Protoforms consist of an unspecified, free-flowing, metallic matter layered over basic robotic systems. In many continuities, a protoform is the first stage in a Transformer's life cycle. These protoforms only await a life-giving spark and the alt-form information necessary to transform them into fully functional, living Transformer beings. Often, protoform modes are used to transport Transformers on intergalactic journeys.
Protoforms are transported or stored in stasis lock, in which state they look like smooth, robotic humanoids (right). When not in stasis lock, protoforms are a roiling mass of liquid metal around their internal frame.
Japanese name: Prototype (Beast Wars), Cyberdrone (Car Robots)
Protoforms are often contained within stasis pods and dropped into unexplored worlds. The Axalon carried many such stasis pods for exploration reasons. When a protoform lands, it scans for compatible life-forms. When a suitable lifeform is found, the protoform is reformatted by hitherto unknown means.
Predacon protoforms were shown moving about the Predacon warship using their own power, though they were not shown to speak or have any kind of personality. After the Predacons had gathered enough information about the machines of Gaea's past, they then fed the information into the protoforms via energy waves. The protoforms were then altered into the Autorollers.
The atmosphere of the Planet Gaea could caused the protoform from the Beast Wars II rust.
Protoforms are the first step in most (if not all) Transformer life. Convicted criminals are sometimes reduced to Protoform state, such as the Combaticons.
Autobots (and possibly Predacons) can change into a protoform state during long journeys, presumably to conserve energy. Attributes of an Autobot's original form remain in whatever new form the being takes. For instance, Scourge retained the ability to detect O-Parts.
Protoforms are established as the first stage of Transformer life, which is usually followed by Primary programming.
Protoforms in this continuity are more than just the first stage of a Transformer's life, they are the "base" form that exists down inside each robot. Protoforms are made of an ultra-dense, liquid metal material and are extremely hard to damage.
In the rare case they are not actively practicing their natural proclivity for chameleon-like disguise (usually only when engaged in interstellar travel), Transformers shed their exo-structure and return to their protoform state. This protoform is capable of transforming into its transition form: an armored, cometary shape capable of interstellar travel. Upon landing on a new world and transforming back into a protoform, the Transformer immediately begins trans-scanning for new alternate forms to adopt. When one is chosen, the protoform draws on its own ultra-dense substance and any extraneous matter nearby to generate a new exostructure disguise.
Originally, the Protoforms were under the care of Yoketron until his former pupil Lockdown, mortally wound him in an act of betrayal as he makes off with the Protoforms as Megatron requested. Returning to in time, Prowl used the last Protoform within the shrine to revive his master, but Yoketron told him not to sacrifice the future to save the past, forcefully enstinguishing his Spark rather than live on a stolen life. The Protoforms ended up in Megatron's ship, remaining in tact after the ship got heavily damage and later crashed on the Moon. Starscream later takes adventages of these protoforms to create an army in his image, using the first two as booby trap decoys to take out both sides. He then creates five more, giving them actual life with fragments of his Allspark shard. Eventually, Megatron takes adventage of the protoforms to create the three Lugnut Supremes. After the battle, only three of the Protoforms remain intact as they are brought to Cybertron.
In the case of Sari, her origins are a mystery as her protoform somehow ended up in Prof Sundac's lab, more child-like compared to the other protoforms seen in the series. But like the Beast Wars series, Sari scanned her father's genetic signature to assume her current form, believing to be a actual human until the truth begins to reveal itself. After hearing Prof Sumdac's explaination, Prowl pieced the pieces together and explains Sari's nature.This is ironically proving two of Prof. Bulkhead's theory is correct. The first being "Came to earth in an egg" and the second being "she's really a robot". It is yet revealed how she even ended up at Sumdac's lab or who dropped her there.
In the series, "Protoform" can be used in slang amongst Cybertronians, translating roughly to "baby" or "kid". According to Bumblebee, Megatron eats them for breakfast. Also, Ratchet refers to Sari as a protoform, suggesting that protoforms are an early stage in a Cybertronian's life cycle that is similar to childhood. . Prowl also said to Captain Fanzone that every Protoform's elemental programing includes learning ninja nerve blows, which is why they were teaching them to Sari Sumdac. When Ratchet yelled at Carlee and Spike he said he wasn't a "taxi service for unprocessed Protoforms" meaning unborn babies. Apparently, different Transformers could also be created by the same protoform templates, a fact that could explain similarities in body form and transformation schemes (or, in real life terms, retoolings and redecos.)
In the final battle, many Decepticon Protoforms join the battle without scanning an alt-mode.
Toys representing transitional protoform modes have been made for several characters from the live-action Movie universe: