Review: Ikarie XB 1

Ikarie XB 1

The original Czech version of Jindřich Polák’s 1963 sci-fi gets a hi-definition re-release through Second Run.

It’s 2163 and the starship Ikarie XB 1 dives into a deep space journey in search of alien life. As they come across archaic technology and arcane cosmic phenomena, the crew must confront humanity’s past as well as its future.

Despite its relative rarity outside of Eastern Europe (a re-edited and English-dubbed version was released in the US as Voyage to the End of the Universe), Ikarie XB 1 has been an obvious influence on some of the greats of the genre, with elements of its presence and prescience evident in 2001: A Space OdysseySunshine and Interstellar.



While it leans more towards art-house than action on the sci-fi spectrum, the narrative ticks along at a brisk, if occasionally erratic, pace as both the spaceship and the story hurtle towards a satisfying yet somewhat unnerving conclusion. The cinematography is exquisitely framed, while light and sound collude to craft a creeping sense of drama and dread. The special effects showcase that precious sixties space-race charm, and the science behind the fiction feels surprisingly authentic, no doubt due to the film’s cadre of technical advisors.

Like most good sci-fi, the film confronts the fears of the era, as it reflects upon post-war paranoia and the 20th Century’s crimes against humanity (the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and the threat of mutually-assured destruction). But this is balanced with moments of everyday levity as the crew eat, drink, laugh and dance through the light-years of cold, dark space travel.

Ikarie XB 1 is released on region-free blu-ray with a galaxy of special features through Second Run on 25th March.


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