At some unidentified point in history, the ship was turned into nothing but wreckage and debris due to the effects of the Chameleonic Microbe.
What little remains of the SS Hermes show that, prior to destruction by the Chameleonic Microbe, the ship once incorporated rounded or tubular sections in its construction. The ship was made primarily of metal, which enabled the Chameleonic Microbe to devour most of it, but some parts were made of some other material, which the microbe was not able to eat and so these parts remained, leaving a skeletal carcass of the ship. There are also what appear to be the remains of solar sails.
The colour system of the hull had been in stripes; with a dull cream, bright white, bright red, and a duller red.
Very little is known of the SS Hermes except that the Chameleonic Microbe got loose onboard, reducing the ship to floating debris and killing the crew in the process.
There was only one survivor from the SS Hermes, a woman called Talia Garrett, an old acquaintance of the Red Dwarf captain, Frank Hollister. Talia got away in an escape pod, and three million years later the escape pod was picked up by the nanobot-recreated Red Dwarf.
However, the escape pod from the SS Hermes was the Chameleonic Microbe, and dissolved away when left unattended in the Red Dwarf cargo bays six hours later. Red Dwarf soon faced the same fate as the SS Hermes, and being faced with the prospect of the ship reduced to a skeletal carcass, the Red Dwarf crew evacuated their mothership in the shuttles... (Only the Good ..., Series VIII)
- Although the origins of the Chameleonic Microbe are unclear, Kryten mentions that it was made in a laboratory. It is therefore possible that the Chameleonic Microbe was made aboard the SS Hermes, since that crew made up the first (known) victims of the Chameleonic Microbe. If the ship was the origin of the microbe, then it is likely the SS Hermes had been a scientific research ship.
- However, the above assumption may be incorrect, as the official Red Dwarf Series VIII script-book refers to the SS Hermes as a freighter-class spaceship. Since it was a cargo ship, the SS Hermes may have taken the Chameleonic Microbe on-board from somewhere else, just like Red Dwarf did.
- In Greek mythology, Hermes was a messenger of the Olympians, and patron of travel, thieves, diplomacy, trade, and a guide to the Underworld.