I’m obsessed with Blade Runner. It continues to be one of my favorite movies and the Final Cut stands the test of time 40 years later. It’s one of the great stories in science fiction. Some say it’s the perfect movie, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree.

And yet.

There are a couple niggles. One in particular has always bothered me. It’s the “Video Room” scene, where Bryant and Deckard are viewing video of the four escaped replicants. The screen writer falls into exposition to explain things to the viewer but the problem is the characters are discussing things they already know well. It’s awkward, and makes what follows the exposition weak.

Here’s a short clip of the pertinent part of the scene:

There are two issues the screen writer was addressing here:

  1. Replicants have a 4-year lifespan
  2. The life span was to protect against replicants developing their own emotional responses – and thus becoming too human.

The problem is that Deckard was already one of the best Blade Runners. The whole reason he’s brought to Bryant by Gaff in scene two at the White Dragon Noodle Bar is because Holden failed to bring in Leon.

He’s [Holden] not good enough, not as good as you. I need you, Deck. This is a bad one, the worse yet. I need the old bladerunner, I need your magic.

Bryant

If Deckard had brought replicants in previously, and he had the “magic,” then he already knows about points 1 and 2. But I understand the need to get these two pieces of information to the audience. This is something that can be very tricky to write.

I took a crack at a rewrite to accomplish the following:

  1. Get across the points about life span and emotions.
  2. Establish concern these four may be developing emotions since they are close to the end of their lives. If they have, they are more human-like and dangerous harder to bring in.
  3. Set up Deckard for why he is going to Tyrell to put the Nexus 6 on the Voight-Kampff machine.
  4. Explain why Deckard would worry the machine won’t work on the Nexus 6.

The scene is quite short to read. I’ve listed the background chatter of Holden interviewing Leon as a placeholder.

Original Scene

[Leon/Holden VO in background]

Bryant: There was an escape from the off-world colonies two weeks ago. Six replicants, three male, three female. They slaughtered twenty-three people and jumped a shuttle. An aerial patrol spotted the ship off the coast. No crew, no sight of them. Three nights ago they tried to break into Tyrell Corporation. One of them got fried running through an electrical field. We lost the others. On the possibility they might try to infiltrate his employees, I had Holden go over and run Voight-Kampff tests on the new workers. Looks like he got himself one.

[Leon/Holden VO in background]

Deckard: I don't get it. What do they risk coming back to earth for? That's unusual. Why--what do they want from the Tyrell Corporation?

Bryant: Well you tell me pal, that's what you're here for.

Deckard: [funny look]. [pause] What's this?

Bryant: Nexus 6. Roy Batty. Incept date 2016. Combat model. Optimum self-sufficiency. Probably the leader. This is Zhora. She's trained for an off-world kick-murder squad. Talk about beauty and the beast, she's both. The fourth skin job is Pris. A basic pleasure model. The standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies. They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions. The designers reckoned that after a few years they might develop their own emotional responses. You know, hate, love, fear, envy. So they built in a fail-safe device.

Deckard: Which is what?

Bryant: Four year life span.

Bryant: Now there's a Nexus 6 over at the Tyrell Corporation. I want you to go put the machine on it.

Deckard: And if the machine doesn't work?

As noted above, Deckard seems unaware of the life span and emotional issues (or they are being needlessly stated), and it’s a little confusing why he is going to Tyrell to test a Nexus 6.

Let’s take a look at my revised scene. The changes are in red.

Revised Scene

[Leon/Holden VO in background]

Bryant: There was an escape from the off-world colonies two weeks ago. Six replicants, three male, three female. They slaughtered twenty-three people and jumped a shuttle. An aerial patrol spotted the ship off the coast. No crew, no sight of them. Three nights ago they tried to break into Tyrell Corporation. One of them got fried running
through an electrical field. We lost the others. On the possibility they might try to infiltrate his employees, I had Holden go over and run Voight-Kampff tests on the new workers. Looks like he got himself one.

[Leon/Holden VO in background]

Deckard: I don't get it. What do they risk coming back to earth for? That's unusual. Why--what do they want from the Tyrell Corporation?

Bryant: Well you tell me pal, that's what you're here for.

Deckard: [funny look]. [pause] What's this?

Bryant: Nexus 6. Roy Batty. Incept date 2016. Combat model. Optimum self-sufficiency. Probably the leader. This is Zhora. She's trained for an off-world kick-murder squad. Talk about beauty and the beast, she's both. The fourth skin job is Pris. A basic pleasure model. The standard item for military clubs in the outer colonies. 

Deckard: Incept date of 2016... they’re near the end of their four year life span. These replicants are supposed to be copies of human beings in every way except for their emotions. They way this group is acting... 

Bryant: Tyrell worried replicants might develop their own emotional responses. Hate, love, fear, envy. You think these have? 

Deckard: Maybe. They’re dying and desperate. If they've developed emotions, they'll appear as much human as replicant. They’re not going to be easy to find. Or bring in.

Bryant: That’s why your next stop is the Tyrell Corporation. They’ve got a Nexus 6 over there. I want you to go put the machine on it. Maybe it’ll give you the edge you need.

Deckard: And if the machine doesn't work?

In my revised version, Deckard uses his knowledge of the life span and their emotion to reflect on their odd behavior – which he’d already commented on earlier in the scene (why are that going to Tyrell?)

Bryant states (instead of tells) Deckard something they both know–the designers were worried about emotions evolving in replicants. Then he guesses at Deckard’s concern. Have these replicants developed emotion?

Deckard notes the possibility combined with being close to their deaths as problems in finding them and bringing them in. They may act very close to humans. And THAT is why Bryant wants Deckard to go to Tyrell and test out the Nexus 6. Maybe it will give him an edge, some insight he can use.

Finally, it makes sense then for Deckard to question what happens if the machine doesn’t work.

What do you think?

It’s a little presumptuous for me to set out to improve a science fiction classic, right? But I think this works. What do you think?