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"Just look at that thing. It's like a monster from another planet!"

During testing, the US Army's new vehicle, the Sidewinder, plummets down a crater which soon becomes a blazing inferno. International Rescue are called in to help but will a a complex scheme planned by Brains work?

All is calm in a South African jungle as a helicopter flies past. Suddenly the animals all run for cover as a giant metal foot clamps down on the ground. Several of these feet walk along while claws grasp at the trees and pull them out of the ground. At the top of all this is a huge control room, supported only by the legs. This is the Sidewinder. It emerges from the jungle onto a deserted plain.

The Sidewinder is carrying three men, Colonel Sweeney, Johnny and Frank, as is the supervising helicopter (Copter Watchdog), General Peters, Ralph and a captain. Peters congradulates the Sidewinder team and informs them that they are to meet the relief crew who are coming in by helijet at rendezvous point nine. The Sidewinder is just what the US army needs for bush fire wars. Copter Watchdog heads back to its base and the Sidewinder follows. The Sidewinder crew are looking forward to a rest but as the giant machine is walking across the plain, the ground beneath it begins to crack. Suddenly a gigantic hole opens up beneath it and swallows the machine whole. The Sidewinder lies at the bottom of the pit, surrounded by a blazing inferno.

The Sidewinder at the bottom of the pit

Peters fails to contact the Sidewinder and Ralph notices the smoke coming out of the pit on the horizon. The captain takes them back to the site but Sweeney is unconcious and cannot respond to radio signals. The helijet is told to come to the pit. Sweeney comes round and tells Peters that all three of them are safe. They are 300 feet down and the Sidewinder is on its side and thus cannot move. Ralph says that it weighs 500 tonnes and Peters believes that it would take weeks to get the necessery heavy lifting gear. The captain lands next to the pit as the helicopter is in danger from the heat and the helijet (carrying Lieutenant Mead, Sergeant Reynolds and Pilot Charlie) arrives at the same time. Sweeney wonders how they will get out in time; the reactor was due for refuelling.

Peters briefs all of the men at the site and assures Mead that the Sidewinder cannot be lifted. Mead offers to be lowered down and Peters reluctantly agrees. Mead's only protection is his oxygen mask and the frequency is kept clear for him to communicate his findings. According to Sweeney, the temperature is 220 degrees farenheit.

In Thunderbird 5, John eavesdrops on the the findings of Mead as he is lowered down from the hovering helijet. Mead has to go much closer to the bottom than was first though as the smoke is too thick to see the Sidewinder from a distance. He catch a brief glimpse of it and then screams to be pulled up. The army manage to pull him out just in time. Jeff puts Scott on emergency alert, ready to blast off at any time but is rreluctant to send him unless that army specifically ask for help.

Covered in bandages, Mead thinks that it is possible to haul out the Sidewinder. Ralph offers to go down and fix the rope but Reynolds insists on doing it himself. Ralph is a technical man and is needed with the radio. At the bottom of the pit the cooling plant is becoming strained and the temperature has reached 265 degrees.

Reynolds is lowered down from the helijet quickly. He reaches the bottom some distance from the Sidewinder and so asks Charlie to move him forward. He manages to hook a cable around one foot and is quickly winched up as he also screams. He reaches the top just in time. The helijet drops the line by the side of the pit before Charlie takes Mead and Reynolds off to hospital.

The cable is connected to Copter Watchdog which then proceeds to attempt to haul the Sidewinder out. The machine is, however, too heavy and the line slips leaving it back in the pit. Ralph offers to reattach the line but Peters is frustrated with the lack of rescue equipment. His words remind Ralph of International Rescue.

Peters calls Thunderbird 5 and John reports this update to Jeff. Thunderbird 1 is launched and John briefs Scott saying that nobody knows the origin of the crater. Scott requests Thunderbird 2 with both Brains and Pod 5 aboard and So Virgil launched it.

Johnny believes there to be only a few more minutes in the cooling plant left. Scott tells Peters that he will arrive in four minutes. Peters reports that the heat from the pit is fantastic. The temperature inside the Sidewinder is rising and the hull is fractured. Sweeney orders the air purifier to be engaged. Thunderbird 1 lands and Scott assures Peters that heavy rescue equipment is on its way. He sends the remote camera which rises out of Thunderbird 1 and flies into the pit. Peters thinks that it will burn up but Scott assures him that it is designed for extreme heat. The fire is now inside the Sidewinder control room.

The interior of Pod 5

Thunderbird 2 lands and Scott, Virgil and Brains meet in a room in the pod. Seeing in the cameras pictures, some US Army wreckage, Brains deduces that the pit is an old mineshaft used by the army as a dump for equipment. Over the years, topsoil has covered it until the Sidewinder feel through. In order to pull it out, they will have to remove the rest of the topsoil.

Virgil is lowered down into the crater from Copter Watchdog, this time wearing protective clothing. He begins to set the charges. Scott tells Peters to get the copter clear; the Jet Mole will get Virgil out. Scott drives the Mole out to the drilling position. Frank says that the cooling plant has eight minutes left. Virgil is about to lay the final charge and with navigation from Brains, Scott drills down to the bottom, only meeting a small obstruction. Virgil lays the final charge and climbs aboard. The Mole evacuates the area and Brains detonates the explosives. The explosion worries Colonel Sweeney; the men inside have only two minutes now.

Recovery Vehicle 1

Virgil drives the first Recovery Vehicle to the edge of the pit and the remote controlled one is driven up alongside. With direction from Brains, he fires the magnetic clamps onto the hull of the Sidewinder. Both vehicles move backwards and despite some skidding, begin to move the Sidewinder. One line fails and Virgil has to wind the line back and fire it again. This time the Sidewinder is hauled right onto the edge of the pit but begins to slide back. With a last effort, Virgil is able to pull it to safety, the correct way up as well.

Later the three men are in an emergency helicopter and Frank is unconcious. Sweeney and Johnny thank Scott. Thunderbird 2 takes off as does the emergency helicopter. Peters is pleased with the way things have turned out and the only thing Scott asks for is that he is not followed. Peters says that he would give a lot to have the members of International Rescue in his force. Thunderbird 1 and Copter Watchdog fly away.

Verdict: This episode is saved from being forgettable by the Sidewinder, an incredible machine. Unfortunately it takes a long time for International Rescue to become involved but the final rescue is one of the most interesting ever used in the programme.
5/6
Broadcast information: Broadcast on BBC 2 on Sunday 10th September 2000 at 5:55 pm.

DVD availability: On Volume 1 and the Complete Box Set.

VHS availability: On Volume 1, the Pod 1 Box Set and the Complete Box Set.