Whenever someone decides to make an invention, they usually don't get it right the first time. Sometimes, it may result in Super Prototypes that have to be scaled down and depowered for easy mass-production capacity. Other times, it may go wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong, resulting in a string of machines ending in Mk. VIII, Mk IX, until it's finally (relatively) safe. Then, when someone shows you the Mk. X, you ask what happened with 1-9?
And there you have the Unseen Prototype(s). They are rarely mentioned in story, but come to mind once you realize that to get this far in an invention, there had to have been a lot of failures.
Related to Cryptic Background Reference.
- The first time one of Dr. Gero's creations appears in Dragon Ball, it's Number 8. The next time one shows up, he's gone all the way up to 16. (An Omake illustration shows the fate of the numbers in between—most of them were failures or considered too uncontrollable.)
- The title character of Yuria 100 Shiki is her inventor's 100th attempt at creating a Sex Bot. A few early models appear, including a crude inflatable doll.
- Averted in GaoGaiGar. While Mic Sounders the 13th might be the one with the most personality, we eventually do get to meet the other 12.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The titular Gundam is the RX-78-2 Gundam, the RX-78-1 is only seem in later supplemental material.
- Similarly, Zeon's line of mobile suits seems to begin with the MS-04 Prototype Zaku (depending on the continuity). The MS-01-03 are never seen, though the alternate continuity Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin has the MS-03 Waff and the MS-04 is the Bugu, not the Prototype Zaku.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: The OZ-00MS Tallgeese is the very first mobile suit built, but deemed far too powerful for regular pilots. It was eventually scaled down and mass-produced as the OZ-06MS Leo. OZ-01MS-05MS are never alluded to, though presumably they're somewhere between the Tallgeese and the Leo.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED: The Alliance's G Project seems to start with GAT-X102 Duel Gundam, there's no indication what the GAT-X101 would have been even in supplemental materials.
- Machine-Man in Marvel Comics, also known as "X-51" or Aaron Stack (made famous by Nextwave). We never really find out about the previous 50, though Nextwave shows a joking page about one of his predecessors who is a partly-human looking killbot who happens to be employed as a priest. Somehow.
- The original prototypes all suffered mental breakdowns. The reason? They had human-level potential but were treated as mere machines. Only their creator realized this so he took one home and treated it as a person. This is the one who became a superhero. (This is from the original story, not Nextwave.)
- Marvel's Canadian government Super Team Alpha Flight has three training levels, the other two named appropriately Beta and Gamma. Gamma trainees graduate to Beta and then to Alpha. Though Beta eventually went rogue.
- Plan 9 from Outer Space. What were the first eight plans?
- In Lilo & Stitch, Stitch is Experiment 626. Most of the previous 625 experiments are never seen, although some of them do make an appearance in The Series, its films Stitch! The Movie and Leroy & Stitch, and the anime Stitch!. (Stitch & Ai, however, decided to introduce completely new experiments, all of which are made within the events of that show and are thus made after Stitch.)
- The Time Machine in Meet the Robinsons, which has had several failed prototypes, one of which looks like a Dali painting, and the Mark I which has only a single screw left.
- Doctor Evil calls his Tractor Beam "Preparation H", as preparations A-G were complete failures. Of course, this is all to set up yet another joke for Scott to laugh at.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Ultimate Computer". Doctor Daystrom comes aboard to oversee tests of his M5 computer.
Kirk: I'm curious, Doctor. Why is it called M-5 and not M-1?
Daystrom: Well, you see, the multitronic units one through four were not entirely successful. This one is.And later on, after it starts malfunctioning...
McCoy: The M-1 through M-4, remember? Not entirely successful. That's the way Daystrom put it.
- In The Dr. Steel Show Episode 2, Doctor Steel calls his hamster, "Hamster 65". In Episode 1, he had a previous hamster "experiment" (referred to elsewhere as Hamster 42), which had died. One wonders what happened to all the other ones?
- Babylon 5. We do eventually find out what happened to Babylons One through Four.
- Actually, the question is asked during the pilot movie, and Sinclair replies that 1-3 were sabotaged, and 4 disappeared 24 hours after coming online. Not much more is revealed about the first 3 stations, but the reasons for 4's disappearance form a major plot arc.
- The first Babylon station is briefly shown, still unfinished, as the sabotage caused its structure to collapse and the station to explode. According to the fluff, the surviving materials were used in the construction of Babylon 2. When that exploded, its surviving parts were used for Babylon 3. Ditto for Babylon 3's parts.
- The Benny Hill Show. Benny (as Fred Scuttle) is displaying his homemade, backyard rocket in which he plans to fly to the moon.
Scuttle: May I present... Indestructable the Second!
Interviewer: What happend to Indestructable the First?
Scuttle: It blew up.
- Whisper 115 of Tower Prep seems to have a lot of these-such as the psychotic Whisper 023. What happened between 23 and 115? What happened before 23?!
- It wasn't intended this way, but the Cardiff branch of Torchwood is Torchwood 3, and the first two did turn out to be failures. The one in Canary Wharf brought about the Dalek/Cyberman war and was destroyed in the process, and the other branch went missing somehow...
- In Dark Angel, Max is stated to be an X-5 and at the end of the first series, she is shot by an X-7 clone of herself. While none of the previous X-series Super Soldiers are unseen, the X-2 iteration is stated to have been a Flawed Prototype.
- Hyperspace travel in Warhammer 40,000 basically consists of tearing a hole in a reality, and sending a ship barreling through a Hell in space, where nightmares, Daemons, or any number of horrific things can end you. Or not end you. And according to a bit of fluff, out of all the Hyperspace methods, it's the best option. One must wonder what the early versions were like...
- Well the Tau Empire's version (essentially travelling in a boundary region between Hyperspace and Normal Space) might be one example. It's actually safer and more reliable but very slow.
- The previous tests of the teleporter in Half-Life 2. "What cat?!" Though, things don't go quite as planned with it even when it is seen.
- A better example is the series' trademark HEV suit. Gordon uses a Mark IV during the original game, as do Gina Cross and Colette Green during Decay. In Decay's manual, Cross is mentioned to have tested a Mark V prototype on the day before everything went to hell and Kleiner gives Gordon a Mark V in Half-Life 2 but it's unknown whether it's Gina's prototype or a new one. No mention of the first three prototypes have ever been made.
- Subject Delta of BioShock 2 already qualifies as a Super Prototype, but the name "Delta" implies that there were three before him. Knowing what the people of Rapture were screwing around with, it couldn't have been pretty.
- There have been at least 13 Murakumo units produced in BlazBlue. Only the 13th, 11th, and 12th ever appear on-screen.
- Proto Man is the prototype (hence the name) for Mega Man, who remained unknown until Mega Man 3. He apparently ran away for no particular reason, to which Dr. Light made Mega a "sister," Roll to keep him from running away. Proto Man needed a friend, apparently. Proto Man is also described as the prototype for an annoying enemy which is in nearly every game in the classic Mega Man series, the Sniper Joe. Proto hates 'em.
- Actually, it's explained. Proto Man has a malfunctioning power core, which grants him free will...incredible pain, and will probably kill him someday. NOT fun.
- Subverted with the Spartans' MJOLNIR armor in Halo. While the first version the Master Chief wears in the games is the MJOLNIR Mark V from Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo: The Fall of Reach reveals that the Spartans had actually worn Mk. IV for most of the war, with Mk. V simply being an upgrade. In fact, the Spartans from Halo Wars wear Mk. IV.
- But what about Mk. I-III? Actually, they're not even MJOLNIR at all, but a separate project involving bulky exoskeletons. In fact, the Mk. IV wasn't even called "Mk. IV" until after it had already been successfully deployed for years; the designation was a retroactive one done solely for bureaucratic reasons.
- The Elite series and its iconic starting spacecraft, the Cobra Mk. III. The Mk I eventually appeared in the sequel, but the Mk II is this trope. Eventually explained by some supplemental material: The Cobra MK II only ever existed as a Flawed Prototype, and by the time the manufacturer had fixed all its issues the result was basically a third design iteration anyway, so it was marketed and sold as a Mk. III.
- In Sluggy Freelance, this is a frequent joke about Riff's robots. First there was Mark I (which he built to do his laundry but was nevertheless capable of taking on an army), then Mark II (which fought Oasis). Then Mark V (which fought a possessed Gwynn and Hereti-Corp); Riff doesn't want to talk about Mark III and IV. After the robot's long absence from the comic, Riff revealed Mark XVII. We don't know much about the intervening models, save that one of them was made of cheese.
- On My Life as a Teenage Robot, we actually do find out what happened with XJs 1-8.
- Real Life: WD-40, which stands for "Water Displacement - 40th Attempt."
- Formula 409. So named because it took the inventors 409 tries to get the formula right.
- One of their TV ads makes fun of this by showing a "Formula 410" prototype: it melts right through walls.
- Many videogames and other software projects are examples of this from the perspective of the userbase. The convention for version numbers in software (which admittedly isn't always adhered to even by seasoned professionals) is to use a decimal system that corresponds roughly to a percentage of how complete the game is, with 0.1 usually being the first version compiled for testing and 1.00 being fully ready for sale with only minor bugfixes left to do before release day. Most developers wait until somewhere between 0.3 and 0.7 before they let the gaming press get hold of them.