Companion paper to Bladerunner

prepared by Werner Hammerstingl,1999

Blade Runner is LOOSELY based on a Philip K. Dick novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (DADoES). The least one can say about the film adaptation is that it borrowed a number of concepts and characters from the book. Dick also wrote the short story that "Total Recall" was based on, "We Can Remember It For You, Wholesale". A recurring theme in Dick's work is the question of personal and human identity. A question explored more in DADoES and "Total Recall" than in Blade Runner is "what is reality?"

You are most likely to find DADoES in a second-hand bookstore. It has been re-printed as: "Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)."

The title comes from Alan E. Nourse, who wrote a story called "The Bladerunner". William S. Burroughs took the book and wrote "Bladerunner (A Movie)" in 1979. Rights to the title only ("in perpetuity") were sold to Ridley Scott. Similarities between Nourse's "The Bladerunner" and Scott's BR are in name only. Nourse's title refers to people who deliver medical instruments to outlaw doctors who can't obtain them legally. [Source: Locus,September 1992: p. 76.] Scott thought the title made a good codename for Deckard.

Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott, and features music by Vangelis. Ridley Scott made BR in a style called "film noir". Film noir is a "hardboiled detective" style of story-telling. Perhaps the most famous example is the Humphrey Bogart movie "The Maltese Falcon" (directed by John Huston). A trademark of film noir is the voice-overs by the detective, explaining what he is thinking/doing at the time.

Plot Synopsis

Opening crawl from the movie:

Early in the 21st Century, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase -- a being virtually identical to a human -- known as a replicant. The NEXUS 6 Replicants were superior in strength and agility, and at least equal in intelligence, to the genetic engineers who created them. Replicants were used Off-world as slave labor, in the hazardous exploration and colonisation of other planets. After a bloody mutiny by a NEXUS 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants were declared illegal on earth -- under penalty of death. Special police squads -- BLADE RUNNER UNITS -- had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection, any trespassing Replicants.

This was not called execution. It was called retirement.


A number of replicants have made it to Earth, and ex-Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is coerced into tracking them down.

The major versions of blade runner are:

List of (main) characters:

DECKARD (Harrison Ford): Ex-Blade Runner.

DR ELDON TYRELL (Joe Turkel): Owns the Tyrell Corp. and manufactures replicants. Extremely intelligent, designed the NEXUS 6 brain.

RACHEL (Sean Young): Experimental NEXUS 6 replicant. Works for Tyrell and has his niece's memories.

ROY BATTY (Rutger Hauer): Leader of the renegade replicants. INCEPT DATE: 8 Jan, 2016 FUNCTION: Combat, Colonisation Defense Prog

PRIS (Daryl Hannah): Replicant, (Bryant: "Yer standard pleasure model") INCEPT DATE: 14 Feb, 2016 FUNCTION: Military/leisure

ZHORA (Joanna Cassidy): Replicant. INCEPT DATE: 12 June, 2016 FUNCTION: Retrained (9 Feb, 2018) Polit. Homicide

LEON KOWALSKI (Brion James): Replicant. INCEPT DATE: 10 April, 2017 FUNC: Combat/loader (Nuc. Fiss.)

J.F. SEBASTIAN (William Sanderson): Genetic designer for the Tyrell Corporation. Still on Earth because of progeria, a premature geriatricism (Methuselah's Syndrome). A grand-master in chess (according to one script) but has defeated Tyrell only once.

H. BRYANT (M. Emmett Walsh): Inspector of the police force, Deckard's former boss.

GAFF (Edward James Olmos): A member of the police force. A sartorial dandy bucking for promotion; makes origami.

HOLDEN (Morgan Paull): Blade Runner, shot by Leon and put on life support.

Glossary of terms (mostly from the 1982 Presskit and can be found on:

The following definition appears in the BR script and the Marvel Comics adaptation of the film, and the Denver/Dallas sneak preview:

_android_ (an'droid) n, Gk. humanoid automation. more at robot./ 1. early version utilized for work too boring, dangerous or unpleasant for humans. 2. second generation bio-engineered. Electronic relay units and positronic brains. Used in space to explore inhospitable environments. 3. third generation synthogenetic. REPLICANT, constructed of skin/flesh culture. Selected enogenic transfer conversion. Capable of self perpetuating thought. Paraphysical abilities. Developed for emigration program.

WEBSTER'S DICTIONARY New International (2012)

Replicants are manufactured organisms designed to carry out work too boring, dangerous, or distasteful for humans. The "NEXUS 6" replicants are nearly indistinguishable from humans. (In one draft of the script Bryant tells Deckard they did an autopsy on the replicant that was fried trying to break into the Tyrell Corp. and didn't even know it was a replicant until two hours into the procedure.)

Replicants presumably differ from humans in one important factor: they are lacking in empathy. In BR, the replicants' eyes glow (even those of an artificial owl), however Ridley Scott has stressed that this is merely a cinematic technique, and the glow can't be seen by the characters in the story, only by the audience.

The manufacturers noticed that replicants had eccentricities because they were emotionally immature. Rachel was a prototype replicant with experimental memory implants, designed to provide a cushion for her emotions. Consequently, she was unaware that she was a replicant. NEXUS 6 replicants have an in-built fail-safe mechanism, namely a four year lifespan.

BLADE RUNNER -- The nickname given to those police detectives who are specially trained in the use of the Voight-Kampff machine and whose specific function is to track down and eliminate any replicants that manage to escape into human society and attempt to pass as real human beings. The official name of the Blade Runner division is Rep-Detect.

REPLICANT -- A genetically engineered creature composed entirely of organic substance. Animal replicants (animoids) were developed first for use as pets and beasts of burden after most real animals became extinct. Later, humanoid replicants were created for military purposes and for the exploration and colonisation of space. The Tyrell Corp. recently introduced the Nexus 6, the supreme replicant -- much stronger and faster than, and virtually indistinguishable from, real human beings. Earth law forbids replicants on the planet, except in the huge industrial complex where they are created. The law does not consider replicants human and therefore accords them no rights nor protection.

ESPER -- A high-density computer with a very powerful three- dimensional resolution capacity and a cryogenic cooling system. The police cars and Deckard's apartment contain small models which can be channelled into the large one at police headquarters. This big apparatus is a well-worn, retro- fitted part of the furniture. Among many functions, the Esper can analyse and enlarge photos, enabling investigators to search a room without being there. [The January 1995 issue of NASA Tech Briefs includes a description of an Esper-like machine called Omniview.]

VOIGHT-KAMPFF MACHINE -- A very advanced form of lie detector that measures contractions of the iris muscle and the presence of invisible airborne particles emitted from the body. The bellows were designed for the latter function and give the machine the menacing air of a sinister insect. The VK is used primarily by blade runners to determine if a suspect is truly human by measuring the degree of his empathic response through carefully worded questions and statements.

SPINNER -- The generic term for all flying cars in use around the year 2020. Only specially authorised people and police are licensed to operate these remarkable vehicles, which are capable of street driving, vertical lift-off, hovering and high-speed cruising. The Spinner is powered by three engines -- conventional internal combustion, jet and anti-gravity.


1. How (without the V.K.machine) could one distinguish between humans and replicants ?

2. What are the various origami figures made by Gaff and what is their significance?

3. What are your favourite quotes from the film?

4. What is the significance of the chess game?

5. Is Deckard a replicant?

6. List as many examples as possible of "Eye" symbolism in Bladerunner and speculate on the significance/meaning if this.

7. Each character is associated with an animal:

8. Give examples of the use of pastiche (as outlined by Giuliano Bruno) in Bladerunner:

9. Can you think of any references to ancient/recent myths and legends that relate to characters or events in Bladerunner?

10. Bryant tells Deckard that there were six replicants, three male, three female. Can you account for all of them at the end of the film?