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Plot Technology

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High technology (or magic) available to characters never seems to trickle down to the populace. In particular, if a villain is in possession of a weapon which would be worth millions to the Pentagon, why would he limit himself to robbing banks with it? This especially applies to one-shot enemies on Speculative Fiction series with amazing inventions that have never been seen before — and are never seen again, unless that villain recurs. One suspect is the short half-life of the necessary Plotonium-186 required to power this type of technology.

See also No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, Cut Lex Luthor a Check, Reed Richards Is Useless.


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    Comic Books 
  • Superman:
  • The Four in Planetary are described as having stockpiles of technology like this. Which they intentionally keep to themselves. The Four are also shown to be plotting to sell mankind to alien monsters, then leave their Earth for some other world to conquer. All that ultra-tech would come in pretty handy. Logical, really.
    • After they're beaten, the Planetary Group switches from fighting them to distributing all that ultra-tech. Utopia ensues.
  • Iron Man once went on a campaign to destroy all the armor suits that he knew were stolen from him or based on his old designs. There are shades of this in Iron Man 2.
  • After the registration act, the New Warriors were reformed by members with stolen parts and prototypes of devices used by other Marvel Comics characters. A Doc Octopus harness, Scarlet Spider web-shooters, and a patch work Iron Man were notable, and they operated out of a deserted villain's base. The group did eat up some funds keeping everything working however.
  • First lampshaded, then subverted in Starman (DC Comics). When Jack Knight agrees to take on the mantle of Starman, he castigates his father for having had this incredible technology for years, but never doing anything with it except fighting supervillains, and only agrees to be Starman if his father works on the civilian applications. At the end of the series, he delivers. (Though these were undone to fit him into The DCU.)
  • Spider-Man — or rather, Peter Parker — has subverted this a few times in recent years. On multiple occasions, he has extended a helping hand to technically skilled villains and hooked them up with jobs that make legitimate use of their talents and devices. The results have been mixed, though. The foremost example of this, Clash, broke bad again after the grind of working at Parker Industries got too frustrating.

  • In The Incredibles, the last stage of Syndrome's plan was to release his technology to the public and complete his image as the last super, but the heroes stopped him before he could set himself up as one.
  • Subverted with Spider-Man: Homecoming, which directly addresses the fallout of The Avengers (2012) and how there might be some consequences of an Alien Invasion occurring in a city as populated as New York. Specifically, the Vulture and his gang were originally just a mundane cleanup crew arranged to rid of all the crazy alien tech, but once they were unceremoniously sacked, they began secretly "scavenging" the technology, passing it along the black market, and committing even greater robberies for more advanced tech from the Avengers.

  • Justified in the Wild Cards series, wherein some examples of amazingly advanced technology appear to exist (independently of things brought by genuinely more advanced aliens); however, it turns out that the ability to build such machines is among the powers granted to some by the Wild Card virus. Most such devices will only work for the Aces who build them — they're not really working machines, but a form of Magic Feather — while the exceptions can't be reproduced by engineers whose brains haven't been rewired by an alien genetic weapon.

  • Kids Praise: Psalty manages to invent surveillance equipment that allows the kids to see people in need (spiritual or physical) and invents a time machine by accident. In the ninth album, a Super Prototype plane that the U.S. Air Force helps him put together is also at his disposal!

    Video Games 
  • The Master Ball in Pokémon is able to catch any Pokemon without fail, and yet there are usually only one or two available in any given game. Pokémon Red and Blue justified this by referring to the Master Ball as an unreleased prototype, but there's no explanation why they haven't been mass-produced by the time of the later games.
    • In Pokémon Black and White 2, the villain develops a device that stops Pokeballs from working, preventing you from catching the legendary he summoned. This technology has never been seen since, even though it would make many villains' plans a lot easier.

  • A Miracle of Science throws a spin on this by having "Science-Related Memetic Disorder" as a plot device, and after the Mad Scientist is treated for said disorder (and prevented from doing stereotypical mad science activities, another parody AMOS uses), the "Plot Tech" devices can be used by the general population. For example, early in the series the Lunar Cannons - remarkably similar to those used in Final Fantasy VIII - were introduced as made by the first mad scientist.
    • In fact, reassuring them of this is the final step in getting mad scientists to give up!
  • In Sluggy Freelance there seem to be a handful of Mad Scientists with extremely advanced technology, but at most they share their inventions with one corporation, not the entire world. Riff has tried selling his inventions on occasion, but they tend to be too dangerous for most people to handle.

    Visual Novel 
  • Subverted in Double Homework. When Dennis starts blackmailing Dr. Mosely/Zeta, she tells him that she has a government-developed “tool” that will allow him to have sex with anyone he desires. But when she eventually gives him this “tool...”
    Dennis: [unwraps package] This is a fleshlight.
    Dr. Mosely/Zeta: Yes. It allows you to fuck any girl you want in your imagination.
    Dennis: ....
    Dr. Mosely/Zeta: There is no tool that allows you to have sex with anyone you want.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in Worm. Tinker technology tends to fail without constant maintenance by the original creator, so most Tinkers just use their technology for personal use (costumed adventuring mainly) rather than trying to mass produced and sell it.
  • It's a major plot device in Whateley Universe. In fact, Gadgeteers can release technology to the general public. Devisors cannot, at least normally. One clever thing, is a Devisor, whose powers only work for himself...who has the power to make REALLY GOOD BEER. The system he develops is promptly marketed, and since only he can install and maintain them, but the system is very, very good for mass production...he is a very rich man. Similarly, Iron Man style powered armor is quite common.

    Western Animation 
  • It seems in Gargoyles, there is a level of super-technology only available to billionaires; as David Xanatos and others have access to airships, robots, etc.
    • This is probably justified by having super-technology be so expensive that only billionaires could afford it. One is mentioned as having risked bankrupting his company making said airship.
    • That seems like Truth in Television, as most shiny new technology costs millions (on the low side) to develop.
    • Gargoyles also averts this and justifies Family-Friendly Firearms in one swoop by having an arms shipment get hijacked and distributed on the black market.
  • All over the place in Kim Possible, especially with her Mad Scientist Arch-Enemy Dr. Drakken and Gadgeteer Genius Mission Control Wade. With only a few exceptions, many of their creations appear once and never again.
  • Norton Nimnul from Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers invents all sorts of crazy gadgets that would make him a kajillion dollars if he sold them instead of using them to rob banks and otherwise bilk the populace. To his credit, he tries in a few episodes, but everyone laughs at him despite the inventions clearly working, mostly because Nimnul himself is a bit of a nutcase.
  • Family Guy: the innumerable hi-tech devices devised by infant genius Stewie Griffin, generally but not always with the idea of wreaking a terrible, painful, and undignified death to his mother Lois, who is blissfully unaware. It is made deliberately ambiguous as to whether Stewis really is a child genius, or if the weaponry and the adult-level dialogue is a dramatisation of the stage every parent knows as "the terrible twos", where the infant attempts to assert control, resents parental restriction, and gets really angry with its parents at the slightest provocation. Certainly, nobody else except Brian the dog hears Stewie's dialogue - nobody is perturbed at a toddler speaking and acting like a bile-filled Dr Evil. The possibility exists this is only wish-fulfilment, as Stewie's immense armoury of Plot Techology gadgets exists in an impossible space that the house in Spooner Street cannot possibly contain.