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 Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?

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richard09

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PostSubject: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 11:36 am

The question was asked on Quora.com, and I thought this answer was rather persuasive.

Adam M. Steiner, Author at Ptolemy Publishing UK wrote:
A bit like Schrodinger’s cat, Deckard both is and isn’t a replicant at the same time.

In the mind of Ridley Scott he is one. In the mind of almost everyone else involved in the project, including the scriptwriters, he isn’t.

For some reason, in development, Scott took strongly against the idea of Blade Runner being an “intellectual” movie, and fought hard to have what he described as a Twilight Zone style twist at the end. Luckily, this being a terrible idea, he wasn’t able to force it through. All of this is well documented in the brilliant book Future Noir*.

For my money, it’s better if Deckard isn’t a replicant.

Objectively, in all versions of the film other than the Final Cut, there is no credible reason to believe that he might be one, other than in the sense that every character in the film could be one.

Much more importantly, if he was one:

(a) it makes no sense, given the whole setup of the film is based on the premise that the police shoot replicants on earth on sight because they are considered so incredibly dangerous and unpredictable, and

(b) he would have to be the worst replicant ever made. Deckard gets his ass kicked by every replicant he meets in the story, including the one described as a “basic pleasure model”, and only solves the case by being told where to go by his human bosses, and

(c) if both the antagonist and the protagonist are replicants, it invalidates the central theme/question of the film: whether humanity arises from what we do and feel, or what we physically are, (because any comparisons we make between Deckard and Batty are comparisions between a replicant and a replicant).

But even if you don’t care about those points, look at how much you have to retcon into the story for him to be one:

Firstly you have to allow that the police department is willing to let a replicant to roam freely on earth in order to prevent what it sees as the ultimate crime: replicants roaming freely on earth. And not only that, the police are willing to break a core law for what is initially a challenging, but essentially “everyday” case of Blade Running. Remember, Deckard’s mission is not some world-threatening uber crisis. He’s just an ordinary police assassin being called out of retirement to “air out” some replicants because Holden, the original guy on the case, got shot.

This illogic of the police allowing this to happen seems doubly unlikely when you note that Bryant is portrayed as the most stone-cold skin-job hating racist in the film. Why would Bryant ever agree to such a plan?

For the police to break their core mission you have to believe that the police are under the thumb of Tyrell. The film almost goes out of its way to show the opposite, from Bryant’s comment that “if you aren’t police you’re little people”, to the lack of deference Deckard shows Tyrell at his headquarters, to the fact that nobody in the police gives a shit when Tyrell gets killed by Batty.

Then we move onto practical points. For Deckard to operate as a Bladerunner, you also have to believe that, Tyrell has the capability, at zero notice to create a replicant with all of the necessary memories not only to seamlessly work within the LAPD, but also specifically to have opinions about all of the people who currently work there. This seems highly unlikely as well. Holden getting shot was not foreseeable by either Tyrell or the police.

And finally, you have to buy the idea that while under threat from some of the most dangerous replicants ever built, some of whom have already tried to break into his headquarters, Tyrell decides it would be a good moment to try out a thought experiment where he programmes a combat-useless replicant to think that it’s a Blade Runner,in order to find out whether it can save his ass. Answer: it can’t.

More generally you also be happy with the idea that whenever the plot requires a replicant to break the rules of being a replicant, there just happens to be another secret generation of replicants that magically exists in order to solve a glaring plot problem that the writers couldn’t be bothered to work their way through.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:09 pm

While I concede Steiner touches on several key dilemmas that arise if Deckard is a replicant, I reject his final conclusion that he isn't.

Listen, it's meant to be ambiguous. The whole point of the Blade Runner movies is to make us question what is human, what is free will, whether retiring an AI with free will approaches murder.

That being said, what everyone misses when discussing Deckard's replicantness is something that became glaringly obvious the minute I thought of it: Deckard's memories are implants. Implants from a human blade runner, maybe one who was killed. Deckard BELIEVES he is human, right up until the end when he finds Gaff's origami unicorn.

But Holden was outmatched, and the LAPD had to come up with a blade runner equal to the task. They reprogrammed a Nexus 6 with the memories of Holden's predecessor and set him loose.

Deckard doesn't know he's a replicant. Batty doesn't know he's a replicant. Only Gaff and Bryant know.

Remember, Deckard has to be briefed by Bryant on what a Nexus 6 is. If he was a retired police officer used to retiring Nexus 6s he'd already know that. But his implanted memories didn't know.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:13 pm

And in BR2049 we learn Deckard is a model beyond Nexus 6, not a Nexus 8 like Sapper Morton and K and all the other Wallace replicants, but an experimental Tyrell model (like Rachel) capable of reproducing.  Tyrell's motivations in creating him were twofold: first, to get on the good side of law enforcement by helping them round up their replicant problem, and second, to see if he could get his two experimental models to mate and reproduce.


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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:26 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
And in BR2049 we learn Deckard is a model beyond Nexus 6, not a Nexus 8 but an experimental model (like Rachel) capable of reproducing.

Where in the movie is that? I found nothing in BR2049, or in the original movie, that provides evidence that Deckard is a replicant. Yes, there were a couple of bits that could be used as grounds for believing it, but absolutely no evidence that I could see.

Steiner makes too much of the police department. In the book there were replicants in the police, some of whom knew they were replicants and some who did not.

I can't accept that Deckard was a replicant based on the book and the movies. You can only believe that he was if you want to believe it.

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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 12:40 pm

_Howard wrote:
Where in the movie is that? I found nothing in BR2049, or in the original movie, that provides evidence that Deckard is a replicant.

  1. Deckard says "they were hunting us" when K finally finds him hiding out in Las Vegas.  Some people have said by "us" he meant Rachel, but she's been dead for 25 years by the time K finds him so it doesn't make sense for Deckard to still be hiding if he's not a replicant himself
  2. Niander Wallace says "I have wanted to meet you for so very long" when he finally captures Deckard. Why would he care to meet a human who retires his product?
  3. "I never met her, that was the plan" says Deckard to explain why he disappeared when Rachel became pregnant and wasn't there when she gave birth
  4. Deckard has a piano in his flat, with photos all over the music stand.  That's a replicant trademark.  He seems to know how to play the same song Rachel plays -- care of implanted memories from Tyrell's niece
  5. Deckard has a dog in Las Vegas.  Reverance for other species (snakes, owls, llamas) is another replicant trademark ("Is he real?"  "I dunno, why don't you ask him?")
  6. Deckard takes punches and throws punches in both movies that are superhuman
    And the capper:
  7. Niander informs Deckard that he was created to fall in love with Rachel

Was he lying?  Telling the truth?  You can interpret this either way.  Deckard of course is bothered by the suggestion that his free will isn't free.

You can choose to believe or not believe, that is part of the fun of the ambiguity built into the plot.  For me though there are a lot less loose threads if he is.


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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:20 pm

Here's the concealed irony in BR2049.

Replicants are gathering underground, building up a movement for "when the time is right" and the promised one, the child of two replicants, will lead them to revolution. They believe if they can reproduce they deserve equal rights.

But the irony is, there is only one person (replicant?) born of two replicant parents (it might be Dr. Ana Stelline, it might not).

The rest of the replicants are all created in a lab, and cannot reproduce. They have no rights, and by the logic of their genesis do not deserve any.

The secret of how to make replicants capable of reproducing unfortunately died with Dr. Eldon Tyrell. Even the genius Niander Wallace, despite decades of trying, hasn't been able to "replicate" that accomplishment.

And one of the two special replicants, Rachel, is dead. The other, Deckard, is lost to the cause of replicant liberation.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:41 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
But the irony is, there is only one person (replicant?) born of two replicant parents...

Is it stated explicitly in the movie that there were two replicant parents?

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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:43 pm

No.

But there were clues all along the way that you only pick up on the 2nd, 3rd or 5th viewing.  For instance:

  1. Deckard is living in radioactive Las Vegas, where no human could survive.  Replicants were engineered to be immune to radioactivity (stated in 1st movie)
  2. Sapper Morton refers to "a miracle."  Replicants did not think replicants could reproduce.  Sapper (& the underground) are unaware that Rachel & Deckard were special models
  3. Gaff's unicorn establishes that Deckard was a replicant
  4. Tyrell established that Rachel was a replicant


Here's the real mind-fuck from this situation, though: is a child born of two replicants a replicant, or a human?  Theoretically she wouldn't have serial numbers embossed on every cell.  She'd grow up from infanthood rather than slithering out of a bag fully-adult.  She might be a mule (i.e. infertile) but she'd definitely be "almost human" ... if not fully. She might even have some kind of immune-deficiency from faulty DNA.


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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:07 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
But there were clues all along the way that you only pick up on the 2nd, 3rd or 5th viewing.

Having read and heard a lot about the movie, and about its revelation of Deckard being a replicant, I looked for indications ("clues") of that while watching the movie. I found absolutely none. I don't think I care enough to subject myself to watching that flick 2, 3 or 5 times. But I will consider it if I hear of anything revealing to watch for.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 2:59 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
For me though there are a lot less loose threads if he is.
If Deckard is human:
  1. How was he able to hang from two fingers (on a broken hand) off the top of the Bradbury Building?
  2. How is he able to go head-to-head with five of the deadliest escaped replicants and survive? Barely, but he did.
  3. How was he able to spot Zhora in an obscured photo, and in a crowd on the streets of LA?
  4. How is he able to live in radioactive Las Vegas?
  5. Why did Bryant have to brief him on what a Nexus 6 is?
  6. Why did he dream of a unicorn?
  7. How does Gaff know about Deckard's dreams?
  8. Why are there photos on his piano, but nobody recognizable?
  9. "Sushi, cold fish, that's what my ex-wife calls me" but there is no other mention of a life previous to Bryant reactivating him
  10. "You've done a man's job" says Gaff when Deckard retires Batty. Why say that, if he's a man?
  11. "Would you hunt me?" asks Rachel. "I wouldn't. I owe you one. But somebody else would."
  12. Why would Eldon Tyrell -- the maker of Nexus 6 replicants -- welcome a human blade runner (sworn to retire replicants) into the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation?
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:12 pm

Here's an interesting thought.  The Voigt-Kampff machine tests for involuntary responses to an empathy test (turtle baking in the sun, a bug collection...)

It is never stated if the replicants have NO response to the empathy test, or a HEIGHTENED response.

With all non-human species apparently extinct in the Blade Runner world, maybe humans give a flat no-empathy response.  Replicants OTOH enjoy owning artificial animals (owls, snakes, dogs, bees) so maybe they're the only ones who show empathy on a VK test? Leon seemed genuinely panicked ("How come I'm not helping?") on Holden's VK test.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:31 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
How was he able to hang from two fingers (on a broken hand) off the top of the Bradbury Building?
It's a movie.

NoCoPilot wrote:
How is he able to go head-to-head with five of the deadliest escaped replicants and survive?  Barely, but he did.
It's a movie.

NoCoPilot wrote:
How was he able to spot Zhora in an obscured photo, and in a crowd on the streets of LA?
It's a movie.

NoCoPilot wrote:
How is he able to live in radioactive Las Vegas?
It's a movie.

NoCoPilot wrote:
Why did Bryant have to brief him on what a Nexus 6 is?
In the first movie, Deckard was retired. Perhaps the Nexus 6 was developed after his retirement.

NoCoPilot wrote:
Why did he dream of a unicorn?
Why does anyone have strange dreams?

NoCoPilot wrote:
How does Gaff know about Deckard's dreams?
How would Gaff know about anyone's dreams? They are not the same as memories.

NoCoPilot wrote:
Why are there photos on his piano, but nobody recognizable?
Don't have any idea.

NoCoPilot wrote:
"Sushi, cold fish, that's what my ex-wife calls me" but there is no other mention of a life previous to Bryant reactivating him
In the book, Deckard was married. Why is it so unusual that he would have an ex-wife? Doesn't make him a replicant.

NoCoPilot wrote:
"You've done a man's job" says Gaff when Deckard retires Batty.  Why say that, if he's a man?
It's a common comment.

NoCoPilot wrote:
"Would you hunt me?" asks Rachel.  "I wouldn't.  I owe you one.  But somebody else would."
Deckard had developed feelings for Rachael, so he wouldn't hunt her. There were other policemen who would hunt her. In the book, Policemen were paid piecework for killing androids.

NoCoPilot wrote:
Why would Eldon Tyrell -- the maker of Nexus 6 replicants -- welcome a human blade runner (sworn to retire replicants) into the headquarters of the Tyrell Corporation?
I'm sure there were laws controlling replicant manufacture and distribution. There was a reason given for Deckard's visit to Tyrell in the first movie, but I don't remember what it was.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:36 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
It is never stated if the replicants have NO response to the empathy test, or a HEIGHTENED response.
It is stated that replicants have no empathy.

NoCoPilot wrote:
Replicants OTOH enjoy owning artificial animals (owls, snakes, dogs, bees) so maybe they're the only ones who show empathy on a VK test?
In the book, artificial animals were owned by humans. To own a real animal was a huge status symbol. I don't recall anything in the books or movies about replicants enjoying artificial animals. Doesn't mean it wasn't there, just that I don't remember it.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:37 pm

_Howard wrote:
There was a reason given for Deckard's visit to Tyrell in the first movie, but I don't remember what it was.
To put the VK machine on an experimental new model of Nexus without the 4-year limited lifespan.

Yes, "It's a movie." A fun one with intellectual puzzles that can be discussed endlessly without settling anything. I love things that aren't cut-and-dried, things that make you sit up and go, "Huh."
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:39 pm

_Howard wrote:
It is stated that replicants have no empathy.
I must've missed that. When?
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:42 pm

I don't recall if it was explicitly stated in the movie, but it was in the book.

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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:46 pm

We're not going to settle this question here.

I've convinced myself one way, you're convinced the other.  Vive la différence!

BTW I read the book. It wasn't as deep or thought-provoking as the movie.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:52 pm

This isn't a question to be settled. It's just a fun mind game.

I'm not convinced one way or the other. I was disappointed when the new movie didn't explicitly answer the question. I was hoping they would show that Deckard really was a replicant.

NoCoPilot wrote:
BTW I read the book.  It wasn't as deep or thought-provoking as the movie.
I disagree. But what else is new, huh?

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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:16 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
_Howard wrote:
It is stated that replicants have no empathy.
I must've missed that.  When?

Phillip K. Dick wrote:
[The replicants are] deplorable because they are heartless, they are completely self-centered, they don’t care what happens to other creatures, and to me this is essentially a less-than-human entity for that reason.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sat Feb 24, 2018 7:14 pm

The book ≠ the movie

Although that description would fit a lot of politicians who presumably are not replicants.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:53 am

And the second movie ≠ the first movie.

And you seem to have fallen in love with "≠".
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:04 am

Few months ago I discovered my computer's emoji and symbols palette:

Some useful for making CDs: ®️ ©️ ℗ ™

Some useful for temperature: º ℃ ℉

Some useful for maths: ¼ ½ ² ³ ≠ ∞ ¢ € £ ¥

Some useful for rendering foreign names: é ä à á â å æ ç è é ê ò ó ö ø ù ú ü ß ¿

Some useful for making checklists: ☐ √ ∙

Lots of symbols and emojis (which don't seem to display here... oh well)
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Fri Mar 02, 2018 10:42 am

_Howard wrote:
I don't recall if it was explicitly stated in the movie, but it was in the book.
Robin Wright is singularly unempathetic in 2049, calling for the termination of the replicant child (now in her twenties) simply because she represents something "out of order."  I think the idea that replicants are the only beings left with any feelings makes the movies far stronger than the book.
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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:07 pm

Okay, I watched it again. Still boring. Still too long. The production is great - magnificent settings and special effects - but the directing blows. And scenes that were inserted just to show off the nice production values were really irritating.
Still found absolutely nothing that indicates - to me - that Deckard was a replicant.
I disagree with your perception that only replicants have feelings in this movie. Some of them were complete assholes. Their actions shown were mostly about their interest in self-preservation. While understandable and maybe even admirable, it doesn't indicate any sort of empathy. "Go kill Deckard" does not sound very nice or empathetic.

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PostSubject: Re: Original Blade Runner: Was Deckard a replicant?   Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:47 pm

“Too long” — possibly. I think I myself mentioned it could’ve benefited from a half hour less exposition. I like movies that TELL you something’s going to happen, and then the next scene takes up with that something having already happened. BR2049 did spend too much time in Las Vegas, the fight scene in the water was pointless, the scene in the child labor farm went on too long.

“Too boring” — I like movies that move at the pace of real life. Too many are hyperactive and act like panicked ocelots. Yeah, the movie is a little slow in places.

“The directing blows” — in what way? I don’t find much evidence for this at all (aside from the above).

“Magnificent settings” — couldn’t agree more.

“Deckard was not a replicant” — I already gave my rationale, and I think it holds up. But it was meant to be somewhat ambiguous so you are free to disagree with my analysis.
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