Friday, February 14, 2014

Introduction -- Notes on Story

The following is a first-person adaptation of Blade Runner from Deckard's point of view.

The film's Raymond Chandlereque narration that Scott later excised implies that it was taken from a larger detective novel. My goal here is to recreate the complete narrative, like a paleontologist reconstructing a complete skeleton from a few bone fragments. This is obviously not entirely original. I tried to stick to the original movie as much as possible and include as much of the first-person voiceover as possible -- then fill in the gaps. (Some lines of voiceover are glaringly bad and totally illogical. I left those out.) I added a few elements from Dick's original book and a shout-out to Harlan Ellison. A few lines of description are lifted from Hampton Fancher's brilliant early draft, but most of it is out of my own brain.

I also tried to fill up a few logic holes and glaring contradictions within the movie universe.

Harrison Ford complained that his character was a detective who didn’t detect. He has a point. I've tried to recast the material as a detective novel, give him more of a job, and make him think more like a detective. It seems to me a detective's first question would be, “What do these replicants want? What's their motive?" After that, s/he'd come up with a theory.

In the movie, Deckard asks the question. Bryant says, "That's your job, pal. You tell me." After that, they just forget about it.


Obviously this forces me to expand the original material. (Explain what was only implied.) Either that -- or change some elements so they make more sense.

So here's the first fix-up --

I have Gaff and Deckard come up with various theories on what the replicants want.

To revue the evidence --

The first thing the replicants do is to try to break into the Tyrell Corporation. One replicant dies in the attempt – fried by an electrical field. Leon makes a second attempt – then flees after he shoots Holden in the VK session. So, we don't know what they want yet, but we know they're trying to break into the Tyrell pyramid to get it. It's logical to think Leon and/or his pals would make another try. If you were a detective, this would occur to you, unless you had suffered brain damage. Nobody figures this out in the original movie.

So what do they want with the Tyrell Corporation?
Gaff’s theory is that they want revenge against their creator. Since they can’t get to the big guy, he figures they’re picking off the small-fry who work for him. (In Fancher's original script, Deckard finds Chew's frozen body. I put that back.) Gaff assumes they’ve given up on breaking into the Tyrell pyramid and reaching the big guy himself. After the first two failed attempts, the pyramid is on high security alert. Another breach is impossible. It’s not even worth thinking about.
Deckard’s theory is that they’re still trying to get access to Tyrell – not for revenge but for reasons he can’t fathom. (Later on, he figures out they want life.) Gaff dismisses this notion. But think about it ...

If they’re going after Chew – a subcontractor for Tyrell – it’s logical to assume they’re after information that would allow them to get in. (I add the element that Chew isn't the only subcontractor they've killed.)

If Gaff’s revenge theory is true, it follows the replicants wouldn’t just go after the subcontractors. They’d go after the Blade Runners – the equivalent of slave catchers, from a replicant's perspective.

Since the replicants breached the main LAPD computer, it’s possible they breached the RepDetec computer too – and know exactly where to find the Blade Runners. Based on this possibility, Bryant hasn’t restored Deckard’s file. According to the Repdetec system, he’s still dead. Even if the replicants breach the RepDetec firewall, they won’t realize Deckard is looking for them. At the same time, this means he’s working without any backup. He just doesn’t know it.

That’s the reason Bryant pulled Deckard out of retirement in the first place.

If you've followed me so far, here's another logical assumption:

It's logical to assume that a team of Blade Runner detectives would be thinking about this stuff and asking these questions.

As noted, once I looked at the internal logic of the script -- I couldn't simply adapt the material from a detective's perspective. I was forced to patch up some of the logic holes.

There are things about Blade Runner that flat-out don’t make sense. Like this line of dialogue --

“Why would they come back to earth? That’s unusual.”

OK. There’s a whole "Blade Runner" police unit designed to track down fugitive replicants who've returned to earth from space. Even though that's unusual. I explain that away. Surveillance is better. They can't lose themselves in the sea of humanity anymore.

The elevator to Tyrell's penthouse has no !@##$ security camera. I explain that away, too. It's a back door for black projects which guys like Sebastian are cooking up for him. He wants no records.

In his initial briefing to Deckard, Bryant makes a point of explaining the replicant's capabilities and limitations. (Like the four-year life span.) Deckard should know this already. It’s like telling Elliot Ness what a !@#$ Tommy gun is or Sonny Crockett that cocaine is this white powder people stuff up their nose. The scene only makes sense if the Nexus-6 line is a new model – and the ones that came before that didn't have a four-year lifespan.

It’s a big point in the book that the Nexus-6 replicants were a new model. It was clear in the original draft of Hampton Fancher’s script. David People’s rewrite obscures the point. (I’m not faulting him. Rewrites are tough. You pull what seems like an unnecessary line – and the whole garment unravels.) I put the point back in.

In Dick’s book, the androids were heartless bastards, period. The movie, I think, implies that the replicants are too human. They develop empathy to the point of nearly beating the Voight-Kampf test. That's the reason for the four-year life span. I make this explicit. I add the assumption that the emerging humanity of the replicants is also illegal. They're supposed to be inhuman slaves, right? If they become human, they get human rights. Tyrell's whole off-world operation becomes a crime -- and the Blade Runners become murderers. That's what's really at stake.

Instead of taking the evidence back to the RepDetec forensic lab, Deckard does the lab work himself. He makes all his calls on public VidPhons. For much of the movie, he has no back-up. I explain that too. Deckard is off the books, officially dead. The replicants can't break into the Blade Runner computer and trace him.

Also: It seems to all happen in one night – which is improbable. I stretched it out to a night, a day and the following night.

The chronology also doesn’t make sense. Leon shoots Holden at the Tyrell corporation. Like an idiot, Leon drops his REAL address in the VK session. Chances are, he wouldn’t go back to his hotel. But the logical thing for the Blade Runner cops to do is to seal off the hotel room immediately – and be waiting just in case he (and his pals) come back. And Leon evidently DOES come back and get his “precious photos.” In the movie, Gaff and Bryant show up at the scene hours and hours after Leon shot Holden. Has he just been hanging around all that time -- knowing the cops would be coming?

It's also logical to assume Deckard and Gaff would go to Leon's last known address first -- and secure the evidence. Instead, Deckard and Gaff zip on over to the Tyrell corporation to check out a demo model of the Nexus 6 – who turns out to be Rachel.

It’s only hours and hours later that they make it to the hotel. I explain this away by positing there's a cover-up.

The new replicants are too human -- a violation of Tyrell's UN contract. If this gets out, he's ruined. He'll kill the Blade Runner cops first. This gives them a motive to make sure the cover-up works -- and an explanation of why it's so important to check out Rachel before going to Leon's last know address.

Finally, there's the question of retrofitting this into the history that's happened since 1981.

First, the action takes place in 2019. This is, obviously, only possible in an alternate history. I posit a timeline in which the Russians uncork suppressed technology and destroy the planetary ecosystem. (This is lifted from my own SF alternate history -- so don't !@# steal it.) The same technology makes it possible to colonize space. This explains why the tech of 2019 is more like 2119.

And there's also some small stuff. This movie was made in 1981. Some of its predictions were right on, some aren’t. Some tech we take for granted doesn’t appear in the movie. Smart phones. Video surveillance. Things like that.

The replicants walk around LA like they own the city. It seems to me there would be cameras on every street corner hooked up to computers with face-recognition tech. I explain this away by saying they’ve hacked into the main cop system and deleted the files. The Blade Runner unit can’t put out a second alert without revealing what a threat the new replicants are – which would probably lead the Tyrell corporation to murder them all in the interests of corporate security.

The replicants don't bother to use fake identities. The names they use are the names in the Blade Runner files. Fuck it. I just gave up at that point.

Nitpicky. This is, when all is said and done, an exercise. 

Now, if you don't mind, I need to feed my electric sheep.