Deckard and the Replicants

I was Facebooking briefly with somebody about Blade Runner this week and it reminded me of the Blade Runner theory I once came up with all by myself.

I’ll get to that in a minute but first a warning. 

This post will have Blade Runner spoilers. 

You may laugh. “Blade Runner is, like, a gazillion years old, who cares about spoilers?” Well, I would. If I hadn’t seen it, like, a gazillion times. If I hadn’t seen it at all, I would go away now. So, if you haven’t seen it, maybe go away and see it and then come back. Or maybe don't even come back, it’s hardly going to be worth it. 

I saw Blade Runner on the night it hit cinemas on general release for very the first time. For me, it was Friday night in the Savoy in Sligo. I was awash with anticipation. I had read about it in all the magazines and it sounded fantastic. It was. Reservations about voice-overs and happy endings only came later. On the night, it was magic. I went to see it with someone who didn’t get it at all. That kind of heightened the fun.

My regard for the film was further cemented in the week it came out for rental on video. My older brother, who was a huge sci-fi fan, had not seen it so I rented the video and made him watch it on a Sunday morning/afternoon. I remember we had to stall our viewing to have some dinner (there was no such thing as ‘lunch’ in Sligo) and then come back to it after. He loved it and I felt like the big fella for showing it to him. So, yeah, that was great.

The Director’s Cut in 1992 in that Fulham Road cinema shook me up again. For me, it was a different film. Harder edged, way way better than before and…

(and here’s where we go all spoilertastic)

… and Deckard was a Replicant. 

Shoot me. I never got that from the original version. I loved the original version. I loved Deckard and Rachel, “put your hands on me…” and the way Deckard’s blood seeped back into the little glass of clear spirit he was drinking.

But I never got the Replicant thing.

And now, in the Director’s Cut, for the sake of a very few tweaks, Deckard was wholly and entirely a Replicant (to me at least).

There was no easy versions of Social Media in those days. There was Usenet. Some time later, I landed on Alt.Fan.Blade.Runner and was amazed to see that people were still willing to argue that Deckard was not a Replicant. I got stuck in and made all the arguments over and over again. It was kind of fun, a precursor to the good Twitter feeling, perhaps.

The arguments for and against Deckard being a Replicant have been repeated ad nauseam so I’m not going to get in too deep here. The point of this post is a) nostalgia and b) that I once made a point about Deckard being a Replicant that nobody else had seemed to have made and some people on Usenet acknowledged that. They stopped, said, “that’s a rather silly point but, in fairness, I’ve never heard it before,” and then they moved on. 

So here it is.

No, wait, before that, allow me to boil the while Deckard/Replicant argument into two statements upon which I feel it’s hard to disagree.

1) The Director wanted Deckard to clearly be a Replicant. The Screenwriter did not. 


2) Deckard is clearly a Replicant in the Director’s Cut while in the Original Theatrical version this is by no means clear. 

The case-closer comes in the Director’s Cut when Gaff leaves a piece of unicorn origami for Deckard to find. Replicants have implanted dreams and Deckard dreamed of a unicorn. The fact that Gaff know this makes Deckard a Replicant. End of. This is the piece that was missing from the original. The origami was there, enigmatic, the dream was not. 

There are other things, even in the original. Deckard’s eyes momentarily glow red, like the Replicant’s do. He is also told that he has done, ‘A Man’s Job’. There is other stuff.

Here’s my own contribution.

Oh, before I do that. This is a fraught enough argument as it is so let me just state that I am not saying I was the first or only person to make the following point. It is now fairly widely discussed in places online. All I can say is that I made it up all by myself, I spotted it that very first night I saw Blade Runner and when I told it to a lot of people in the forum, they had never thought of it before.

Oh. Kay. 

My extra bit of evidence that Deckard is a Replicant… it’s got to do with Holden.

Holden? Holden? Who the hell is Holden?

Wait. Holden is the first Blade Runner. He’s the guy who does the test on Leon and who gets himself shot while asking about his mother. You remember now. Yes, you do.

My theory in four words is this.

Holden looks like Deckard. 

He does or, rather, he did. I’ll explain that in a minute but, first, look at the picture at the top of this post. That’s Holden. He is a sort of a Harrison Ford looky-likey. Why? Because they are both Replicants. 

There’s a deleted scene, restored in later versions, where Deckard visits Holden in hospital. Holden’s acting (and, yes, face it, overacting) is like a mirror of Deckard’s mannerisms. They are alike, they are cut from the same cloth and they don’t know it. 

This idea is not as convincing now as it would have been back in ’82. Back then, we only knew Harrison Ford from a brace of Star Wars movies and, of course, Raiders. Now, he is like family and nobody else can look remotely like him. I get that.

But let me tell you this.

In 1982, in the Savoy, when Holden came on screen to do the Voight-Kampff Test on Leon, I said to myself, “There’s Harrison Ford now, he looks a little different.”

So that’s it. The Armstrong Theory (not really). Another tiny facet of Ridley Scott’s scheme to make Deckard a Replicant.

Or not.

I don’t really mind what you think. 

It’s just a fun subject to revisit now and again. 


seoirse mac enri said...

Hi Ken, not my favest of movies, tbh, but have seen the various 'cuts' bought the box set cheap when Zavvi closed a few years back. On the features Ridley Scott admiTs Deckard was a replicant, albeit tongue in cheek, there's a very long doc about the movie which ,as a fan you'd enjoy, I watched it a few times,lots of backbiting between all involved , but a great insight into the movie & how it came to be, Dangerous Days, I think it's called. I used to do amovienews bit for a forum a while back, & discovered that a sequel is being planned, with Harrison Ford, tho how much participation would be anyones guess, the plot seem to centre on a 5th or 6th, replicant mentioned in 1st movie that escaped with others & deckard didn't get it, wheher he's it or there's another loose is anyones guess I Suppose, this movie was mentioned in same breath as a 5th Indiana Jones also with Ford so you never know...

Take Care Ken


Jim Murdoch said...

Blade Runner never leaves my Top Ten Films list. I’ve seen the original cinema release more times than I can remember and every subsequent cut too plus I have a boxed set of all the versions of the soundtrack which also never leaves my Top Ten Soundtracks list. There’s a lot to be said for multiple viewings of films and I wish I had more time for that but I can’t keep up with all the TV I want to watch even the once which is a shame because there are shows out there that deserve (and actually need) multiple viewings, The Leftovers, for example. On the surface you wouldn’t think of Blade Runner as that kind of film but once I’d seen it a few times I started to let my attention wander and realised the film is so rich in detail. I remember watching a documentary that talked about the subtext in Alien comparing it to A Nightmare on Elm Street and I was blown away by how much I’d missed; I imagine the same will prove true of Blade Runner. Of course there’s always the danger of reading into a text and all you have to do is remember the fracas surrounding Lost to see how that can go. As for the whole issue about whether or not Deckard was a replicant I’m not sure when people started talking about that but I went back and read the novel and I don’t recall there being even a hint there. The book disappointed which is a shame because it’s far from being a bad book but it wasn’t Blade Runner. Learned some new stuff in your article especially about Holden. Thanks for that. The big question through is: What position will the new film take? Perhaps it’ll ignore the question completely. Either way some percentage of fans will be disappointed. I was reading about a comment made by Nicholas Meyer in relation to the new Star Trek: Discovery TV series in which he asks fans to lower their expectations. He said, “[I]f you go with a set of impossible to realize expectations, which even you cannot specifically define, then we’re bound to fail.” This is why I tend to skim articles about new science fiction films after ruining Batman (the Tim Burton version) for myself by believing the hype. I cannot pretend for a second I’m not excited about Blade Runner 2 and I probably will still manage to be disappointed but that’s just because too many people get involved in films these days and it’s never a good thing. I was reading an interview with Woody Allen a few days ago where he was talking about his new TV series and basically he was given a sum of money and told “Come back with a TV series” like they used to do in the old days, Monty Python’s Flying Circus being a similar case. If only films—Woody Allen again being the glaring exception—could be more like that, one man’s vision.