The SSS Esperanto was a designated "ocean seeding" Space Corps starship. Her crew were killed on its initial three-year mission. The seeding ship was left derelict; submerged under the shallow surface and at the bottom of an unnamed ocean-covered planetoid in Deep Space, for three million years.
Its three-year mission was to explore deep space and locate potential S3 (or Earth-like) planets that were covered by ocean, introduce primitive life-forms to these extraterrestrial environments and finally speed up the evolutionary process. Her mission was successful; indeed, it was off all predicted charts — on one ocean planet the Esperanto succeeded in causing five million years' worth of aquatic evolution in just three solar years.
The SSS Esperanto crashed onto the ocean floor when it was attacked by one of the creatures she had helped create: a gigantic squid-like creature whose ink had hallucinatory and despair-inducing properties. The ink caused all the crew of the Esperanto, and even one of the crew's pet haddock fish, to have hallucinations which made them despair and commit suicide. One crewmember hung himself, and another committed seppuku with a katana sword. Kryten scans the fish with the Psi-Scan to discover that the fish committed suicide by voluntarily closing its own gills.
It is revealed that, of all the ocean-dwelling species the SSS Esperanto created, the giant squid had either eaten them all or caused them to commit suicide with its despair-inducing ink, leaving the ocean devoid of life except for the squid.
When Starbug found the SSS Esperanto, three million years later, the gang were also attacked by the squid and had a bizarre but elaborate group hallucination which led them to believe all their experiences on Red Dwarf were nothing but a video game, and their real identities to be people whom they all despised. In their hallucination, a Brummie technician named Andy says that to kill the squid they were supposed to use the laser cannons of the SSS Esperanto, citing the name "Esperanto" as a clue (Esperanto means "one who hopes", and hope defeats despair). (Back to Reality, Series V)
Some centuries later, when looking for their lost mothership, Starbug retraced its steps to the ocean moon which contained the SSS Esperanto, since that it where Lister parked it. They found the Red Dwarf planetoid orbiting nearby. (Nanarchy, Series VII)
The Cat later smuggled a female Despair Squid aboard Red Dwarf in case he felt like a "fishy snack". It was apparently only an infant for a significant amount of time (Cat likely had it aboard Starbug in stasis), later putting it into the water tank on G-Deck of Red Dwarf. ('Back to Earth)
Behind the scenes
- The underwater SSS Esperanto is the background to the Series V DVD cover and artwork.
- Very little of the very large model for the SSS Esperanto was seen on screen, although more of it can be seen in the model shots section of the Series V DVD. This shows it in much greater detail, and also reveals the complex filming of the shots; they even had someone above making the ripples.
- The webcomic Prelude to Nanarchy details the aftermath of the events of "Back to Reality", connecting it to the Series VI opening episode "Psirens".
- Whilst investigating the SSS Esperanto in Starbug, the boys "lose" their mothership Red Dwarf, as revealed in the next episode, "Psirens", the first episode of Series VI. This will begin a story arc that lasts two series, as the boys try to find Red Dwarf, and the next two series are set aboard Starbug. It is later revealed the Red Dwarf was stolen by the nanobots in the last episode of Series VII, who stole Red Dwarf during the events of "Back to Reality" whilst the boys were investigating the wreck of the SSS Esperanto. During that episode they trace their steps back to the same ocean moon, and the new sandy red planetoid that the nanobots turned Red Dwarf into (the Red Dwarf planetoid) is orbiting close by the ocean moon.
- It is revealed during the events of Back to Earth that, during their second trip to the ocean moon, the Cat snuck a "little fishy" aboard Red Dwarf, hiding it in the Water Tank on G Deck. This returns to cause problems for the crew nine years later. (Back to Earth)
- The SSS Silverberg encountered by the Canaries in the Series VIII episode "Cassandra" may also have been an ocean seeding ship, given its similar designation.