[S]omewhere in the 60s we invented the concept of the Cuddly Commie, someone who was either amusingly harmless, a blowhard with a bagful of reheated cliches, or the world-weary literate fellow who was really just as free as us, in a way, and thus an argument for the fatuity of a bipolar world. This idea took a long time to expire, and was last seen in a Star Trek: Next Gen episode, where Picard says “can you believe that people once went to war for different economic systems.” As if that was the small sticking point.
The current version of same Cuddly Commie, not Star Trek aspires to world-weary and literate, but quickly descends into clichéd blowhard once he realizes that you’re not buying the premise.
They never quite explain how Roddenberry’s vision of a future without money or religion evolved, or worked, or managed to fill the needs in the human spirit that find manifestation in, oh, things like money, or religion. Trek characters were allowed religion if was based on a non-divine dead guy, be he Surak or Ka’less, but eventually they got old-time religion X 10 with the Bajorans who started out as sorta-kinda Palestinian stand-ins, but turned into your basic New-Age guys with a priest class and a doctrine built around omniscient, distant god-types who lived in a wormhole and could make anything happen, except granting Avery Brooks the power of personal warmth.
And thus were imagined the Ferengi, 24th-century entrepreneurs incorporating 16th-century Jewish stereotypes. (Well, except that whole wardrobe thing.) Had Shylock survived Venice, you just know he’d be running a Dabo wheel somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant.
I am minded of Quark’s reaction to terrestrial root beer: “so bubbly, and cloying, and happy … just like the Federation.” At least he didn’t say “cuddly.”