Was Deckard an Android in the Book?

     BLADE RUNNER is widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. In the decades following its release on home video, interest and appreciation for all aspects of the film have steadily increased.

     One aspect in particular regards the protagonist Rick Deckard's identity. Fans (and critics) of the film have been engaged in an ongoing debate about whether Deckard is actually a Human Being or a Replicant.

     Those who accept the possibility that Deckard could be a Replicant refer to the final scene of Blade Runner (Director's Cut and Final Cut) as evidence. In that scene, Deckard finds an origami unicorn on his doorstep, apparently left there by Gaff. He holds it up, examining it, then nods knowingly. Deckard and Rachael then disappear behind the elevator door, escaping to an uncertain future.

     The implication is that Gaff knows the contents of Deckard’s dream (seen earlier in the film and in the video clip below) and that Deckard, like Rachael, had been given false memory implants designed to convince him of his Humanity.

     When asked what the unicorn "means", director Ridley Scott has stated unambiguously, “he’s a Replicant.”

     Some critics of this interpretation, apparently unaware that the Unicorn dream was part of the film prior to the theatrical release, have gone so far as to call this an unnecessary plot-twist tacked-onto the end of Blade Runner (Director's Cut 1992) by Ridley Scott (using Unicorn footage from his next film LEGEND). However, we know that Scott had in fact filmed Deckard's dream and added it to the film prior the the theatrical release.

...Blade Runner’s mythical beast was filmed during the first week of January 1982 at Black Park, England...”

”Indeed, Scott’s unicorn was almost the final shot to be filmed for Blade Runner-only the picture’s eleventh-hour “happy ending” was photographed at a later date.
— FUTURE NOIR: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon

     Shortly before Blade Runner's theatrical release, the studio had imposed several last-minute changes to Ridley's vision. Among them, the deletion of Deckard's dream sequence. Audiences didn't get to see this sequence until the Director's Cut came out on VHS ten years later.

     As a result, those who initially watched the Theatrical Cut (1982) (which omits Deckard's dream sequence) tend to believe that Deckard is Human. On the other hand, those who first watched the Director’s Cut or Final Cut (which both restore the unicorn dream) seem more favorable to the possibility that he’s a Replicant.

The Book:

     Blade Runner was loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (DADOES). Hampton Fancher wrote the screenplay (David Peoples did later rewrites).

     Some commenters in the "Deckard is Human" camp (who claim to have read the book) state that Deckard is definitely a Human (in the book) and that the possibility that he might be an android is never raised.

     Although it seemed clear enough to me that Ridley Scott had deliberately made Deckard a Replicant in the film, I decided to investigate another possibility with this blog.

     With the following entries, I will illuminate passages from the book (and provide commentary) that I hope will prove that the idea that Deckard might not be a Human is certainly present in it. As a diehard fan of both the book and the film, my main intention here is simply to highlight what I feel are important and often ignored aspects of both the film and the book upon which the film is based.

     On a side note, I'm fascinated by the possibility that Ridley Scott, who claims to have never even read the book, came to the same ironic realization as the author about Rick Deckard; he is both a hunter of slaves and is himself a slave.

    Thanks for visiting. Enjoy!

-Chris

Questioning Deckard's Humanity

     The first excerpt comes from chapter nine, about halfway into the book. By this point, Deckard has been given Holden's list of illegal androids to test and retire, and has tracked the first on his list, Luba Luft (Zhora), to a Theater where she is rehearsing in a production of Mozart's Opera, The Magic Flute.

     During questioning, Luba Luft repeatedly interrupts Deckard.

     "An android," he said, "doesn't care what happens to another android. That's one of the indications we look for."
     "Then," Miss Luft said, "you must be an android."
     That stopped him; he stared at her.
     "Because," she continued, "your job is to kill them, isn't it? You're what they call--" She tried to remember.
     "A bounty hunter," Rick said. "But I'm not an android."
     "This test you want to give me." Her voice, now, had begun to return. "Have you taken it?"
     "Yes." He nodded. "A long, long time ago; when I first started with the department."
     "Maybe that's a false memory. Don't androids sometimes go around with false memories?"
     Rick said, "My superiors know about the test. It's mandatory."
     "Maybe there was once a Human who looked like you and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don't know."
     She smiled, as if inviting him to agree.

Deckard Arrested by (Android) Police Officer

     Luba Luft manages to draw a weapon on Deckard during the Voight-Kampff test and call the police. Soon, Officer Crams shows up and frisks Deckard, finding his sidearm. He sniffs the barrel, realizing it had recently been fired. Deckard informs him that he had just retired an android named Polokov (Leon), "his remains are still in my car up on the roof."

     Officer Crams arrests Deckard and calls police headquarters to have someone come and collect Polokov's remains. He then puts Deckard in his car and drives him to a police station for booking. Deckard accuses Officer Crams of being an android in cahoots with the escaped androids on his list.

    “Maybe you’re an android,” Officer Crams said. “With a false memory, like they give them. Had you thought of that?” He grinned frigidly as he continued to drive south.

Didn't Deckard Take the Voigt-Kampff Test?

     Some folks argue that Deckard must be Human in the book because, at one point, he does actually take the Voigt-Kampff Empathy Test.

Sort of.

     It is important to keep in mind that the one time in the book Deckard gets hooked up to the V-K machine, he believes he is human and isn’t trying to determine if he's an android. He simply asked officer Phil Resch to help him find out if he felt more empathy for female androids than other androids.

     Deckard mentions (earlier in the book) that certain conditions must be met in order for the Voigt-Kampff test to determine whether the test subject is Human or Replicant.

(1) He tells Luba Luft, "one of the factors I'll record is the time-lag, if any. It's one of the factors we look for." Earlier he had told Rachael, “reaction time is a factor” yet tells Phil Resch during his own test merely to “watch the dials. We’ll exclude time lapse in this; I just want magnitude.”

(2) Earlier, Deckard told Luba Luft "it takes considerable experience” to administer the Voigt-Kampff properly. Phil Resch couldn't because he has zero experience with it.

(3) Finally, Deckard states that it takes “six or seven” questions to make a determination. When officer Phil Resch helps Deckard to test himself, Deckard only asked himself one question (in two parts).

     So, the one time Deckard took the Voigt-Kampff test, it didn’t prove he’s Human.