Launched by the Space Corps in the 24th century, the SS Nautilus was state-of-the-art for its time, powered by a matter-antimatter propulsion engines, and a flip-across picnic tray on the captain's chair. This greatly excited Rimmer, who fantasized about commanding a space battle whilst having a TV dinner at the same time.
Most of the time, the Nautilus was unmanned, and run entirely by auto-pilot and droids. However, if the ship came across something of great interest - or danger - then it would engage its bio-printer to create clones of its most suitable or needed crewmen. Such procedure was fashionable in the 24th century, as Kryten was aware.
Three million years later, the engines of the Nautilus were burnt out, and it was drifting close to a asteroid belt in a state of extreme flux - an asteroid storm. This created a risk of a massive nuclear explosion, since the Nautilus was carrying veranium. The ship computer began to bio-print its old captain, Edwin Herring, but a printer jam left Herring deformed, with a face printed on top of an elongated head, and therefore unable to see.
All this was unfortunate for the boys from the Dwarf, who were cruising close by in Starbug at the time. The Dwarfers were contacted by Herring, who requested assistance, since all his droids had fled the Nautilus in the escape pods. Annoyed by Rimmer's unhelpful suggestions, who subsequently gave his name as Lister, Herring commanded him not to talk again.
When Kryten pointed out that Starbug was in danger if the Nautilus drifted any closer, Rimmer panicked and launched a mining torpedo at the Nautilus. However, in a chance occurrence, the torpedo clipped an asteroid and missed its target. Although a wing of the Nautilus was blown off by the explosion, the ship itself was left intact, and thrown away from danger.
Captain Herring believed Rimmer's actions to be deliberate, and so promoted Rimmer to First Flight Lieutenant when he came aboard Red Dwarf eight hours later. When Rimmer informed Herring that the Nautilus had been brought aboard Red Dwarf and the skutters had unloaded its cargo, Herring happily exclaimed that his mission was complete, and he dissolved into a pile of goo.