Mute (The Twilight Zone)
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 4
|Directed by||Stuart Rosenberg|
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
|Featured music||Fred Steiner|
|Original air date||January 31, 1963|
Ann Jillian: Ilse Nielsen
"Mute" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own short story of the same name. The episode deals with a young girl raised to communicate only through telepathy, and her struggles after the sudden death of her parents forces her to enter mainstream society.
|“||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 and 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.||”|
Firefighters respond to a blazing fire in a family home. The fire is so massive that they immediately write off the house as a loss, and a search of the building turns up no survivors. However, twelve-year-old Ilse Nielsen is found outside, mysteriously having escaped unscathed from the blaze which killed both her parents. Sheriff Harry Wheeler and his wife Cora take Ilse in until her relatives can be found. Ilse does not speak, even though medical examinations show she does not have a speech disorder. The Wheelers deduce that her parents did not teach her how to talk, and naturally assume it to be a case of parental neglect. In actuality, Ilse's parents were part of a secret society who learned how to use the latent telepathic abilities possessed by all humans. They agreed to raise their children to communicate solely with telepathy and regularly send letters updating the other members.
Using the return addresses from the recent (unopened) society letters, Harry writes letters of inquiry about Ilse's relatives. Ilse now lives in a world of people who speak with voices instead of their minds. Having been taught to communicate in pure meaning instead of words, the sound of human speech is alien and painful to her. She looks forward to being reunited with the other telepathic children once Harry's letters are received. But Cora, who sees Ilse as a surrogate for her dead daughter, takes the letters from the mailbox and burns them to prevent Ilse from being taken away. Ilse witnesses the burning but, lacking the ability to speak or write, cannot tell Harry.
When weeks go by without reply to his letters, Harry enrolls Ilse in school. Her teacher is patient with her inability to speak, but firm, and daily prompts Ilse to say her name. She deduces that Ilse has telepathic abilities by the end of her first day. Without telling them why, she has the other students think Ilse's name in unison, thus teaching her speech through her telepathy.
Karl and Frau Maria Werner, society members from Austria, are alarmed by the lapse in the Nielsens' regular communications and come to check on them. After being informed of the situation, the Werners meet with Ilse and talk to her telepathically. Their telepathic speech is incomprehensible to Ilse, and after continued telepathic prodding she begins sobbing and repeatedly saying, "My name is Ilse! My name is Ilse!" The Werners realize that over her weeks in a non-telepathic society, she has lost all knowledge of how to communicate telepathically. They decide to allow the Wheelers to adopt Ilse, even though the Werners are her legal godparents. Though saddened by Ilse's loss of telepathy, they take comfort in telling themselves that Cora Wheeler loves Ilse more than her parents did. They also reveal how Ilse escaped the fire: Though hopelessly trapped themselves, the Nielsens could still telepathically guide Ilse safely out of the house.
|“||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.||”|
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0