A replicant was a genetically engineered, bio-enhanced person with para-physical capabilities, "composed entirely of organic substance," created for slave labor by Tyrell Corporation and its successor, the Wallace Corporation. The Tyrell motto was "More human than human."
Replicants were sometimes referred to as "skinjobs" or "skinners," as they were indistinguishable from non-engineered humans, except for their empathetic abilities. These terms were considered slurs.
A replicant was a bioengineered human composed entirely of organic material. Introduced in 2000, the Tyrell Corporation's 'Nexus' series of replicants were virtually identical to standard adult humans, but had superior strength, speed, agility, resilience and intelligence to varying degrees depending on the model. In 2009, the murder of Lydia Kine by a Nexus-4, Nexus 4-331575, prompted further redesigns.
The Tyrell Corporation later introduced the Nexus-6, the supreme replicant — much stronger and faster than, and virtually indistinguishable from, humans. These replicants were also programmed to live for a designated four years, an aspect that prompted a group of replicants to revolt and travel to the Tyrell Corporation to negotiate the terms of their designated life span.
Some replicants were given to people accepting an offer to emigrate to the off-world colonies. Others were used in combat to protect colonists and explore other worlds (Zuben, Iggy Cygnus and Roy Batty were combat models).
After a bloody mutiny against an Off-world colony staged by a Nexus-6 combat team in 2018, the law forbade replicant existence on Earth, except in the huge industrial complex where they were created. The law did not consider replicants human and therefore accorded them no rights nor protection. Thus, special police units known as "Blade Runners" were assigned to hunt down and retire replicants.
A key aspect of replicant psychology was that they are lacking in empathy, in effect making them textbook sociopaths. A replicant could be detected by means of the Voight-Kampff test, in which emotional responses were provoked; replicants' nonverbal responses differed from that of a standard human. According to Blade Runner Rick Deckard, a normal replicant could usually be discovered after being given twenty to thirty questions.
Nexus-6 replicants had a built-in four-year lifespan, created as a safety mechanism to prevent them from developing empathic abilities. Due to their short lifespans, replicants had no framework within which to deal with their emotions, which led to them being emotionally inexperienced. This was especially necessary for Mental-A models whose intellectual capacity at least matched their designers.
Eldon Tyrell sought to change this by gifting replicants with a past through implanted memories and therefore creating an emotional cushion that would make them far more controllable. This vision led to the creation of Rachael, a Nexus-7 replicant who was implanted with the memories of Tyrell's niece and believed herself to be human. Rachael answered over one hundred Voight-Kampff questions before Deckard determined she was a replicant. In addition to her memory implants, Rachael was an experimental reproductive model of replicant, who ultimately conceived a daughter with Deckard. As she died during childbirth in 2021 of complications related to a Caesarean section, it is uncertain if she could have lived beyond four years, though Tyrell told Deckard that she had an open-ended lifespan.
Another Nexus-7 was designed to effectively replace Isobel Selwyn, the late wife of Tyrell's friend Alexander Selwyn. The replicant Isobel was identical to her, and the couple's daughter, Cleo, was unaware of the replacement.
Prompted by Tyrell's death in November 2019 at the hands of Nexus-6 Roy Batty, the Nexus-8 model was rushed onto the market in 2020 with open-ended lifespans and ocular implants with serial numbers for easier identification.
In 2023, an indefinite prohibition was placed on replicant production. By this time, all of the Nexus-6 models had been decommissioned due to their four-year lifespans. Surviving Nexus-8 replicants were ordered to be retired, prompting some to go into hiding.
Despite the ban on production, some replicants were produced illegally. Alexander Selwyn recruited Tyrell's former engineers to illegally produce highly-obedient Nexus-8 replicants as of 2027. A group of replicants maufactured in 2032 were made to be completely subservient to humans. These replicants – referred to as "dolls" – were then hunted for sport by Arthur Bannister, Hayden Hooper, Earl Grant, and Josephine Grant.
In the 2030s, after acquiring the remnants of the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation, Niander Wallace, with his company, the Wallace Corporation, improved upon Tyrell's replicants by making them obedient and able to be controlled. This led to the prohibition being lifted in 2036 and the introduction of the Nexus-9.
Behind the scenes
"Replicants are bioengineered humans, designed by Tyrell Corporation for use off-world. Their enhanced strength made them ideal slave labor. After a series of violent rebellions, their manufacture became prohibited and Tyrell Corp went bankrupt. The collapse of ecosystems in the mid 2020s led to the rise of industrialist Niander Wallace, whose mastery of synthetic farming averted famine. Wallace acquired the remains of Tyrell Corp and created a new line of replicants who obey. Many older model replicants—NEXUS 8s with open-ended lifespans—survived. They are hunted down and "Retired". Those that hunt them still go by the name... Blade Runner."
In his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the basis of Blade Runner), Philip K. Dick used the term android (or "andy"), but director Ridley Scott wanted a new term that the audience would not have any preconceptions about. As David Peoples was re-writing the screenplay, he consulted his daughter, who was involved in microbiology and biochemistry. She suggested the term "replicating", the biological process of a cell making a copy of itself. From that, either Peoples or Scott—each would later recall it was the other—came up with replicant and it was inserted into Hampton Fancher's screenplay.
The theatrical cut's voice-over ending states that as an experimental replicant, Rachael did not have the four-year life-span.
The super-soldiers in Soldier — the "spiritual successor" to Blade Runner — are intended to be replicants in the film.
M. Emmet Walsh contends that, during filming, the term "skinjob" was not considered bigoted, instead being simply slang for a replicant. The idea of it being a pejorative term originated with the theatrical version's voiceovers. Additionally, the workprint version's definition of replicant refers to the term as slang.
- Blade Runner – workprint version
- Blade Runner 2019 – Free Comic Book Day Special
- Blade Runner – all versions
- Road to 2049 timeline
- Blade Runner 2049
- Blade Runner – U.S. theatrical version
- Blade Runner – international theatrical version
- Blade Runner 2019 #3
- Blade Runner 2019 #11
- Blade Runner: Black Lotus – "The Doll Hunt"
- Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner – Revised & Updated Edition