The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 5 – Mute

The episode opens up in Vienna where five married couples who also happen to be scientists studying extra sensory perception are setting up a grand experiment to restore telepathic ability in humanity.  Their plan is for each couple to bring up their children without any use of speech and solely use telepathy for communication.  One couple, the Nielsens would return to their home in Pennsylvania and communicate their progress to the others by monthly letters.

The Nielsens were extraordinarily successful and their daughter Ilsa is a natural telepath who has never learned spoken language at all.  But ten years later when Ilsa is twelve a terrible fire breaks out in the Nielsen home and only Ilsa escapes.  She is physically unharmed but in deep shock from experiencing telepathically the death of her parents.

The town sheriff Harry Wheeler and his wife Cora shelter Ilsa in their home after the fire.  Ilsa can’t speak but Cora comforts her like a mother.  Cora had lost her own daughter to a drowning accident a few years before and is very lonely without her child.

Harry finds out from the postmaster that the Nielsens regularly received letters from Austria and obtaining the address, Harry writes a letter telling these friends about Ilsa’s orphaning.  But unknown to Harry, Cora steals the letter from the mailbox and burns it.  But Ilsa sees it and reads from Cora’s mind what is happening and in despair she runs out into the street and collapses in grief.

Ilsa takes up residence with the Wheelers and Cora heaps great kindness and attention on her.  When the Wheelers send her to school she is taught by Miss Frank, a woman whose father also brought her up mute in order to become a medium to the dead.  And because of this shared background she is able to get through Ilsa’s telepathic behavior and force her to learn to speak and understand human language.  At about the same time, a couple of the Austrian scientists, Karl and Maria Werner, show up to find out why the Nielsens have stopped writing.  They go to see Harry Wheeler and he tells them of the fire and brings them to see Ilsa. Karl talks telepathically with Ilsa and implores her to answer him.  But Miss Frank’s training has changed Ilsa from a telepath to a normal girl and she rejects the telepathic appeal by instead speaking clearly out loud.

The Werners say that they will leave Ilsa to be adopted by the Wheelers.  They pretend that they haven’t a legal right because they see how happy Ilsa is with her new parents.  When Karl is walking away from the house with Maria, he expresses misgivings about allowing the experiment to be lost.  But Maria states that the love that Ilsa has gained is much more important than the telepathic gift she would have possessed or even the benefit to mankind in rediscovering telepathy.  She reminds him that though the Nielsens were kindly people they really treated Ilsa as more of their experiment than their child.

So, this is a morality tale wrapped in a science fiction story.  It’s a minor work but enjoyable.  B.

2 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 5 – Mute

  • June 18, 2019 at 2:30 am
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    This is one I do not remember.

    Reply
    • June 18, 2019 at 7:16 am
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      Two interesting casting notes, the sheriff was Frank Overton who also played the sheriff in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a very young Ann Jillian was Ilsa.

      Reply

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