampons, the selfie made in Montserrat with the captured Nazis, Spinola and a “Tercio de Flandes” killing a nazi company inside the Ministerio’s facilities… summarizing, a series of ironic jokes and references that make lots of sense if you are moderately informed about Spain nowadays. Even more, all the references to Alatriste are direct attacks to Tele 5’s atrocious adaptation of Perez Reverte’s novels.

    But, quoting Harry Callahan in Dead Pool… opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.

  4. It happened the same as you, i don’t use to like spanish series (and I’m spanish), mainly because they’re slow and too much long, and everything is so predictible and so “i’ve seen this plots before so many times”. However I don’t know why I’m so obsesed with this serie. Even I don’t mind the 70 minutes long, because it let explain all the character plots, and the main plot of each cahpter. Just let me say: the jokes, specially about the public workers, are really funny.

  5. Anette says:

    The Isabel series is pretty good. In fact, the third season is quite surprising and good for your very fast pace. Essential to know the origin of the formation of the Kingdom of Spain. Victor Ros is not a copy of Sherlock Holmes. Because Victor Ros is based on a detective novel and make an adaptation for TV.

    About MDT has a Spanish-style humor and understandably does not extend well into the general culture. Has much critical-ironic to Spanish country content, I mean, it is critical to himself.

    I live in Spain for 10 years (I’m from Germany), obviously the Spanish culture is very different from the British or American. The Spanish style is close to the Portuguese, French or Italian, for example, Italy is the largest country seeking products Spanish fiction.


  6. Kurt Zauke says:

    I watch this in the USA on my cable package and on the apps that the channel has for watching on your iPhone or tablet. So I am lucky and determined to make sure it stays around. I love this show!!

  7. ministerica says:

    I’m in love with this Tvshow. I think it’s gonna be recognised as one of the bes tv shows, at least in Spain. Sorry, but I’m not agree with your opinion about the dialogues. Are you sure you have understood the sense of the dialogues? It would be normal if you’re not Spanish. Sorry for my embarrassing level of English.

  8. We, puny spaniards, appreciate your words, but you can leave all that condescendence behind, since spanish authors are building the history of narrative centuries before any english spoker tried to write down his own name. Thank you.

  9. anafraserlallybroch says:

    Perhaps you don’t know who Isabel I Reina de Castilla was or El Empecinado, or Torquemada, Velazquez, Dali but I can assure you that Spanish people do.
    El Ministerio del Tiempo is a great show, and you don’t understand a lot of things because you don’t live here. You don’t know us. You just guess to do it

  10. Skinner says:

    Good overview of this TV series. Take it easy fellow countrymen, the review doesn’t sound condescending to me.

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