The Twilight Zone

Season 1 Episode 40

To See the Invisible Man

Aired Friday 8:00 PM Jan 31, 1986 on CBS
out of 10
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Episode Summary

To See the Invisible Man
For the crime of emotional coldness, Mitchell Chaplin is sentenced to social invisibility for a year.

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  • Life of a criminal punished to spend one year invisible to people.

    Wow, this punishment has to be the most horrible thing for people who depend on others for emotional stability. It doesn't seem to be the case for our criminal who loves being cold and gets punished for it.

    After a couple of months the invisibility starts to pay its toll on the criminal and his life is no longer a good one. What he hated the most is now his Achilles's talon and now he craves for human company.

    This has to be the first time jail time changes a person's heart as we can see in the final sequence of this episode.moreless
  • Thought provoking look at human nature

    I remember seeing this back in TZ85's first season on CBS and only recently caught it again on Chiller. This episode has always been one of my favorites.

    On one level I loved the idea of a person being condemned to "symbolic" invisibility for not being a good and kind citizen, and doing unto others, but it also makes you think. Look at this society. It has all the trappings of a fascist/collectist state. Just look at the opening scene; its like something out of Room 101 in 1984. The darkness, the prisoner is kept in, the two black clad storm trooper types, the "judge" who is actually in another room, while the prisoner has light shone in his eyes. Not to mention the mini police satellits that are everpresent, even indoors. HOw does this society view liberty anyway? So this is the society that makes you be nice, huh?

    The vignettes of his invisibility work well too, the blind man and the child especially. Although think about the child scene as well. HIs Grandmother points to the mark and the boy turns away. Hmmmm, let's get kids to reject people based on their "appearance?" Makes you think.

    One also wonders how he keeps his job and pays for his apartment and food during a year when he wanders around invisible. My suggestion is that he just steals what he wants, as no one will acknowledge or stop him, so that takes care of that problem. For a similar tale see Damon Knight's short story "In the Country of the Kind" which has a lot of similar elements. A man in a similar society commits murder and is condemned to be an outcast the rest of his life. People are not to acknowledge him and the state alters his biochemistry so he emits a sickening odor at all times. He basically wanders around destroying property wherever he likes, never getting a reaction.

    This utter freedom also seems to be present when he goes to the women's health club, fulfilling every man's fantasy of walking into the female only areas with total impunity. He gets to be the fly on the wall in the showerroom, but to no avail, as the nude women in the hot tub, just ignore him and huddle close. (Side note: Would have been nice to have seen this done on an HBO or Showtime anthology, and then we would have been able to have oodles of gratuitous nudity, as buxom girls cavorted totally naked in his presence. In fact, I think a bunch of females carrying on as if he were not there, would have been a better scene, dramatically, as opposed to the women in the hot tub, huddling together obviously uncomfortable and acknowledging his presence, invisibility or not)

    Maybe the state pays for his apartment, since invisible or not invisible his landlord is going to want his rent money. Or maybe, since this is seems to be a fascist/collectivist state, he gets his free government housing.

    I do have a problem with the scene where he is denied medical attention after his accident. The government must have forseen the contingeny that an invisible may get sick or get hurt. This strikes me a bit odd. So the society that makes you be nice, gives up totally on someone for a year, which makes invisibility a potential death sentence?

    The ending is superb as he finds his humanity and risks another year of invisibility to acknowledge the girl who had rebuffed him earlier. Love the final narration of him this time wearing his invisibity as a badge of honor.

    Overall one of the most thought-provoking episodes of the TZ85.moreless
Cotter Smith

Cotter Smith

Mitchell Chaplin

Guest Star

Peter Hobbs

Peter Hobbs

Bennett Gersh

Guest Star

Jack Gallagher

Jack Gallagher


Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (2)

    • (Opening Narration)
      Narrator: It's a world much like our own, yet much unlike it. A twisted mirror of reality, in which a man can find himself cast out, made invisible by public acclamation, belonging no longer to society, but only to the gray reaches of the Twilight Zone.

    • (Closing Narration)
      Narrator: A small footnote found in the court records of some parallel world. The name of Mitchell Chaplin, who served his sentence of invisibility and learned his lesson well. Too well. This time, however, he will wear his invisibility like a shield of glory. A shield forged in the very heart of the Twilight Zone.

  • NOTES (1)

    • This episode is based on the short story "To See the Invisible Man", by Robert Silverberg. The story was first published in Worlds of Tomorrow (April, 1963).