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"Mute" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

Episode Details

Opening Narration

"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."

Episode Summary

Ilse, a twelve-year-old girl, is orphaned when her parents die in a fire. She is left in the care of others unaware of her true condition. It seems that her parents raised her in ignorance, and did not even teach her to talk. In actuality, Ilse was raised (along with other children in far-away Europe) by parents who subjected her to a language deprivation experiment in which no one spoke (verbally) with her. The intent was to draw out inherent telepathic abilities that the parents believed all people once possessed, but which had been repressed after the development of spoken language.

The experiment with Ilse was particularly successful: Ilse communicated well telepathically. But after the death of her parents, Ilse lives in a world of people who speak with voices instead of their minds, and her life is turned upside down. Her teacher also possesses telepathic abilities but believes they are a corruption to be overcome and works vehemently to destroy them.

By the time she is found by a couple from Germany who also raised their child as part of the experiment, Ilse's telepathic capability has been ruined by her public school experience and the genuine love of her normal, adoptive parents. Ilse also wants to stay.

It is explained at the end that Ilse's parents, while being nice to her, had not loved her, but viewed her primarily as a living experiment.

Closing Narration

"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."

Preview for Next Week's Story

Mr. Richard Matheson lets his typewriter pay us a return visit next time out on Twilight Zone with a story called "Death Ship". Now this one is for science fiction aficionados, ghost story buffs and any and all who file away clues with an eye toward outguessing the writer. Next on Twilight Zone, Mess rs Jack Klugman, Ross Martin and Fred Beir take an extended trip through space on a death ship.


Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)

Memorable Quotes

Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series

Notes and References