From Academic Kids

Replicant also refers to a chess engine. See Replicant (chess).

A replicant is a bioengineered being created in the film Blade Runner. 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 replicant is "skin-job."



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 Peoples came up with "replicant" and inserted it into Hampton Fancher's screenplay.

As for the Tyrell Corporation, it's probably an 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 are illegal on Earth after a bloody mutiny by Nexus-6's 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 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 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 given Holden was surprised by a Nexus-6.

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) a basic pleasure model for military personnel. (Mental-B)
  • Zhora (played by Joanna Cassidy) was retrained for political homicide. (Mental-B)
  • Leon (played by Brion James) is a combat model or loader for nuclear fission. (Mental-C)
  • Hodge "got fried in an electric field"
  • Mary, the 6th replicant was cut from the script creating a plot hole ( and speculation among fans Deckard was in fact the 6th replicant.

Other replicants:

  • Rachael (played by Sean Young) is a prototype Nexus-6 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. Normal replicants aren't very empathetic or "human" in character, and are emotionally unstable, largely because the experiences humans develop over decades they have to squeeze into four years. 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?

Main article: Themes in Blade Runner

There is a great deal of ambiguity fostered as to whether or not Deckard is 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. At that moment the reader is not entirely sure that Deckard himself is not an android, just like the other androids in the faked police station. However, Deckard takes the Voigt-Kampff (different spelling) test and it fails to indicate that he is an android.

Čapek's robots

Interestingly, 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


  • Sammon, Paul. (1996) Future Noir: the Making of Blade Runner. (aka: Blade Runner Bible) ISBN 0061053147

External links



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