At the Star Trek exhibition in the Science Museum in London, I stood in front of Jean-Luc Picard's desk, the desk from his ready room next to the bridge. I was seized by an uncanny double feeling that I can only call ‘elated loss’; an excitement at being so close to something that I had never touched but knew so well, and a sick despair at having something taken away that I had never really had. And, barely a week later, with the final episode ‘All Good Things’, Picard's 178 episode-run of The Next Generation (ST:TNG) came to an end.
Psychoanalysis knows about excitement and loss, of course, but it tends to look for those things first inside the individual and what had happened to them in childhood, and it only then describes those feelings played out through the medium of culture. But we might understand something more about these kinds of feelings, as well as what part psychoanalytic processes play, if we look at the way popular culture structures how we think about relationships and the narratives we follow when we participate in it.
You have to know how to participate in order to follow the narrative. When you watch Star Trek, for example, you know you are not really experiencing an inexplicable and unpredictable chain of events, and there is a paradoxical rule governing it so that we know that although this is about the future, by the time we watch, it is about things that have already happened.