Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick (1968)
Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott (1982)
Hello and thank you for joining me at Why the Book Wins, where I compare books with their movie adaptations. Today I am joined by my brother-in-law, Preston! He and my sister started dating like 13 years ago and right from the start movies have been what we bonded over.
Today we are talking about Blade Runner which was adapted from DADOES. I covered A Scanner Darkly, another PKD novel back in 2020. It was one of the first episodes I did! At the time I planned on covering a lot more PKD since so many of his stories have been adapted, including of course DADOES. Yet, for some reason, this is my first time returning to him since then.
Anyway, for this one, since book and movie are pretty different, we will start discussing the book, then move on to the movie. We won’t be talking about them side by side the way I usually do.
Both book and movie are about Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter on earth who tracks down androids who have escaped Mars and are now living on earth.
This is my second time reading this book, and the first time around I didn’t really get it and didn’t try to make sense of it. Thanks to this show, I “had” to spend some time with the story and try to figure it out.
I love that there is so much to be discussed and made sense of. The book can be pretty abstract, but it has interesting characters.
Book Section 1
We meet Rick and his wife Iran, and we learn about mood organs, a machine that can make you feel whatever you want. We find out that a few of the latest model of android, the Nexus 6, have escaped Mars-where andy’s are used as slaves, and are on earth trying to blend in. A fellow bounty hunter was shot and almost killed by one of these andy’s, and Deckard is in charge of catching the remaining four.
We also meet John “JR” Isidore who is a chickenhead-someone who has been affected by the radiation on earth and it has caused him to be simpler minded.
We also see that Deckard has an electric sheep which he cares for, but he hates that it is electric, and he wants a real animal because owning an animal is a status symbol. Not only because they are expensive and rare but owning and caring for an animal shows you have empathy and care about living things which therefore proves you are not an android.
Mood Organ and Empathy Boxes
I love how the book begins with this talk about the mood organ and how is wife is feeling depressed, and Rick wants her to dial to improve her mood, but the wife doesn’t want to feel a false mood.
“I can’t stand TV before breakfast.” “Dial 888,” Rick said as the set warmed. “The desire to watch TV, no matter what’s on it.” “I don’t feel like dialing anything at all now,” Iran said. “Then dial 3,” he said. “I can’t dial a setting that stimulates my cerebral cortex into wanting to dial!
I think it’s also interesting how much Deckard likes using the mood organ to control what he feels. We get another line later where Iran says how he has always gotten more from it than she has. Yet, Deckard doesn’t really get the empathy boxes. People use the empathy boxes to “fuse with mercer” and when you are connected, you feel the emotions of everyone else who is hooked up and you do the Mercer cycle of climbing a hill, having rocks thrown at you, falling into this pit and dying, but then are resurrected only to do the cycle all over again.
Isidore is taken advantage of by Pris and the androids, and even though he feels their coldness, he is just happy to have someone around. Even when he knows they are androids, he still doesn’t want them to be hurt.
We see he works for an electric animal “vet” and he is looked down on by his boss and co-workers. Even though his boss is basically blind from the radiation, the boss belittles Isidore for being a chickenhead. So in this society, animals are the only thing you need to have empathy for apparently, because people treat JR poorly.
So many people in this society have electric animals. Yet they all pretend they are real because they don’t want to be looked down on for having a false animal. Even so, it is interesting how electric animals are treated with so much care, yet the androids are seen as the lowest of the low.
There is a part where a real cat dies and JR goes to pick it up, thinking it is electric. When then find out it was real, they call her up and let her know she can have an electric one made to look just like the living one. She says her husband loved the cat more than anything and she would hate to tell him it died, so she wants an identical one made. They tell her that when seen close up, the husband will surely tell it isn’t real. She says she is the one that took care of the cat, and the huabnd never got physcialy close, so he won’t tell the difference. So he loves the cat more than anything, yet he doesn’t take care of it or get close to it…
Book Section 2
Deckard is sent to the Rosan headquarters, the people who make androids. He gives the empathy test to Rosan’s niece, Rachel and determines she is an android.
He then returns to SF and kills one of the andy’s. He then goes to the opera house to find one of the others, Luba Luft who is an opera singer. She calls the cops on him and he is picked up by a guy who he doesn’t know and doesn’t know him. He takes him to police headquarters that is not where his headquarters are. We find out that this is a police headquarters set up by the androids.
Another human bounty hunter joins Deckard and this man kills Luba. Deckard thinks he is an android, but when he does the test turns out the guy is human which surprises Deckard because this man was so cold hearted.
The fake department
I liked this scene in the book because suddenly you think Deckard is either delusional and his headquarters don’t even exist, or maybe he is an andy with false memories. Turns out neither of those are the case, but rather the androids set up this false department as a way to look out for one another. But why did they hire Phil Resch who is a human?
I did like the scenes with Resch though and how he wonders if he is an android and that dilemma he is in. He is a heartless, cold person, and Deckard thinks he is an andy. But he gives him the test and turns out he is human. This makes Deckard think something must be wrong with himself, because why does he feel bad for killing andy’s since they aren’t human?
Book Section 3
He returns home and is depleted. He sympathized with Luba, and this confused him since they are andy’s and not human. His boss calls and tells him he needs to go to this abandoned building where the other three andy’s are.
Before heading there, he goes to a hotel and calls Rachel and asks to meet him there. The other bounty hunter had suggested Deckard have sex with a female android, that way he could get it out of his system.
Rachel comes over and they have sex, after she agrees to go with him and kill the andy named Pris, who is the same model as Rachel.
However, after having sex and driving to the building, Deckard tells her he loves her and would marry her if she weren’t an android. But Rachel then reveals she has slept with multiple bounty hunters, and afterwards they weren’t able to kill andy’s-which is her end goal.
He tosses her out of the car, after he is unable to kill her, and goes to the building.
The sex scene with Rachel is weird because one, she is a robot, but it is really uncomfortable because PKD says multiple times how she has the body of like a pre-pubescent teen/child, but the face of the woman and along with this we often hear how attracted to her he is. This is just so cringey and weird and why did PKD feel the need to have Deckard attracted to someone with the body of a tween…
I did like the switch though, Deckard thought he was more in control of the situation and that having sex was his idea. But then Rachel reveals she was manipulating him and that she has slept with other bounty hunters and afterwards they are longer able to kill any androids-aside from Resch who slept with her but was still able to continue being a bounty hunter.
Book Section 4
The three andy’s are in the same building as JR and when finds a spider, Pris cuts off some of the legs, to see if it can still walk. JR takes the spider and drowns it to relieve it of its pain. He goes on his empathy box and Mercer gives him a new spider.
When he goes outside to release this new spider in the wild, he sees Deckard show up.
Deckard kills the three androids in a very anticlimactic scene, after getting a vision of Mercer.
After this he returns home where his wife tells him Rachel pushed their new goat Deckard had bought off the roof. Then he drives out to this wasteland area and climbs a mountain, similar to what Mercer does. Then he finds a toad, one of the animals most sacred in Mercerism. But when he returns home and shows the toad to Iran, she finds the electric panel, showing it is electric.
In the vision with Mercer, Mercer warns him of Pris being around the corner. Deckard asks Mercer if killing andy’s is wrong and Mercer tells him,
“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
After he climbs the mountain, he is on the phone the lady at work and she tells him he looks like Mercer, and he says he is Mercer and that he has become permanently fused with him.
Finding the toad is a big moment, and he is kind of out of his mind, but he happily returns home to show Iran the toad, but then she reveals it is electric and he is disappointed. But at the same time, he sees the value in electric animals.
“I’ll be okay.” He shook his head, as if trying to clear it, still bewildered. “The spider Mercer gave the chickenhead, Isidore; it probably was artificial, too. But it doesn’t matter. The electric things have their lives, too. Paltry as those lives are.”
This is my second or third time watching it, and the first two times didn’t leave much of an impression on me and going into it this time around I didn’t remember much. The graphics are amazing, , but the plot is very lacking in my opinion. They leave out empathy boxes, mood organs, Mercerism and electric animals, all of which made the book so fascinating! But at the same time, leaving that out makes the movie more focused because it doesn’t have quite as much going on.
I love Ridley Scott though. Such a diverse director.
Movie section 1
Rick Deckard is a retired bounty hunter (in the movie they are called blade runners) but he is forced to come back to work to hunt down some replicants (not called androids, but replicants here) that have left Mars. He goes to see the Tyrell Corporation (not Rosen) and tests Rachel who is a replicant and she is very distraught when she finds out the truth.
When he returns home later, she is there waiting for him.
We meet the replicants Pris and Roy, who are with a man named J.F. who works for Tyrell. Roy wants to meet his creator, in order to find some kind of closure as to why he was made only to live for four years. His death is soon approaching and he is trying to come to terms with his existence and his impending death.
Movie Section 2
Deckard finds the Luba Luft equivalent and kills her. He and Rachel have sex (in a very weird, unromantic scene) and Roy meets his maker and kills him.
Deckard then heads to where Roy and Pris are and kills Pris pretty easily, but then has a chase with Roy. Roy ends up dying “naturally” and Deckard goes back home to Rachel. They decide to runaway together, but before leaving the building, he sees evidence which shows a fellow bounty hunter has been here and will likely try to kill Rachel. The movie ends with them going down the elevator and we are left to guess what happens.
The final cut version of this movie is the best one to watch because it is the only version Ridley Scott had full control over. The theatrical release has a narration which the studio wanted to be added because test audiences had a hard time making sense of the plot. A Hollywood happy ending was also tacked on, showing Deckard and Rachel getting away and we are told in voiceover that Rachel somehow ended up living longer than four years and they were able to live happily ever after.
Book vs Movie
In the end, I think I would say the book wins. However, in my conversation in the podcast/youtube video, I gained a greater appreciation for the movie and the symbolism within it. It may be a simplified plot, but there is still a lot of depth to it.
The movie is about struggling with death, and the meaning of our time here on earth. Whereas the book focuses on what it means to be human.