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How Replicants Work


Is Deckard a Replicant?
Six androids took over the shuttle from the colonies. One died in an accident. Deckard retired four more. Is he the sixth?
Six androids took over the shuttle from the colonies. One died in an accident. Deckard retired four more. Is he the sixth?
TM & © The Blade Runner Partnership. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy Warner Home Video

If you watched the original version of "Blade Runner," you would see no overt clues that suggest Deckard might be a replicant. At the end of the movie, Deckard and Rachel get in the car and drive. Deckard's voiceover tells us that the two escape and that Rachel -- remember, Rachel is an experiment -- will live as long as humans do. They live happily ever after, and there's no reason to question Deckard's humanity.

But the Director's Cut and the Final Cut include new scenes that the original didn't, including a completely different ending. Earlier in the movie, Deckard daydreams of a unicorn. Gaff, who works with the police, has been leaving origami animals near replicants' rooms. At first, it seems like just an odd hobby, but as Deckard and Rachel begin their escape in the Director's Cut and the Final Cut versions of the movie, Deckard finds a paper unicorn on his way out of the apartment. He then knows that the unicorn daydream is a planted memory, and also that the police know what he is. Now instead of the happy ending, both Rachael and Deckard are on the run. In interviews surrounding the release of the Final Cut, Scott has said that Deckard is definitely a replicant.

This presents us with some serious questions:

  • Is his previous work with the police department all an implanted memory or is it real?
  • How long have the police known he's a replicant?
  • Why do they permit him to go after other replicants and then escape?
  • How long will he live?
  • Who else is a replicant?

For the police department, allowing Deckard to chase the other escaped replicants makes sense. They don't have to send a human into a dangerous job. But Gaff's paper unicorn suggests that Deckard won't be allowed to escape retirement now that he's taken care of the other replicants.

"Blade Runner" was based on a 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick called "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" In the novel, Deckard is not a replicant. There are many clues: He has a wife named Iran, and he owns a Penfield mood organ that he uses to adjust his moods. He also believes, or tries to believe, in the mass-media religion of Mercerism.

Still, he isn't convinced of his own humanity. To be sure he isn't an android, Deckard has a fellow bounty hunter hook him up to the Voigt-Kampff equipment and ask him how he feels about killing androids. At the thought of killing androids, especially female androids, he has an empathic response, which shows his humanity.

Both the book and the movie deal with what it means to be human. In their own interpretations on the story, Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick come down on the opposite sides of the fence when it comes to Deckard's humanity. We'll look at how the book evolved into a film in more detail on the next page.

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