Dave Holden was a Blade Runner assigned to test new employees at the Tyrell Corporation on the premise that the escaped replicants might try to infiltrate the company in the hopes of extending their four-year lifespans.
Despite having an excellent reputation as a Blade Runner, Holden underestimated the Nexus-6 replicant, as they were difficult to detect even with the Voight-Kampff test. While testing Leon Kowalski, the subject became noticeably agitated at Holden's questions before pulling out a gun and shooting Holden. He was able to draw his pistol after Leon's first shot, but the second crippled him and sent him crashing into a desk.
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Holden was kidnapped from his hospital by the human template for Roy Batty (which is his name as well). Even though hospital surgeons claimed it to be impossible, Roy put an artificial heart and lungs into Holden, keeping him alive. Batty was hired by the LAPD to find and kill the sixth replicant, and he believed that Holden was set up to be wounded by Leon, and Leon was assisted by the police in incapacitating Holden. Batty went on to claim that all blade runners were replicants, and showed Holden the replicant that was killed by a security system while breaking into Tyrell Corp - a female version of Holden. Batty said that Deckard was the sixth replicant. Holden was reluctant to believe all of this, and said that he could be the templant for a line of replicants based on him.
They traveled to Deckard's apartment and Holden attacked Batty and handcuffed him to a pipe in Deckard's bathroom. Holden went to watch Deckard and Sarah Tyrell (the templant for Rachael) at a dilapidated safe-house for Blade Runners and made a number of hypotheses about the conspiracy. He was forced by his failing artificial organs to return to Deckard's apartment and confront Batty, and made a correct guess that Batty had no idea whether Deckard was the actual sixth replicant and only had a hunch. They then waited for Deckard at the blade runner safe-house and attacked him when he arrived. Batty and Deckard battled briefly and Deckard stated that Batty must be the sixth replicant because he was so strong, and Batty claimed that it did not matter whether either of them was a replicant, because Batty would just kill Deckard and get his reward. Hearing this, Holden shot and killed Batty.
Later, Deckard and Rachael attempted to escape the burning Tyrell Corporation building, and Holden rescued them in his spinner. After they gained false identities and went to live off-world, Holden (still unsure if he was human) went to the shack Deckard hid in with Rachael and found her dead. Holden then went to the police station to get better artificial organs and correctly surmised that Deckard actually left with Sarah Tyrell (who wanted to replace Rachael as the one Deckard loved) and wondered whether Deckard did not know this or did and just went along with it because he got what he wanted.
Some time later, Holden tried to sneak onto the film set Deckard is having a hand in which was based on his days as a Blade Runner. Holden attempted to deliver a package to him, just as Deckard learned that the "person" playing Leon was actually a replicant. Holden was caught by security and brought to the scene being filmed - Holden's interview of Leon and at its end the replicant shoots Holden with live ammo, killing him. The scene was all planned by a man named Marley and the package Holden was trying to deliver was a persynth (living image of a person derived from records of their actions and personality) of the templant for Roy Batty.
Behind the scenes
Morgan Paull was initially hired on the film to perform screentests with actresses being considered for the roles of Rachael and Pris. Ridley Scott enjoyed working with Paull and offered him the role of Holden.
There were two hospital scenes with Holden and Deckard in the film, but these were cut out, explained by director Ridley Scott as being extraneous and perhaps distracting. The scenes have been included in the latest DVD editions of the film released in December 2007. Here additional background info and insight into Holden's character is provided, as Holden is shown reading Treasure Island while in hospital, an old favorite of his. He is also shown to use the derogatory term "Skinjob" in conversation with Deckard and expresses his fear of Replicants becoming almost human, going so far as to accuse Deckard of sleeping with Zhora when Deckard expresses doubts about hunting them. He also reveals that he had tested 26 other Tyrell employees, explaining his short patience when dealing with Leon. He correctly predicted that the replicants were on Earth searching for "God" - to them, Eldon Tyrell.
Another deleted scene shows Bryant and Gaff reviewing recordings of Deckard's visits with Holden; Bryant is shown thinking of both Blade Runners derisively as "two old men trying to grapple with metaphysics" and is confused at Holden's statement that the Replicants are searching for God. Gaff, on the other hand, understands perfectly.
In the Blade Runner (video game), it is revealed that Leon stole Holden's badge and left it in the apartment the replicants were using. Fortunately, rookie Blade Runner Ray McCoy found the badge when investigating the scene. Additionally, it is shown in the game that Holden is the third best shot in the Rep-Detect department, behind only Gaff and Crystal Steele. The game also says he buys custom-made armor-piercing rounds from Bullet Bob, a gunstore owner.
In the Blade Runner comic book adaptation, Holden's interrogation of Leon is shortened, with Leon rising and shooting Holden from across the table as opposed to firing from under it. Here Holden is blown into the wall as opposed to through it by Leon's shot, nor does he draw his weapon (though he is described as attempting to do so) and is presumably killed by Leon's first shot, Leon's second shot being either to confirm the kill or just a sadistic pleasure on Leon's part. Thus as opposed to saying that Holden is in hospital, Bryant comments "He's no good now...For anything."
In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Holden is essentially the same character as presented in the film, but is mentioned to own a sports-car type model spinner. However it is clearly stated that Holden will eventually fully recover. No such assurances are given in Blade Runner.