Adapting Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep English Literature Essay

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Philip K. Dick has been described by some reviewers as the best writer in science fiction. His novel "Do Androids dream of electric sheep?" is a science fiction which amalgamates technology, intense drama, philosophy and other crucial human concerns. It talks about a fierce World War that was intensively fought that humankind was endangered with extinction and thus fled to planet Mars. In order to obtain some workforce, companies built incredibly realistic simulacra such as sheep and even 'made' human beings as illustrated by the San Francisco 2021 situation. As a result, the emigrants to mars could not be distinguished from some other artificial human beings, androids, whom governments on earth were afraid of. The novel thus describes the fight and antagonism between androids and real human beings with Rick Deckard, a police officer, playing a very central role in the fight. It must be insisted that the last fifty pages are so much moving.

On the other hand, the movie is based on a cyberpunk futuristic vision; just like the novel upon which it was based. In this vision, human beings create 'human replicants' with fixed life spans and these 'replicants' are useful in the colonization of the off-earth planets. To terminate these human representations, a blade runner, also a police officer, specializes in 'retiring' them. At his retirement, he was recalled to work so as to terminate other six 'replicants' which landed on earth from far away colonies. In literary symbolic terms, if Ridley Scott were to produce a 'literary replicant' of Philip K. Dick's novel, there could probably have been worse effects than those experienced in the 2019 Los Angeles at the return of the techno-humans. In other words, inclusion of every novel detail would have meant involvement of Dick in the production process. The film per se was not an enactment of the novel but was based on the novel as evident in the details herein.

Most literary analysts generally agree that the film "Blade Runner" is based on Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (Sammon 320) originally published in 1968.


In order to establish whether Ridley Scott's 1982 film, the Blade Runner made use of Philip K. Dick's novel, it is important to know the situation surrounding the film's establishment. It is reported that the film company had bought another novel's rights and thus changed most of the original ideas. The concept remained the same though.

There are two camps in the debate of whether Philip K. Dick's ideas have been well featured in the film or it was a dire injustice by the film company in the omission of the 1968 idea. The first proposition should not be very disputable; that the movie Blade Runner is based on the novel. The concern only seems to surround the extent to which all ideas have been entrenched. In the view of this analysis, it does not conceptually appear that the original idea was altered; though that may manifest as face value. The answer could probably be magnified by the extrapolation of the idea that if Dick could represent future technology in a 20th century book, why could a movie based on the same futuristic concept not omit some aspects, incorporate others in the recent times (Because the movie should be watched by present-day human beings) and retain the original line of thought?

According to Westfahl (776), the Blade Runner was inspired by Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? In literary terms therefore, the novel was adapted for the film. In elucidating the approaches to adaptation, Blakesley and Hoogeveen (113) wrote that the following factors should be put into perspective: Fidelity, interpretation and inspiration. In this case, both subjects have fiction as their inspiration while the thematic ends seem to converge. The movie has also used almost exactly the same names for characters. This good adaptation effort led Kerman (91) to write that "And, had he lived to see the completed film made from his novel, Philip K. Dick might have said much the same thing, as some of his work certainly lives in Ridley Scott's movie….What Dick did know of the film- its shooting script, its stars, and some of its special effects- pleased him tremendously…"

There are many aspects of discussion regarding the extent to which the film drew from the novel. These range from themes, characterization, plot, conceptualization and the fictional genre basis. The concern of this write up is however only to elucidate how the film's cast is a representation of the original Philip K. Dick's novel characters. A brief glimpse across the two works provide that the film's characters such as Rick Deckard, Rachael, Roy Batty, Pris and Gaff are represented by Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah and Edward James Olmos respectively . This aspect is probably the most relevant as far as adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel is concern. From the onset, it has to be noted that while the Philip K. Dick used the term 'androids' to refer to the 'artificial humans' (Dick 2), Ridley Scott uses the term 'replicants' to refer to them. Nevertheless, their role is the same and this does not change anything in the thematic intentions of the authors.

The main character is Rick Deckard. In the novel's first chapter, we discover that Deckard is married to Iran and keeps an 'electric sheep' on the roof since he could not afford a 'real sheep'. Actually, the novel got part of its name from this scenario. In the film, Rick Deckard is represented by Harrison Ford. While the Deckard in the novel is married, the action Deckard is divorced. Their roles do not change however. The similarity in characterization is much evident in the person of Rachael. In both the novel and the film, she is not a real human being. She is respectively an android and a replicant. To determine whether an individual was a human being or not, a Voight-Kampff test was carried out. This was one of the chief responsibilities of a Blade Runner. In the novel, this test proven Deckard as a human person while in the film perspective, the character's humanity is questionable. Moreover, a juxtaposition of his role is crystal clear.

The film has also succeeded to adapt the roles of the other novel characters such as Luba Luft, Pris, J.R. Isidore and Eldon Rosen. In the film, the latter has been incorporated as Eldon Tyrell. A single type of fate befalls J. R. Isidore (novel) who could not be allowed to leave the earth due to his low Intelligence Quotient. In the film, the character who assumes the names J. R. Sebastian, is a first-rate genetic engineer who could not leave the earth because of the Methuselah Syndrome. Pris also appear in both works as the android version of Rachael (novel) and as a lover of replicant Roy Batty in the film. Luba Luft or Zhora is also seen to play complementary role of singing in the novel and dancing in the film. Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy perform as Pris ans Zhora respectively.


The novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" is a futuristic science-fiction description of the effects that technology brought about on an American society. Published in 1968 under Philip K. Dick's authorship, the book combines technology, philosophy, religion and science among other things. Later in the early 1980's, Scott Ridley's screenplay was established as an enactment of Dick's concept. Since then, there has been raging debate on the appropriateness with which the novel was adapted into a movie. One camp postulates that the film lost touch with the contents of the novel. The other camp however feels that the film was a satisfactory enactment of Philip K. Dick's novel. So which camp is right?

In taking a stance in this academic opinion, rules of adaptation were considered. It was found out that as long as the 'adapter' remained faithful to the original author, interpreted the contents well and was inspired in the same way, no rule could be breached. Above all, it was considered the nature of the genre and an extra philosophical transcendence could be a reason for omission of some ancient perspectives in the adaptation of the main concept. This was successfully done through the aspect of characterization as a juxtaposition of Dick's concept into the Blade Runner. The names of the characters remained the same, their roles and also their ironical being; the very nature of Philip K. Dick.