The Ministry of Time

The Ministry of Time brings together some great figures of the past to the small screen. With humor, historical references, and jumps in time, it immerses us in the discovery of the history of Spain.
The Ministry of Time
Leah Padalino

Written and verified by the film critic Leah Padalino.

Last update: 19 December, 2022

There have recently been a few interesting Spanish series that have crossed borders and achieved worldwide acclaim. In this article, we’re going to talk about one of the most interesting series on the Spanish scene, The Ministry of Time.

The series was created by Pablo and Javier Olivares. It started in 2015 on RTVE (Radiotelevisión Española). Later, Netflix distributed it on its streaming platform and it captured the interest of both the general public and critics alike. In 2017, the series came to an end, and it wasn’t known if there’d be another series. However, it finally returned in 2020. Although many were doubtful, the fourth series proved to be a success.

Indeed, the two-and-a-half-year wait for the new series was well worth it. Its success could be due in part to the fact that it teaches history in a really entertaining way. It veers from the comic to the tragic in a matter of seconds and launches a whole host of recognizable characters that appeal to a particularly wide audience.

Knowing the past to understand the present

It’s said that history helps us to understand the present and also to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Moreover, it helps us to acquire a greater knowledge of the history of art and literature. For example, if we read a book, watch a movie, or look at a painting, it’s always interesting to know the context in which it took place.

The problem is that it can often be tedious to have to remember successions of historical events full of names and dates. Of course, this depends greatly on the personal interests of each individual, but the truth is, it’s often said that history is boring.

The Ministry of Time has all the ingredients to please any lover of history, art, and literature. It also hooks the most skeptical among us in some fascinating events of the past.

Through a patrol of agents working for a secret ministry, we can access countless doors that take us to key moments in the history of Spain. Frequently, a problem occurs that could’ve changed the course of history if it really happened. Indeed, we see how the slightest change in the past would’ve had direct repercussions on life today. In fact, the series depicts different timelines that often portray interesting alternative futures. It does so without ever losing its sense of humor.

This series brings us closer to some key figures of the past. For instance, we get to know Cervantes and understand the incalculable value of Don Quixote. We learn about Velázquez and his painting, Las Meninas. We also encounter Federico García Lorca, and even some more obscure figures, such as Francisco Franco.

In short, it’s a whole history lesson portrayed in an exceptionally captivating format.

The Ministry of Time: humor and science fiction

Deep down, The Ministry of Time is nothing more than a fantasy, a science fiction series. Broadly speaking, when we think of science fiction, we tend to think of futuristic or even space stories. But in reality, science fiction is nothing more than a genre that explores the possible consequences of scientific and technological advances. In effect, it imagines possible worlds from a certain scientific basis.

We might differentiate between soft and hard science fiction. These aren’t exactly two different genres but are distinctions within the genre itself. On the one hand, there are works in which the description of the scientific component prevails (hard). On the other, there are those in which the universe or elements related to society are explored more (soft).

The Ministry of Time is located in the soft science fiction category. That’s because it doesn’t clearly explain the operation of doors to the past. However, it immerses us in a fictional ministry in which trips to the past are possible, a recurring theme in science fiction. Despite this, it’s a series of intrigue, with elements of police drama. For this reason, many people don’t recognize it as science fiction.

The time machine

It should be noted that, in the last series, one more step was taken toward the vindication of Spanish science fiction. This was the appearance of the time machine. As we mentioned earlier, The Ministry of Time is made up of endless nods to a recognizable past and another that’s more forgotten. Indeed, many viewers probably didn’t know that the time machine was a Spanish invention, not literally, of course, but in the realms of literature.

The Ministry of Time has rescued a device known as the first ‘invention’ in Spanish literature of a device that allowed time travel. This was included in the work, El Anacronópete  (The Time Machine) by Enrique Gaspar y Rimbau in 1887. Why is this fact highlighted among so many other curiosities presented by the series? Because, as we’ve already said, the series acts as a good history lesson. Added to that, it spreads literary culture.

Another interesting fact is that this series was originally broadcast on a public television channel. This ties in with one of the main functions of public television being the dissemination of its country’s culture to bring it within the reach of everyone.

The series is humorous at times. Indeed, this is one of its greatest attractions along with its excellent use of irony. In fact, many episodes make us laugh, whether it’s due to a witty line, a self-deprecating comment, or specific elements of popular culture.

The success

Sometimes, when a series goes on for more than three seasons, it can end up becoming boring. However, this isn’t the case with The Ministry of Time. It retains its freshness and continues to be amusing, as you can see in the video above, depicting a meeting between Pablo Picasso and Velazquez.

In fact, this series has managed to bring together some great moments of the past with a dystopian future, humor, and constant reference to the viewer. It even gives rise to some criticism of the system, without forgetting self-reference and self-criticism.

Its success has been witnessed on the two networks and the response from viewers has been truly surprising. Undoubtedly, the dissemination campaign has achieved its goal. It’s not only interesting as a series, but also as a product. As a matter of fact, web pages dedicated to the series have been created, and the social media accounts of RTVE, the series, and its creators frequently interact with viewers.

This has also translated into the possibility of future adaptations in even more countries. Although we don’t know if it’ll return, the fourth season has left us with a good taste in our mouths. It’s given us a good dose of entertainment and culture in equal parts.

*Note to creators: If it comes back, please give us more Velázquez moments.

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