When it comes to new theories on some of cinema's most beloved stories, they can usually be dismissed as fan fiction, ignited by a fanbase's long-lasting love and over-analysis of a feature. After all, if a film was released 35 years ago, how can there still be undiscovered details to be found in 2017? Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is an anomaly in this case. With five widely known versions of the film available, it's no surprise that enthusiasts still have opposing views on the film. So, when a new theory comes along, claiming that Rick Deckard's memory implants originally belonged to another well known #BladeRunner character, it might be time to change our perspective before seeing Blade Runner 2049 this October.
That being said, before believing that Deckard even had memory implants, you must wholeheartedly believe that he is a replicant. So, first things first:
In 'Blade Runner: The Final Cut,' Rick Deckard Is A Replicant
The question as to whether Blade Runner's protagonist is a replicant has always been a divisive topic among the cult film's fanbase. In fact, a recent Entertainment Weekly article revealed that even Ridley Scott and the face of Deckard himself, Harrison Ford, still have entirely different beliefs as to whether the character is or isn't human. Despite this, anybody who acknowledges Blade Runner: The Final Cut as the definitive version of the film must concede that there is an intentional reveal that confirms Deckard as a replicant. Fortunately, this has also been reaffirmed by director Ridley Scott:
"When Harrison is on his piano, looking at these photographs and wondering who these people are, what they're after, he's drinking. He's a bit drunk. As he drinks, we go off into the unicorn — so it's a reverie."
"That was the only reference to this abstract image, which is a unicorn. At the end of it, he comes out of his thought process and it never occurs again until the end of the movie ... When they come out, there it is — a unicorn [and it means] that he's a replicant."
Ridley Scott on 'Blade Runner'
This confirmation, however satisfying it may be, only leaves us with more questions about the origin of Deckard's memories. If Deckard's memories are implanted, they must have belonged to a human, just as Rachel's memories originated from Tyrell's niece. For years, most fans (myself included) have believed that Deckard's memories belonged to a character that is absent throughout the film. However, a recent video essay has given us a reason to completely rethink this assumption. In fact, the theory has enough evidence to convince diehard Blade Runner fans that these memories almost certainly belong to a character who is integral to the film.
The eagle-eyed Youtuber known as "Mr. Wendal on games" states that if a replicant shared memories with a human, it's logical that they would then produce similar character traits. This stems from the psychological belief that our memories nurture our personality. In an article about self-defining memories, Professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne explained how our memories shape how we act in present day, and how we envision our future.
"...We gradually incorporate the memories of the events in our lives into our sense of self. The most important of these, the “self-defining memories,” are the ones that we remember most vividly and that contribute most heavily to our overall sense of self ... In some cases, these memories represent ongoing themes that we play out over and over again in our lives."
So, the "owner" of Deckard's memories will surely share some of his character traits. Although there are a number of candidates that could have been the origin of Deckard's memories, Wendal quickly eliminates Dave Holden and Harry Bryant for having very few traits in common with the replicant. With this in mind, there is only one character that's similar to Rick Deckard — veteran blade runner Eduardo Gaff.
Why Deckard's Memories Must Belong To Eduardo Gaff
Once you start looking at the interactions between the pair, their characteristic similarities and the situations in which they interact, the parallels between Deckard and Gaff start to make a lot of sense.
Perhaps most importantly, Gaff is a veteran blade runner, meaning that he has every skill a replicant blade runner would ever require. Remember Professor Whitbourne's comments on ongoing themes that repeat themselves? For both Deckard and Gaff, this includes retiring replicants and considering their existential relevance through observation.
Not only that, but Gaff is also no longer able to utilize his blade-running skills, having suffered an injury to the leg. His invaluable experience and inability to fulfill his duties give him a clear motivation to lend his memories to the blade runner program. This adds another layer to Eduardo Gaff's interactions with Deckard, most notably through dialogue, in which he could actually be referring to his own work when mentioning a "man's job."
"I guess you're through, huh? You've done a man's job, sir."
Eduardo Gaff to Deckard, 'Blade Runner'
Throughout the film, Gaff continuously observes Deckard, and is ultimately the one to tell him the truth about his memories by placing an origami unicorn for Deckard to discover. Perhaps revealing the truth was never part of the plan, but was a contemplative act of mercy from Eduardo Gaff, the only man to know the specifics of Deckard's reverie. This also draws further parallels between Deckard and Gaff, replicating Deckard's mercy towards Rachel.
Wendal takes this theory one step further, explaining that Gaff is actually meant to retire Deckard in the penultimate scene once every rogue Nexus-6 has been retired.
"Making a replicant of himself has allowed him to empathize with him, to see what Deckard sees with his eyes. Many still believe the film is about a very human blade runner who finally sees the humanity in the artificial life he is tasked with ending. Perhaps they were right after all."
Mr. Wendal on games, 'Whose Memories Does Deckard Have?'
Whether you agree with this compelling theory or not, it certainly makes sense out of the film's most mysterious character and fits perfectly with Blade Runner's narrative. It adds another level of complexity to a film that is already among the science fiction genre's greatest works. The real question is, will this extremely well crafted subtext be explored further throughout the Ryan Gosling-led sequel, Blade Runner 2049?
What Does This Revelation Mean For Blade Runner 2049?
One of the most exciting aspects of this theory is that there is a genuine possibility it will be explored in Blade Runner 2049. As many people will know, Harrison Ford is returning as an older Rick Deckard. Although Deckard's appearance might initially make us question his origins, it's important to note that Deckard isn't Nexus-6, and therefore might not have an expiration date.
Unsurprisingly, Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the events seen in Blade Runner. Harrison Ford is returning as Deckard, and there have been questions about whether or not Edward James Olmos might reprise his role as Gaff. If Gaff is back, we could see an exploration of the idea that Deckard's mind is possibly a product of Gaff's memories.
"It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?"
Eduardo Gaff to Deckard, 'Blade Runner'
When Blade Runner 2049 was first announced, Harrison Ford reportedly said it was the best script he'd read in years. His compliments only increased our desperation to know what would possibly compel Scott and Ford to continue the Blade Runner legacy 35 years later. We'll have to wait until October to find out, but perhaps the script earns its acclaim by exploring the complex relationship between Gaff, Deckard and a young blade runner known as "Officer K."