Director: Boris Sagal
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Franchot Tone, Liam Sullivan, Cyril Delevanti, Everett Glass, Felix Locher, John Holland, and Jonathan Harris
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 4/28/1961
Production Code: 173-3658
Annoyed by the incessant chatter of fellow socialite Jamie Tennyson (Liam Sullivan), Colonel Archie Taylor (Franchot Tone) makes an unusual offer: if Tennyson can remain silent for exactly one year, then $500,000 will be awarded to him. Against the advice of his lawyer, George Alfred (Jonathan Harris), Taylor moves forward with the proposal, certain that Tennyson cannot possibly uphold his part of the bargain. Before long, however, Taylor demonstrates concern over the quiet patience exhibited by Tennyson.
Despite forgoing elements of a bizarre and supernatural variety, “The Silence” should be requisite viewing for fans of The Twilight Zone. Notably, the performances of Liam Sullivan (whom Star Trek enthusiasts will recognize from “Plato’s Stepchildren”) and Franchot Tone generate tension from a simplistic, unremarkable set of circumstances.
By evoking sympathy for an ill-bred, garrulous man, “The Silence” earns its reputation as a unique episode—even for The Twilight Zone. Specifically, Colonel Taylor (not to be confused with the Charlton Heston character from Planet of the Apes) explains the motive behind his wager by insulting, berating, and humiliating Tennyson before every member of a gentleman’s club, thereby conducting himself in a less dignified and respectable manner than his opponent does. After the progression of several months, Tennyson elicits further compassion from the audience when Taylor, now desperate to end the agreement prematurely, begins to taunt and harass the main character over the perceived unfaithfulness of his wife—a despicable tactic that establishes Tennyson, initially an insufferable loudmouth, as the true protagonist of this offering.
For exposing the human tendency to accept promises at face value, “The Silence” should be commended. Note that in spite of his appalling behavior, Taylor has no difficulty convincing the other club members to vouch for his credit—a subtle indication that the nature of a man’s character must be determined by actions rather than words alone.
Arguably the most realistic episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Silence” takes a solemn approach to warning against the folly of gambling—much in contrast to “The Fever,” a similarly themed entry from season one. Thus, for those with even a passing interest in the works of Serling, this one will not disappoint.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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