For some reason, though, The Next Generation awakened in me a feeling of terrible and suffocating yearning — that hopeless childish escape wish that’s the wake of a certain kind of fantasy. That feeling that in a different world you’d be happy… .

why, then, that yearning? No one lies awake at night longing to be transported to a convincing imaginative representation of early-’90s social themes, or if they do I have yet to find their chat rooms. It’s obviously the case that the great subject of almost all American television — family — is also at large on the bridge of the Enterprise. Like The West Wing, the show offers a fantasy of smart friends working together and supporting each other that’s designed to make you want to join them. When you’re a skinny 13-year-old who’s scared a third of the time and bored another third, the idea of roaming the constellations with Captain Picard, whom adventure follows like a shadow and who always knows what to do, will obviously have a certain appeal.

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