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A replicant is a bioengineered or biorobotic being created in the film Blade Runner (1982). 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 a replicant is "skin-job." (Note: This term reappears in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica in derogatory reference to Humanoid Cylons - who could also be considered as a type of replicants.)



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, one of them (both would later recall it was the other) came up with replicant and it was inserted into Hampton Fancher's screenplay.[1]

Replicants in the film

Replicants became illegal on Earth after a bloody mutiny by Nexus-6s 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 their own emotional reflexes, and the longer they lived the more independent and unstable their personalities became. 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 those of their genetic designers.

However, Tyrell later tells Roy that the preset life-span is inherently dependent on Nexus-6 biology. Noting that "the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long", Tyrell explains that Nexus-6 replicants do not live longer not due to some sort of kill switch, but because they physically cannot - the result of superhuman capabilities engineered into them to make full use of the four-year time limit. Roy suggests several means of extending his lifespan (demonstrating that he possesses at least equal knowledge to that of his creator about his physical construction), but Tyrell reveals that he already tried each of these suggestions, failing in every attempt.

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.

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