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BLADE RUNNER: When News is Not New

Ridley Scott proclaims Deckard is a replicant, but we've heard it all before.

By Steve Biodrowski     July 10, 2000

By now you've probably read the story elsewhere on the net, but if you're well informed (as we at Fandom like to imagine ourselves), then you know it's not true. Well, it is trueit's just eighteen years late. According to the BBC, director Ridley Scott 'has finally answered one of the most intriguing unanswered questions surrounding the plot of his classic science fiction film Blade Runner. In a Channel 4 documentary, Scott confirmed what many fans have long suspected, that Harrison Ford's character, the hard-boiled cop Deckard, is in fact one of the same genetically-engineered replicants that he hunted in the film.'

The BBC goes on to say that fans of the movie 'got their first clue to this fact when a Director's Cut version of the 1982 film appeared in theatres in the early 1990s. A newly added scene showed Deckard seeing a unicorn while lost in thought. Later, another character leaves an origami unicorn for Deckard to find. Some moviegoers interpreted this as an indication that Deckard's memories, like those of all replicants, weren't real but were implanted by someone else.'

The only problem with this 'news' is that there's nothing new about it. Scott has been telling anyone who'd listen that Deckard is a replicant ever since Blade Runner's original release. At the time, the now defunct Twilight Zone magazine asked him about omitting much of Philip K Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in particular suggestions that Deckard feared he himself might be a replicant. Scott called the point a bone of contention and mentioned the missing unicorn scene and its implications. The issue was fully addressed once again when the so-called 'director's cut' was released in 1992, and it was rehashed a few year's later by journalist Paul Sammon's in several articles and in his book Future Noir, which included excerpts from previous script drafts that spelled the matter out more clearly.

In the documentary On The Edge of Blade Runner, Scott supposedly points another clue to Deckard's real identity: the number of replicants. Early in the film, it's said that six arrived on Earth. One was killed and Deckard spends the rest of the movie hunting down four others. This leaves one replicant unaccounted for. The mathematically minded are supposed to figure that the missing one is Deckard himself.

There are several problems with this interpretation. First, if Deckard was one of the six who jumped ship and returned to Earth, how was he captured and converted, and more important: why bother? And why does his superior, Bryant, provide him with information that should lead him to conclude there is another, unaccounted replicant, namely himself? But the big problem is that, even if Deckard is a replicant, he cannot be one of the six roguesbecause in every single hand-to-hand confrontation with the android characters, not only do they not recognize him; they thoroughly kick his ass. Certainly, if he were one of them and not a puny human, he should have stood up better to their physical attacks. The only way to imagine that Deckard is a replicant, therefore, is to assume that he is an earlier model, not as strong as the Nexus Six versions that he is pursuing.

The true reason for the number six used in the dialogue is that, originally, there were six replicants. The last one was supposed to be terminal (emphasizing the others' urgent search for a way to prolong her life), but the scenes of this missing character (to be played by actress Stacy Nelkin) were never filmed, due to budget and scheduling reasons. The only way to consider the discrepancy in the number of replicants is as a film flub. In fact, the legendary 'preview' cut of the film (which still pops up into circulation from time to time at 70mm screenings) corrects this error, with Bryant saying that six replicants escaped and two were killed trying to break into the Tyrell corporation, leaving the four that Deckard then tracks down throughout the rest of the film.

So the bottom line is: there are intriguing hints in the film suggesting that Deckard is a replicant, but the strongest of these (that his memory of the unicorn is known to others) is inconclusive. Even if his memories are phony, who's to say only androids have implanted memories? Wasn't the entire plot of Total Recall (also based on a Philip K. Dick story) predicated on the idea that human can have fake memories? Scott may state the case as proven, but the film itself leaves the matter open to interpretationwhich is, after all, as it should be. Open-ended films that invite audience participation are often preferable to neatly wrapped ones with everything all tied up.

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