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"I want to know everything!"
―Irina Spalko[src]

Polkovnik Vrach Irina Spalko (Russian: Ирина Спалько; Ukrainian: Ірина Сиалко) served in the Soviet Army as a military scientist – Joseph Stalin's favorite – and a senior officer up to the rank of Colonel. She was also a KGB agent, a psychic, as well as a very skilled fencer and combatant during the Cold War. Born with apparent psychic powers which led her to be ostracized in her early life, Spalko was consumed with the desire to discover why she was different.

In 1957, as part of her mandate to acquire artifacts with the potential for paranormal military application, Spalko led a team with Siberian Colonel Antonin Dovchenko to find the mysterious Crystal Skull of Akator with which to brainwash and manipulate the minds of American forces, giving the Soviets a tactical advantage in the Cold War.

In order to accomplish her goals, Spalko captured American archaeologist Indiana Jones and his loved ones, but ultimately her thirst for knowledge sealed her fate. While demanding to know "everything" from the lost city's otherworldly hive mind at the Temple of Akator, Spalko was disintegrated.


Early life[]

Irina Spalko was born on May 26, 1921 in Kazan.[1] She was raised in a small mountain village in the eastern regions of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. When her apparent psychic powers began to manifest themselves, the superstitious villagers shunned her, called her a witch, and worse. Her family was ostracized. Left to herself, she gradually became consumed by a personal quest that would fuel her from then to the last day of her life. Then, as she grew older and more curious, her dissecting of small animals - her innocent attempt to understand life and biology - caused even her own mother to fear her. As soon as she was old enough, she fled the village and mountains altogether, certain that the answers she sought could only be found in the wider world.[2]

Her singular quest took her far and wide; she studied with master yogis and trained with the best parapsychologists. She learned techniques developed by Nepalese monks to control her heart rate, her breathing and her body temperature. She studied classical fencing and became expert with the rapier, the saber and the foil.[2]

Eventually Spalko obtained a doctorate and joined the Soviet secret police. This security, intelligence and counterintelligence organization underwent multiple name changes since its inception in 1917 and - depending on the time she joined - would have been known by Spalko as the NKVD, the NKGB, the MGB and the MVD - and would become, in 1954, the Komityet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or KGB (Committee for State Security).[2]

As part of the KGB's Science and Technology Directorate, she participated in numerous experiments in ESP, telepathy and telekinesis - potentialities that the Soviet Union generally took more seriously than the West. In one such experiment, a mother rabbit’s newborn litter was placed aboard a submarine, which was then submerged. The mother remained onshore, her EEG readings carefully monitored, while beneath the surface of the water, inside the submarine, the young rabbits were killed one by one. As each one was slain, the mother's readings registered a reaction at the exact instant of each death. The experiment verified what Spalko already instinctively knew: that there was a tangible psychic link between living beings.[2]

Joseph Stalin himself was so impressed by her that he personally recruited her for his dream project: psychic warfare research. She was awarded the Order of Lenin, the highest decoration in the Soviet Union, three times for outstanding services rendered to the State[3] and the honorary title of Hero of Socialist Labor for exceptional achievements in the national economy and culture.[2]

Hunt for the Crystal Skull[]

"You are a hard man to read, Dr. Jones."
―Irina Spalko[src]

Spalko in Hangar 51.

In 1957, Irina Spalko became interested in the legends surrounding the lost kingdom of Akator and, especially, the mysterious Crystal Skull. She interpreted the stories as meaning that if she were to return the Skull to the Temple of the Gods, she would be rewarded with all the power and knowledge of the universe. Spalko also saw this as the opportunity she had been waiting for; a chance to discover the meaning behind her strange gifts.[1]

As it were, a few years prior two unearthly spacecraft had crashed in Russia, the beings inside killed from the impact. These creatures shared a very peculiar trait: skeletons made of a magnetic, psychically-supercharged crystal, with abnormally long skulls and massive eye sockets. Both were examined and given autopsies by Soviet scientists, and Spalko was a member of the team that studied the bodies.[1]

Somehow, she learned that a third craft had also crashed onto Earth, but in Roswell, New Mexico, USA. She knew that this third traveler was the key to understanding these beings. First, she sent Colonel Antonin Dovchenko to capture archaeologist Indiana Jones and his British partner (actually a Soviet spy) George McHale.[1]

Dr. Jones had been one of the men that had been invited to examine the Roswell spacecraft, and Spalko was determined to get his help in finding the creature's mummified remains, known to have been locked within a crate inside Hangar 51. The two were drugged and locked inside the trunk of a car, and were brought all the way from their excavation in Mexico to Nevada. On Dovchenko’s orders, her men slaughtered the American soldiers standing guard at the hangar’s gate. Once the Russian convoy arrived at the warehouse, Jones and Mac were hauled out. Spalko delayed showing herself, allowing Dovchenko to question Jones first; when the adventurer responded with an insult, the annoyed Colonel backhanded the man. He was about to toss another blow, when Irina stepped out of her vehicle, dramatically ordering her second-in-command to halt.[1]

Walking up to Jones, she casually bantered with him, and attempted to get answers from the man by calmly outlining her demands. Amused at Jones sarcastic attitude, she then tried to break into the Professor’s mind, to forcefully take the information she sought. She failed after much concentration, but was very impressed at his iron will. Dryly remarking about the expression “the old-fashioned way,” she had the warehouse doors open.[1]

Inside, the Colonel-Doctor gave Jones a choice: to either help them locate the crate they were after, or they would kill him and his friend McHale. Falling for the Soviet's bluff, Indiana agreed, and demanded gunpowder. Spalko was confused at this, and grew impatient with Jones' ambiguous actions. Using the metal in the air to find the crate, the group was able to remove the wooden box and open the metal container within. Spalko approached the 'coffin', and her sword instantly sprang up, locking with the magnetic pull of the remains within the box.[1]

Handing her scabbard to one of her men before personally examining the mutilated corpse, Irina was about to unwrap the mummy within when Jones attempted a desperate hostage situation, pointing a gun at Spalko and threatening to kill her if her forces did not stand down. With amusement, she watched as McHale revealed his true allegiances, but was surprised when Jones created a diversion with his discarded weapon to escape into the sea of endless crates.[1]

Ordering her men after Jones, Spalko commandeered a vehicle, carrying the valuable crate, to escape the hangar, most likely because she predicted Indiana would try to recapture the metal box. Jones was able to take over an escorting car, and began ramming Spalko's bumper. The American leaped onto her car into the seat beside her, and they briefly tangled as the car sped toward a wall of crates. Spalko was able to abandon ship before the vehicle impacted, safely landing in a pile of hay from smashed crates.[1]

As Jones fled with Dovchenko in pursuit, she had McHale and a few of her men follow the two, who then fell through a skylight and into the laboratory beneath. During Jones and Dovchenko's struggle, they accidentally activated a prototype rocket sled that incinerated her backup group, with only McHale ducking for cover. She soon pulled up in a car, letting Mac inside, and applauded the man for his actions.[1]

Spalko and her team then fled from the installation, as the American military arrived to investigate the break-in. She was aware that a nuclear detonation test was to take place that morning, and did not tell this to the men she had chasing Jones, who had wandered across the fake demolition town full of mannequins. The bomb detonated minutes later, and Spalko believed this to be the end of her short-but-memorable relationship with Indiana Jones.[1]

As it turned out, Jones, through sheer luck and ingenuity, had survived by locking himself within a lead-lined fridge, tossed many miles into the air and landing safely back to earth, saved by the lead that shielded the radiation while in the other hand, Spalko's men were vaporized. Indiana was still out there, and now Spalko’s intentions were exposed to the FBI.[1]

The KGB eventually got wind of Jones' survival and sent agents to chase him through the Marshall College campus, though he escaped with Mutt Williams, who desired Jones' help to find his missing mother.[1]


In fact, in the South American jungle, Spalko had arranged for Jones' former lover Marion Ravenwood and his former colleague Harold Oxley to be captured and held prisoner. The intent of this was to lure Jones to Nazca in search of his two friends, so that Spalko could recapture the troublesome American. As part of this, she did nothing when Ravenwood secretly sent a letter to her son, Mutt Williams, urging the boy to seek out Jones' help. This would allow her spies in America to capture not just Jones but also the boy and a valuable piece of information included in the note: information vital to Spalko's goal.[1]

Jones and Williams arrived in Peru and uncovered Orellana's Tomb, retrieving the Crystal Skull of Akator. Eventually, Spalko's associates captured them, reuniting Jones with Marion Ravenwood (now "Mary" Williams) who, as they tried to flee, revealed that Mutt was actually her and Jones' biological son.[1]

Spalko and her soldiers pursued the escaping Jones, Williams, Ravenwood, and Oxley. Standing on two vehicles moving side-by-side through the jungle, Spalko drew her notorious rapier and dueled with Mutt Williams, who had had some earlier fencing lessons at prep school. Eventually both vehicles crashed and at least two of of Spalko's thugs (Dovchenko and the Soviet Driver) were consumed by hordes of siafu, but she used a liana to get safe and thus didn't succumb to that fate. To avoid certain death, Ravenwood then drove her vehicle into the Sono River where she, Williams, Jones, Oxley, and George McHale survived three waterfalls, arriving by water to the Temple of Akator.[1]

When Jones and his band reached the Temple of Akator, they were ambushed by the Ugha natives who Oxley repelled with the Crystal Skull, entering the Temple. When Spalko and her band arrived, they were received aggresively, with the Ugha killing some of her remaining men, but she ultimately brought them down with machine gun fire.[1]

Inside the Temple were found the skeletons of thirteen crystal interdimensional beings, one of them being headless. Upon Spalko's arrival, she joined the skull to the headless skeleton, which, through Oxley, started to speak in the Mayan language, saying it would give them them a great gift. Spalko demanded to know everything, and the the thirteen skeletons started firing knowledge out of their skulls into her eyes. The Temple started to collapse, opening a portal in the ceiling to another dimension which pulled in what was left of Spalko's forces and Mac. Jones' band managed to escape from the Temple while the crystal skeletons merged together to form an individual living entity right before Spalko, who fruitlessly pleaded for the experience to end.[1]

Spalko's eyes burn out.

In her final moments, Spalko painfully felt how her skull transformed into quartz as the interdimensional beings granted her request for know all but the very last thing she ever perceived was a terrifying glimpse at unidentified things that were beyond her comprehension.[2] The continuous stream of knowledge overwhelmed her and, fire erupting from her eye sockets, she disintegrated, leaving her boots behind. Her remains were then sucked into the portal which revealed itself to be part of an enormous flying saucer.[1]


In the early 21st century, before its eventual publishing, Indiana Jones' journal was circulated by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation to intelligence agents from North Korea, China and Cuba. Spalko was, along with Igor Barkov and Elvira Kandinsky, listed by Russian operatives as one of the three known KGB agents with whom Jones had interacted, yet her status was reported as unknown.[4]

Personality and traits[]

"COLONEL DOCTOR SPALKO is a master of edged weapons and has a fierce temper. She is extremely dangerous."

Irina Spalko was a dominatrix, completely devoted to her goals. She possessed a thick Ukrainian accent, and always carried a rapier. She was highly skilled in fencing (a skill that won the admiration of Colonel Antonin Dovchenko) as well as martial arts. Spalko was not above using her gender to take advantage of male opponents, an example being when, during a duel, her chest became partially exposed, catching the eye of young Mutt Williams. She used the distraction to attack the boy. Irina was stunningly beautiful, but with cold impassioned eyes. Spalko would also wear a large set of sunglasses, enhancing her intimidating appearance. She displayed a very determined devotion to her job and country, and was seemingly a genuine patriot. Spalko wore black leather boots and occasionally gloves. She was usually dressed in a gray military uniform, perhaps too proud to display her allegiance to the Soviet Union. Her weapon of choice was a rapier. Spalko was an infamous leader, with a cruel disregard for innocent casualties and harboring a secret, selfish motivation. However, she did all this in the name of her country, and not out of pure maliciousness. As a soldier, she did only what was needed to complete the mission at hand.[1]

Irina held a surprising degree of respect for the American archaeologist Indiana Jones, admiring his deductive abilities and was intrigued by the fact that she was unable to read the professor's mind. She gave an unconventional amount of leeway with Jones during his investigations, albeit reluctantly, on her behalf. She treated the adventurer as an equal, and it is quite possible that, had they not been on opposite sides of the moral and political board, they would have made a fine team. She even allowed Indiana to know of her ultimate plan, a rather foolish thing to share with an enemy. Spalko was, however, jealous of the fact that the Crystal Skull of Akator was willing to communicate with Jones and not her.[1]

Spalko suffered a degree of self-doubt and the desire to find her purpose in the world. She was a firm believer in fate and destiny, and was deeply fascinated by the legend of Akator. She believed the quest to be the culmination of her life-long search for the answer she sought: why was she here, and what was her role in the greater scheme of things?[1]

Among her men, Spalko was a figure to be feared and respected.[1] Her lackeys were mistrustful of her mental powers, and often referred to her as witch, as she had been called in her childhood.[2] Her authority was so great it was enough to make Dovchenko, who was preparing to give Doctor Jones a severe beating, halt in his tracks.[1]

Behind the scenes[]

Irina Spalko was played by Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.[1] Blanchett had wanted to play a villain for a "couple of years" before being cast, and admitted to having a desire to be like Indiana Jones in her school years, accepting the role immediately upon being offered, having been director Steven Spielberg's first choice for the role.[5] She was honored to be a part of the Indiana Jones legacy[6] and Spalko ended up becoming Spielberg favorite villain of the series.[7]

Although the character was created by Kingdom of the Crystal Skull writer David Koepp, Spalko seems to be developed from Peter Belasko, a character from Frank Darabont's unmade Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods script, one of the many that were considered for the fourth Indiana Jones film. Like Spalko, Belasko was the primary antagonist of the story and demanded that the interdimensional beings give him universal knowledge as a gift, resulting in his death. Belasko's brain is melted in the process, killing him.[8]

Spalko's death is more explicit in the Crystal Skull shooting script. In this version of the story, after Spalko's eyes burst in flame, what was left of them drips down her face, and her lifeless body collapses to the ground leaving two oversized, black and hollow eye sockets matching those of corpses outside the throne room (an element cut from the final film but retained in some of the adaptations).[9]

Spalko's sword duel with Mutt Williams was originally intended to take place in a genuine virgin jungle without any sign of modern civilization's presence, in order to evoke the feeling of a never-before-explored area of the world. Due to the impracticality of filming such an elaborate action sequence through an unaltered jungle, which could endanger the cast and the crew, the chase was instead filmed in the jungles of Hawaii, substituting for the Amazon, on previously paved roads. CGI virgin jungle was later added digitally.

During the siafu attack in Crystal Skull an idea was considered in which Spalko was damaged by the ants leaving her scarred down one side of her face. According to artist Miles Teves, who was an illustrator on the film and produced three different designs of Spalko's injury, both Blanchett and Spielberg liked the idea but it ultimately went unused.[10][11]

Producer Frank Marshall said that Spalko continued the tradition of Indiana Jones having a love-hate relationship "with every woman he ever comes in contact with" (although Spalko doesn't seems to love Indiana and she also didn't seem to felt attracted to him as Elsa Schneider, one the series' previous antagonists).[12] Spalko was modeled on Marlene Dietrich, while her bob cut was Blanchett's idea and was inspired by Louise Brooks, with the character's stern looks and behaviour recalls the character of Rosa Klebb from the James Bond film From Russia with Love. Shia LaBeouf, the actor who portrayed Mutt Williams in the film, recalled that Blanchett was elusive on set, and Harrison Ford was surprised when he met her on set out of costume. Ford noted, "There's no aspect of her behavior that was not consistent with this bizarre person she's playing".[13]

Spalko's psychic abilities are actually inspired by the real-life Soviet interest in psychic warfare during the 1950s. Joseph Stalin was a strong supporter of this concept, similar to how Adolf Hitler, as depicted in the franchise, was determined to exploit religious artifacts for their paranormal powers. When George Lucas learned of Stalin's interest in physic warfare, he decided to use the Soviets as the fourth film's main villains, in part because he didn't want to use ex-Nazis as villains for the film. Director Steven Spielberg had decided that he could no longer depict the Nazis as he had before making Schindler's List, although they did have a minor presence in Darabont's first draft of his City of the Gods script.[14]

In the TV special LEGO Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick, Spalko's mission is changed from that of the film. Instead of taking the Crystal Skull to Akator, her mission is to take the Skull from Akator, which Indiana Jones and Mutt Williams have also planned. After Indy and Mutt manage to make Spalko hit her Jungle Cutter against the entrance of Akator, leaving it out of action temporarily, they advance and enter the temple. Once there, Spalko appears and engages in a sword fight with Williams, which ends with Spalko falling through a hole to an unknown fate while Jones and Williams escape from the ruined temple.[15] This fate for Spalko was also depicted in the LEGO Indiana Jones commercials for the sets based on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.[16]

In LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, Spalko gets the power she wants. She becomes so intelligent that she can control objects with her mind and shoot destructive mental rays from her eyes. However, she ends up being defeated by Indy and Marion Ravenwood, causing her power to overtake her and make her body explode, causing her remains to be pulled to the portal of the interdimensional beings. In the portable versions of the game, Spalko battles Indy and Harold Oxley shooting them with her pistol from afar until these two succeed in making the crytsal skeletons use their mental ability to raise her upwards. However, after this event, Spalko's ultimate fate is left ambiguous.[17]


Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]