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Replicant

A replicant is a bioengineered or biorobotic being created in the film Blade Runner (1982). The Nexus series — genetically designed by the Tyrell Corporation — are virtually identical to an adult human, but have superior strength, agility, and variable intelligence depending on the model. Because of their physical similarity to humans, a replicant must be detected by its lack of emotional responses and empathy to questions posed in a Voight-Kampff test. A derogatory term for a replicant is "skin-job."

Origin

Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which inspired Blade Runner used the term android (andy), but director Ridley Scott wanted a new term that did not have preconceptions. As David Peoples was rewriting the screenplay he consulted his daughter who was involved in microbiology and biochemistry. She suggested the term "replicating" which is the process of duplicating cells for cloning. From that, one of them (both would later recall it was the other) came up with replicant and it was inserted into Hampton Fancher's screenplay.

As for the Tyrell Corporation, it's probably homage to the 1974 fictional television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, where the "Mr R.I.N.G." episode features a violent genetic-mechanical hybrid android that develops a survival instinct. To avoid deactivation, the android escapes and collects artifacts and possessions, attempting to become more "human". The manufacturer of the android is the "Tyrell Institute."

Replicants in the film

Replicants become illegal on Earth after a bloody mutiny by Nexus-6s off-world. The Tyrell Corp. discovered that the longer a Nexus-6 lived the more life-experience it gained. With these memories they often developed their own emotional reflexes, and unstable personalities so Tyrell added a "fail-safe device" to Nexus-6 models: a built-in four-year lifespan to prevent them from developing their own "emotional responses." This was especially necessary for Mental-A models whose intellectual capacity at least matched those of their genetic designers.

Special police units (Blade Runners) are sent to investigate, test and ultimately "retire" (kill) replicants found on Earth. Because the escaped replicants are the latest Nexus-6 generation Deckard had no experience with them, and wasn't even sure if the Voight-Kampff test would work.

Escaped replicants (all Nexus-6 Physical-A models):

  • Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer) is a self-sufficient combat model for the colonization defence program. (Mental-A)
  • Pris (played by Darryl Hannah) is a prostitute referred to as a "basic pleasure" model for military personnel. (Mental-B)
  • Zhora (played by Joanna Cassidy) was retrained for political homicide, operating in a "kick murder squad." (Mental-B)
  • Leon (played by Brion James) is a combat model or loader for nuclear fission. (Mental-C)
  • Hodge was killed in an electrical field at the Tyrell Corporation.
  • Mary, the 6th replicant was cut from the script creating a plot hole and speculation among fans as to whether Deckard was the 6th replicant with new memories. However, in the 2007 Final cut Captain Bryants dialog was altered, so he now mentions two Replicants killed by the electric field, rather than just one as in the 1982 U.S. theatrical version. In the original workprint version, Bryant also mentiones two Replicants killed.

Pris and Zhora's descriptions were mixed up (perhaps on purpose) in the film: Zhora acts as a "basic pleasure model", attempting to pass off as a stripper, while Pris (who is dressed like a prostitute) is capable of acrobatic combat moves which nearly kill Deckard.

Other replicants:

  • Rachael (played by Sean Young) is a prototype Nexus-6 (possibly a more advanced model, i.e. Nexus-7) with implanted memories from Eldon Tyrell's niece.

Tyrell developed Rachael as an experimental replicant with false memory implants, so she would think she was human. Tyrell said that these memories would act as a "pillow" to cushion her developing emotions. As a result, Rachael behaved far more "human" than any previous replicant. Normal replicants aren't very empathetic or "human" in character, and are emotionally unstable, because over 4 years, they develop the same experiences humans develop over decades. Thus, Leon who is only two years old is somewhat immature; while four year old Roy Batty who is feeling the effects of his impending death shows a range of emotions. Roy appears capable of love, guilt, sorrow, and empathy (although these emotions confuse him to a degree). In the end, Roy is something of a Blake-type character in the film, and almost a hero. He even saves Deckard's life, even though Deckard was sent to kill him.

The theatrical cut's voiceover ending said that as an experimental replicant Rachael didn't have the pre-determined four-year lifespan, but the Director's Cut left that ambiguous.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the Rosen Corporation simply did not know how to manufacture an android capable of living longer than four years.

Was Deckard a replicant?

Blade Runner's dark paranoid atmosphere – and multiple versions of the film – adds fuel to the speculation and debate over this issue.

In the book, Rick Deckard (the main character) is at one point tricked into following an andy, who believes himself to be a police officer, to a faked police station. Deckard then escapes and "retires" some andys there before returning to his own police station. However, Deckard takes the Voigt-Kampff (different spelling) test and it fails to indicate that he is an android.

Harrison Ford, who played Deckard in the film, has said that he did not think Deckard was a replicant, and also states he and the director had discussions that ended in the agreement that the character was human. However, according to director Ridley Scott, Deckard is indeed a replicant. He collects photographs, seen crowding over his piano, yet has no obvious family, beyond a reference to his ex-wife (who called him cold fish). Furthermore in the Director's Cut police officer Gaff (played by Edward James Olmos) leaves Rick Deckard an origami Unicorn a day after Rick dreamed of one. Just before Deckard finds the unicorn, Gaff says to him in passing, "It's too bad she [Rachael] won't live...then again, who does?". A unicorn can also be seen briefly in a scene in J. F. Sebastian's home, amongst scattered toys (to the right of a sleeping Sebastian, while Pris snoops around his equipment).

Paul Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, has suggested in interviews that Deckard may be a Nexus-7, a next-generation replicant who possesses no superhuman strength or intelligence, but brain implants that complete the human illusion. This view is shared by Ridley Scott. Sammon also suggests that Nexus-7 replicants may not have a preset lifespan (i.e., they could be immortal).

Organic or Machine?

Although the press kit released to the media for the film, explicitly defined a replicant as, "A genetically engineered creature composed entirely of organic substance, a question commonly posed is the physical make-up of the replicants themselves. In the opening crawl of the film, replicants are said to be the result of "advanced robot evolution." The crawl also states that they were created by "genetic engineers." Characters mention that they have eyes and brains like humans, and they are seen to bleed when injured (although they can take a lot more damage than humans can). An alternative explanation could be that they are cybernetic, having both human and machine parts.

The original novel makes mention of the biological components of the androids, but also alludes to the mechanical aspects commonly found in other material relating to robots.

Due to the film's ambiguous stance to the question, it has been suggested by fans that Ridley Scott chose to keep the question unanswered in an attempt to preserve the film and novel's core theme: what is human?

Čapek's robots

The Robots from Karel Čapek's play R.U.R., where the word robot was first used, were not made of metal like those we associate the word with nowadays, but were artificial biological beings similar to the replicants in Blade Runner.

Replicants in popular culture

  • The genetically engineered troops in the later film Soldier are Nexus-series replicants. Both films are set in the same fictional universe.
  • Though never described in the film as such, the character Ash in Ridley Scott's Alien, released three years before Blade Runner, is a humanoid robot and is described by Scott in the film's commentary as a replicant.
  • One of the most prominent examples of Replicant-like robots in modern culture are the humanoid Cylons on the Sci-Fi Channel series Battlestar Galactica. Blade Runner was acknowledged as an influence on the series. Actor Edward James Olmos, who stars in the series, also co-starred in Blade Runner. Further, Tricia Helfer, who plays the main humanoid-Cylon character "Number Six" on the series, was having trouble determining how to play a humanoid robot when production began, so co-star Olmos advised her to watch Blade Runner: Helfer has stated that it greatly informed how she approached the role. The human resistance on Cylon-occupied Caprica even referred to the bio-mechanical humanoid Cylons as "skin jobs", the prejudicial slang term for Replicants from Blade Runner, in the late season 2 episode "Downloaded". Episode writer Bradley Thompson inserted the line hoping science fiction fans would notice and enjoy the reference: the term met with popular reception by fans, and subsequently many characters in the next two seasons of the series regularly refer to the humanoid Cylons as "skin jobs".
  • In the TV show Stargate SG-1, a race of technological nano-machine based robots known as the Replicators eventually give rise to human-form androids of the same name. The spin-off series Stargate Atlantis also featured an android race called the Asurans but are frequently called Replicators by the characters.
  • The Replicants was also the name of a Demo crew involved in the Atari ST demoscene.
  • In the anime series Bubblegum Crisis, the character Priss Asagiri is named after the replicant Pris and leads a band called The Replicants. Furthermore the series' Boomers fill the role of Replicants thematically and the entire series serves as an extended homage to Blade Runner.
  • In the TV show Earth: Final Conflict, the Jaridian race employ shapeshifting machines to scout and attack Earth. These machines were called replicants.
  • In the dystopian video-game Flashback, some android enemies are referred to as CY-BORG 2.1 or replicants.
  • In the sci-fi video game Snatcher, the storyline centers around a police detective searching for robots who masqerade as humans, much like replicants.
  • In Deep Space Nine episode "Whispers" replicants were mentioned.
  • The comedy series Red Dwarf includes violent humanform androids called "simulants", which is probably intended as a play on "replicants".
  • The Realians in the Xenosaga trilogy of video games are bio-engineered humanoids similar to Replicants. Two of the playable characters in the game are in fact Realians. Although the main plot is not explicitly centered on them, several plot points throughout the trilogy involve issues related to their humanity (or lack thereof).
  • The concept of Bioroids (a term popularized by the 1985 TV animated series Robotech) used in many cyberpunk books, games, comics, and anime seems to be very close to that of Replicants, sometimes being virtually the same thing.
  • German Power metal band Blind Guardian's song Time, What is Time is loosely based on the film and speak about replicants (The things she remembered / Had never been her own / Replicant or human).
  • Lory in Total Recall (Sharon Stone) is loosely based on the film and speak about replicants.
  • The Megaman X games feature Reploids (Repliroids in the Japanese version), an obvious nod to replicants. Rogue reploids (also known as Mavericks) are hunted by Maverick Hunters, who describe the act as "retiring".
  • In the Doctor Who story Resurrection of the Daleks, the Daleks use replicants of specific individuals to infiltrate Earth's government and capture the Doctor (with the originals then being killed). They also plan to use replicants of the Doctor and his companions to assassinate the Time Lord High Council. These replicants appear to be fully or predominantly organic, with the 'mind' of the individual downloaded into the replicant's brain. However, the replicants prove unstable and their true nature tends to reassert itself and break the Dalek mind control. It is not clear if the use of the term 'replicant' was influenced by Blade Runner.
  • In the PC game F.E.A.R., the enemies most commonly encountered are human clones that serve as perfectly obedient soldiers. They are controlled by a genetically engineered psychic commander, who is the game's antagonist. These cloned soldiers are called Replicas.
  • The Zentradi and Tirolian clones from Robotech are a genetically engineered race and are, like replicants, organic in nature.
  • In the squidbillies episode Webnecks granny tells Early to shoot the sheriff when he shows emotion wrongly assuming he's a replicant.

References

External links

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