The Department of Time: Cualquier tiempo pasado (Any time in the past is better)   First Watch 
May 9, 2018 9:16 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Julián, Amelia and Alonso travel to 1981 to ensure a Picasso painting is returned to Spain.

* Salvador shows Alonso a 15th century manuscript that has an image of someone rescuing Ernesto on a motorcycle. (See the end of episode 4, Una negociación a tiempo.) Oops.
* Velázquez meets with Picasso. Velázquez asks who Picasso's favorite artist at the Prado Museum is. Picasso answers Goya. He then says that Velázquez is the greatest Spanish painter ever. This is reminiscent of the heartbreakingly beautiful scene from Doctor Who series 5 episode 10 Vincent and The Doctor, in which Vincent Van Gogh is brought to an art gallery by The Doctor and Amy. The lonely, depressed and underappreciated Van Gogh -- who struggled to sell a single painting in his own lifetime -- learns (from Bill Nighy, no less) just how beloved his work will be in modern times.
* Not mentioned in the episode, but possibly worth thinking about: Why did Amelia have the receipt sent to Irene in 1981 instead of just taking it with her back to the Ministry? She went to the post office in the 1930's and mailed it with instructions that the envelope be delivered to Irene in 2015. The receipt needed to age naturally, in case someone tested it.
* A reference Americans may miss: the drama Cuéntame cómo pasó (English: Tell me how it happened), is the longest running prime time series (since 2001) in the history of Spanish television. It is usually shortened to Cuéntame (Tell Me) and is also known in English as "Remember When" The series "recounts the experiences of a middle-class family, the Alcántaras, during the last years of the rule of Francisco Franco and the beginning of the Spanish transition to democracy."
After the previous episode's cameo by Queen Isabel from the series Isabel, some reviewers speculated that a character from Cuéntame Cómo Pasó (Tell Me) might appear in a cameo in an episode of The Ministry of Time. However, it turns out that on this show, Cuéntame is actually fictional tv show in-universe. Julián jokingly refers to the 1981 safe house as "the home of the Alcántaras". The jacket that Julián wears in this mission and that he complains makes him look like his father, was worn first by Cuéntame's main character, Carlos Alcántara. (Via)
posted by zarq (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Poster's note: I'm not sure how closely translated the English episode titles on Netflix are, but I'm going to use them to name these recaps from this point forward. When you look up The Ministry of Time episodes on various websites, they invariably translate titles differently.
Such as:
Wikipedia: "Every Past Time"
IMDb: "Good Old Times"
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on May 9, 2018

My Spanish is so-so (4 years of high school classes plus one summer in Argentina as an exchange student, one or two college courses, and several trips to Cuba where I was often the lone Spanish-speaker of my group). At this point I'd be hard-pressed to do any writing, but I can read it (laboriously), and get by conversationally, and once I'm in a Spanish-speaking country for a couple of days my fluency kicks in. So, I'm very reliant on the subtitles for Ministerio Del Tiempo, as an hour isn't really long enough to get my brain to start thinking in Spanish (also, as accents go, I think I find Spanish-Spanish the most unfamiliar to my ears). So, I think I missed something back in the introduction of Velázquez -- I guess I thought he was stuck in the Ministry for some reason, that maybe he'd become an agent after his official death, like Alonso. But this episode made me check his wikipedia page, and I see he died at 61, so I guess the reason he's at the Ministry so much is just because the writers love to put him there.

Anyway, I really enjoyed his scenes in this episode. All the comedic moments, like his reaction to Angustias' "my kid could draw that" line, which she clearly said just to troll him, but then the meeting with Picasso. Though knowing that Picasso was a serial abuser of women dims my enjoyment of the episode.

Appreciated the callback of the motorcycle bit, as well as all of Alonso's fish-out-of-water moments. I would have liked to see his reaction to the rock concert more than seeing Amelia suffer through it, but I guess if he'd been there he would have been more forceful with Julian in stopping him from interfering with his father's date.
posted by oh yeah! at 5:18 PM on May 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

oh yeah!, my Spanish proficiency is limited to what I learned in high school and college. I understand quite a bit when it's spoken, but I can't speak the language at all. I couldn't watch this show without subtitles - they speak too quickly and use too many words I'm unfamiliar with.

I also don't think they adequately explained why Velasquez is there in that first episode or what he's there to do. We see him make sketches but other than that, he just seems to be their resident art expert.

I loved the format of this episode and the way it was divided into missions involving supporting characters. But I also wasn't thrilled with his bringing Amelia to the rock concert, either. She seemed uncomfortable and unhappy and that didn't feel funny. I guess we're supposed to find someone slapping her butt funny, but it just fell flat for me. The number of coincidences regarding Julian bugged me too. They seemed contrived to add drama and a sense of urgency to the plot. He goes to the park to see Maite as a child. He meets his dad. Etc.

The motorcycle callback was great, and I agree with you about Alonso. :)
posted by zarq at 2:29 PM on May 11, 2018

The motorcycle painting reminded me of Two Monks from the Toast. I'm imagining the Toast explanation. "Um... What do horses look like? "Black and with circles for legs." "Circles?" "Definitely circles--and no face!!"
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:06 PM on May 15, 2018

I'm glad that we are getting back story for someone (Irene) without it being terribly depressing.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:07 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I loved the "smoking room" -- the idea that once the ministry banned smoking, the smokers use a time door that leads outside a theater's backstage so they don't have to change costume to go smoke.
posted by fings at 10:44 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was amused by the line about privatizing time travel because OF COURSE Americans would do that.

Although a part of my brain goes that most Americans if confronted with the realities of the past (depending on time period things like no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing etc etc) they would be much less keen on the experience.
posted by miss-lapin at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Although a part of my brain goes that most Americans if confronted with the realities of the past (depending on time period things like no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing etc etc) they would be much less keen on the experience.

Which I suppose is why they sent the American agent to 10-something, where the guard hearing him call for the US Embassy, thinks he's just another lunatic babbling incoherently.
posted by mikelieman at 12:13 AM on June 2, 2018

I wa okay with him running into Maite - he delherately went to his old neighbourhood, and had already run into several people he knew - but I would have liked to see higher stakes for that interference, other than that it made his father sad. What if Raquel had gone to apologize to his mother, and she wound up leaving his father in 1982? What if the entire affair with Raquel had to run its course for something else important to happen? As it is, Julian appears to have gotten off with nothing worse than a lecture from the boss and a gentle admonishment from Irene.

From a narrative point of view, every so often the good guys have to screw up, and really pay for it, or else the tension goes down.
posted by Mogur at 8:53 AM on August 12, 2018

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