There is a scene in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982), a remarkable adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” that I have always thought captures the challenges any psychologist or psychiatrist faces when attempting to suss out psychopaths, given one of the psychopath’s predominate traits is pathological lying. (See my last blog “Now You’ve Gone and Done It Whitey Put a Psychopath in the White House“).
The title of the movie refers to an elite regimen of police called “Blade Runners,” whose job it is to find rogue “replicants” and “retire” the bastards.
In this post-apocalyptic future, as imagined by Phil Dick in 1968, replicants are sophisticated androids that are virtually identical to humans.
Manufactured by the multi-national Tyrell Corporation, the new Nexus 6 model replicants are “more human than human” (the corporate slogan) and virtually indistinguishable from their human counterparts.
To certify that an individual is indeed a replicant Blade Runners are trained to use a special analytical test called a Voight-Kamoff (VK-A) that includes a carefully crafted ledger of questions meant to illicit certain specific responses that are then measured and compared to an historic catalogue of previous results. (Very similar to administering and scoring the Hare PCL-R)
After setting up “the skin job” (police slang for replicants) for the test the subject is asked a series of detailed questions aggregated and analyzed by the VK-A and interpreted by the Blade Runner and, voila, the pedigree of the subject is revealed. Are mistakes possible? Of course. Blade Runners (police) are human (like psychiatrists) and humans do make mistakes. Sometimes, humans get “retired” by mistake.
In the opening scene of “Blade Runner” a Runner named Holden (in my imagination played by famed forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz) is interviewing a suspected replicant named Leon (played by POTUS Trump).
Leon happens to be one of four fugitive replicants who have made it back to earth, led by the ruthless Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). They escaped from a security detail on an “off-world” colony, stole a space craft, murdered the crew and returned to earth with the intention of meeting their “maker,” the eponymous Dr. Eldon Tyrell and “convincing” him to increase their life spans, which are, by design, an intolerably short, four years.
Because they are artistic creations at the edge of contemporary science replicants can be very handsome, or beautiful, as well as articulate, convincing and deceiving. At on point, Batty, explaining himself says to the man who “just make the eyes” what the eyes he made allowed Batty to see: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… “
It has been discovered that the Nexus 6’s quickly become self-aware, develop a sense of mortality, adapt and innovate and, among other dangerous tendencies, develop a deep resentment of that mortality and therefore, day by day, represent an incrementally lethal danger to real people, particularly their “Maker,” Eldon Tyrell.
A Blade Runner named Holden (played by Park Dietz) satisfied Leon (played by Don Trump) is properly set up for the V-K test (think Hare PCL-R) begins the questioning):
“You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand, when all of a sudden you look down…
Leon: (Obviously nervous) What one?
Leon: What desert?
Holden: It doesn’t make any difference what desert, it’s completely hypothetical.
Leon: How come I’d be there?
Holden: Maybe you’re fed up. Maybe you want to be by yourself. Who knows? You look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you…
Leon: Tortoise? What’s that?
Holden: [Becoming irritated by Leon’s interruptions] You know what a turtle is?
Leon: Of course!
Holden: Same thing.
Leon: I’ve never seen a turtle… But I understand what you mean.
Holden: You reach down, Leon, and you flip the tortoise over on its back.
Leon: Do you make up these questions, Mr. Holden? Or do they write ’em down for you?
Holden: The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping.
Leon: [angered by the suggestion] What do you mean, I’m not helping?
Holden: I mean: you’re not helping! Why is that, Leon?
[Leon has become visibly shaken]
Holden: (Leans back, smiling and lights a cigarette) They’re just questions, Leon. (Exhales) In answer to your query, they’re written down for me. It’s a test, designed to provoke an emotional response… Shall we continue?”
[Loud explosion. Leon shoots Holden under the table. Blows him back 12 feet into the far wall. Escapes] CUT