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To See the Invisible Man

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"To See the Invisible Man" is the second segment of the sixteenth episode from the first season (1985–86) of the television series The New Twilight Zone.

Opening narration

“It's a world much like our own, yet much unlike it. A twisted mirror of reality, in which a man can find himself cast out, made invisible by public acclamation, belonging no longer to society, but only to the gray reaches...of the Twilight Zone. ”

Plot

Mitchell Chaplin, a man living in a world parallel to ours, has been found guilty of the crime of "coldness" – of not being friendly or open enough with those around him. According to the State, his punishment is to be rendered "invisible", a social outcast, for one year. A scarring implant placed on his forehead warns others to ignore him on penalty of being sentenced to a similar fate. What seems like a welcome chance to be left alone becomes a lesson in humility, compassion, and empathy, as Chaplin begins to feel the consequences of social isolation. Under the omnipresent eye of floating security drones that monitor their society, people continually shun him. A blind man he meets, unable to see his mark, is refreshingly cordial, until a passing woman whispers the warning "invisible" to him. The blind man furiously curses Chaplin and turns away. Misfortune after misfortune befalls Chaplin, with his lowest point reached when he is denied medical care after being hit by a car. Finally, on the last day of his sentence, two guards enter his apartment and remove the implant, restoring him back to society. Four months after completing his sentence, Chaplin is accosted in public by a young woman (whom he encountered during his term of invisibility) who also wears the scar of an implant. Knowing the law, initially he ignores her, but her crying moves him to turn around and hug her. As they are surrounded by drones warning him of a new sentence of invisibility for his crime, he declares that he can see the woman, and that he cares.

Closing Narration

“A small footnote found in the court records of some parallel world. The name of Mitchell Chaplin, who served his sentence of invisibility and learned his lesson well. Too well. This time, however, he will wear his invisibility like a shield of glory. A shield forged in the very heart...of the Twilight Zone. ”

Trivia

This episode is based on the short story by Robert Silverberg first published in Worlds of Tomorrow April 1963. In the original short story, the criminal is never named, and his one-year sentence was noted to begin on May 11, 2104. In addition, the gender of the criminal's friend was changed from a man in the original story to a woman in the televised version.

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