Who Are The Toymakers?: An essay on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

by Hrafnhildur Blöndal (© 1993 by Hrafnhildur Blöndal)

Thanks to Frank Bertrand and Patrick Clark for contibuting this article to philipdick.com.

It presents an interesting view on Ridley Scott’s film, Blade Runner, when
we see Dick mentioning God as the toymaker. Tyrell, president of Tyrell
Corporations is a manufacturer of replicants (that is androids). His
latest model of replicants, the Nexus-6, have become so advanced,
technically, that a special test is needed to distinguish them from human
beings. The main difference being the replicants’s lack of empathy. On of
Tyrell’s genetic designers is J. F. Sebastian, who is also a toymaker in
his spare time. His flat is filled with creatures of all sorts who walk
and talk and who are his friends. Sebastian’s “toys” are imperfect; they
brake down, function erratically, etc. The difference between Tyrell and
Sebastian is noticable – Tyrell is the boss; he has the power and his
products are near perfect, so perfect in fact that they can pass
themselves off as humans. Sebastian is the employee, he has no power and
his products are mere toys – dolls that you wind up and repeat lines
planted in them by their maker.

The motivation is the interesting factor. Tyrell, who has become rich from
his business, is eager to design and manufacture the perfect replicant:
his motto is “More Human Than Human”. He does not care for his products as
such, only as his perfect creations. “His” is the keyword here; his
ambition is entirely selfishly motivated. He is proud to be the owner of
the most successful replicant making fctory but has not the least desire
to know what happens to his creations once they enter the real world.
Sebastian’s motivation for creating his “friends” is loneliness. Having no
real friends, he makes them with love and care and they in return greet
him every time he comes home from work. If any of them brakes down or
malfunctions one way or another he dexterously tries to fix the fault. He
genuinely cares for his toy-friends; he talks to them, discusses things
with them and with loving tolerance allows for their imperfections.

Although this setup is not in Do Androids Dream?, it is very much Dickian
in terms of theme. Being toy-makers, both Sebastian and Tyrell are
analogous to God. When Roy Baty meets Tyrell, the latter says to him: “How
does it feel to meet your maker?” Sebastian, as God, is quite different
from Tyrell. The former is merciful, caring, while the latter is ruthless
and disinterested. Viewed this way, Tyrell is seen as Yahweh, the God of
the Old Testament, merciless, unrelenting creator of man. Sebastian is God
as preached in the New Testament, and embodied in Christ: forgiving,
caring saviour of man. Pris introduces Sebastian to Roy in this way: “This
is my saviour, J. F. Sebastian.” The two are the same and yet not the
same. Tyrell, the creator, makes the being, sends it out into the world
and when it deviates from the law, it must die. Sebastian, the saviour,
feels sympathy for Tyrell’s creations when they come to him in need and
with the same care as he feels for his own little toys he wants to and
tries to help the runaway replicants.

Another analysis is possible: according to Gnostic doctrines, the
demi-urge (Yaldaboath) is similar to Yahweh, and is a false God who
believes he is the real thing. He rules the universe with cruelty. It is
impossible to say whether Dick believed in the existence of the demi-urge
(as it is impossible to say when he was being serious), but, to the
question on the nature of reality, the demi-urge is a possible answer as
the being responsible for the cruel and unreliable world we live in.

The meeting between Roy and Tyrell is a powerful moment in the film. The
grimness of the meeting lies in Roy’s discovery of his maker’s true
nature. He sees “the toymaker who has generated. . . all his toys,” and he
feels hatred and disgust at God’s/Tyrell’s non-caring attitude. Marilyn
Gwaltney in “Androids as a Device for Reflection on Personhood”, says:
“Our understanding of . . . [Roy’s] cruelty changes as we come to
understand it as a very human reaction to his existential situation: the
imminence of his death and that of those he lves; the feeling of betrayal
by the beings that brought him into existence” (33). Here Roy becomes
comparable to man; Roy is unhappy that he is not made to last. He wants
his creator to extend his life-span. The creator says he cannot do it, but
shows no remorse at his inability. He does not care whether Roy lives or
dies, all Tyrell sees is that Roy is a perfect example of his own
ingeniousness – the perfect example. Whether Roy lives or dies is of no
concern to Tyrell. Roy, maddened at the reply, kills Tyrell, which is a
powerful and fearsom act when we understand the implications: Man killing

Even the way Roy kills Tyrell is laden with implications: Roy grabs
Tyrell’s head between his hands and kisses him on the mouth, indicating
the Judas’ kiss of death. Then he thrusts Tyrell’s eyes into his head and
crushes his skull. The Gnostics believed that the demi-urge’s cruelty and
indifference is due to his being blind and in the Valis trilogy Dick often
refers to the “blind God”: the God running this world must indeed be blind
since he does not see the injustice that goes on, and he must be blind to
his creatures plights since he does nothing to leviate them.

Replicants return to earth because they seek life. They want their
creator, man, to give them life, which man is not able to do. Replicant,
in return, grants life to man, endowing it with more empathy than man.
Kevin, in Valis, says, “condemn the deed, not the doer, and Dick in “Man,
Android and Machine” claims that the terms “human” and “android” apply not
to origin (the doer) but to a way of being, or behaving, in the world (the
deed). Consider Rachael: her memories are implants – somebody else’s
memories – planted inside Rachael’s brain as an experiment. Ultimately,
she does not know she is a replicant and that her past is not hers. But
the memories are in her mind, just as vivid as our own, building up a past
just as concrete to her as ours is to us. The fact that what Rachael
remembers is not authentic, i.e., not her own visions of childhood, and so
forth, does it make them any less real? If she has a past (she carries a
photograph of herself as a little girl with her mother), is she in any way
different from a human? Which is more real, and closer to the truth, our
knowledge that she is a mechanical construct clothed in flesh and blood
and nerves, with implanted memories, or her knowledge of her past, her
experiences as a child and adolescent; her “knowledgge” that she was born
and raised by a mother, 20 or 30 years ago, and not made in a factory 2 or
3 years ago?

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