The Twilight Zone

Season 4 Episode 5

Mute

3
Aired Unknown Jan 31, 1963 on CBS
7.7
out of 10
User Rating
120 votes
2

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

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A 12-year-old girl who lost her parents in a fire doesn't speak because she has grown up in a secret telepathic community. The couple who take her in, and her teacher, are determined to help her adapt to their society, no matter the cost.

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Love casteth out telepathy

    4.0


    While watching this episode about how a young girl's remarkable gift is overlooked, misinterpreted and ultimately psychologically bullied out of her, if you'd asked me what the moral was supposed to be, I would have guessed that it had to do with how society tends to destroy anything it doesn't understand. I suppose the actual message is meant to be "love is better than psychic powers." That's as may be, but this episode failed to set the right tone to deliver such a message. Everyone might have had Ilse's best interests at heart, but I was far from convinced that their idea of what was was best for Ilse was correct, or that their actions were appropriate.I don't know how you could see the teacher's actions and attitudes as anything less than sinister, particularly her line about making Ilse just like everyone else. As for Cora Wheeler, I have my doubts that she truly loved Ilse and find it plausible she saw her more as a substitute for her dead daughter. The underhanded way in which she sabotaged Ilse's chances at being reunited with people like herself did little to endear me to her, nor did the hysterical way she clung to the confused Ilse in the end, screaming about how Ilse needed her, when the case seemed to be more the other way around.All this is not to necessarily say that I wholeheartedly approve of child rearing techniques of Ilse's biological parents, but frankly, if a line hadn't been shoehorned in at the end that explains that the Nielsens viewed Ilse as a science experiment more than a daughter, it would be harder to condemn them as parents simply because they were a tad unorthodox. When Ilse begins speaking her name out loud for the first time, it didn't register as an uplifting moment for me, like Helen Keller saying "water" in "The Miracle Worker," but rather it had the extremely uncomfortable feel of watching someone break under the strain of mental torture. What was intended as a hopeful ending instead left me feeling saddened that something special had been lost in order to force Ilse to conform to the rest of "normal" society.

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  • Enjoyable to watch, if you are not an overly analytical viewer and can ignore the flaws.

    7.8
    First, the flaws. Barbara Baxley, as Sheriff Wheeler's wife, Cora, knows how to act. Perhaps too well, such as in the climactic scene when she screams at the German couple, "You can't have her! She loves me! She needs me!" She comes off as rather unlikable, which is too bad, because she was a compassionate woman. And Irene Daily as the teacher! Though it became evident that she had the girl's interests at heart, she was a terror. And what a coincidence that she, too, just happened to have been raised to be a medium!



    In spite of these things, it was a good episode. The subject was telepathy, and the cruelty of using children as experimental guinea pigs. The German couple, played by Oscar Beregi and the lovely Eva Soreny (for more on her see The Armstrong Circle Theater episode The Hunted: The Eva Soreny Story), realize this cruelty, even though they are themselves devoted telepathists, and were part of the same group as the girl, Ilse, played by a young Ann Jillian, something else that makes it worth watching. One other thing that I don't quite get is the ending. When Cora Wheeler goes walking with Ilse, why does Ilse seem to hesitate at first? Well, maybe it was symbolic of her gradual acceptance of the world of reality. But, where was Sheriff Wheeler (Frank Overton) at the end? It would have been more satisfying to see the three of them walking together at a carnival or something. But don't let these things get in the way of your enjoying it.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

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  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (5)

    • (Opening Narration)
      Narrator: What you're witnessing is the curtain-raiser to a most extraordinary play; to wit, the signing of a pact, the commencement of a project. The play itself will be performed almost entirely offstage. The final scenes are to be enacted a decade hence with a different cast. The main character of these final scenes is Ilse, the daughter of Professor and Mrs. Nielsen, age two. At the moment she lies sleeping in her crib, unaware of the singular drama in which she is to be involved. Ten years from this moment, Ilse Nielsen is to know the desolating terror of living simultaneously in the world--and in the Twilight Zone.

    • Cora Wheeler: The welfare of a child is everybody's business.

    • Miss Frank: (referring to Ilse) In many ways, the fire was the blessing of her life.

    • Frau Werner: She's going to be all right, for now she is loved.

    • (Closing Narration)
      Narrator: It has been noted in a book of proven wisdom that perfect love casteth out fear. While it's unlikely that this observation was meant to include that specific fear which follows the loss of extrasensory perception, the principle remains, as always, beautifully intact. Case in point, that of Ilse Nielsen, former resident of the Twilight Zone.

  • NOTES (2)

    • This episode is based on the short story "Mute" by Richard Matheson. The story was first published in the Charles Beaumont edited anthology The Fiend in You (1962).

    • This episode, as with all in Season 4, is an hour in running time. All episodes in Season 1-3 & 5 are only 30 minutes.

  • ALLUSIONS (1)

    • The line in the closing narration, "It has been noted in a book of proven wisdom that perfect love casteth out fear," references the Biblical text I John 4:18.

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