If you’ve visited StarTrek.com in the past year, you’ve undoubtedly seen — and loved — the work of the site’s artist in residence, Rob DeHart. This year, to celebrate Pride, DeHart collaborated with the official Star Trek store for a collection celebrating Star Trek and Pride. With designs that span the breadth of the Star Trek universe, this is one collection you won’t want to miss.
StarTrek.com sat down with DeHart to ask him about his first contact, his thoughts on LGBTQ representation in the franchise, and what it means to him to work for the brand.
StarTrek.com: What was your first contact with Star Trek?
Rob DeHart: I remember, when I was little, seeing The Next Generation on TV on occasion, but it never really registered with me when I was younger. It wasn't until I was [in my] mid to late twenties that I got back into it. I guess my first contact would be Voyager. I remember watching the last episode of the series first and I was like “this seems like a really great show if the finale is this good, I should watch the rest of it.” I just got hooked after that. It's not a long history for me. It's funny, because I feel like a Trekkie, but at the same time I'm like, “am I? Yeah, I am.” They come in all shapes and sizes and forms.
What are your favorite moments of queer representation in the franchise? Either canonical or subtextual or fan interpretation?
RD: I think one of my favorite things when it comes to representation would be the Trill species. I have a feeling a lot of people probably feel that way as well. I like the idea of the species because they don't put limits on the hosts. Whenever a symbiont is attached to a host, they become something new — just because the past host was a woman doesn't mean this new house has to be a woman. It could be male or non-binary, and it doesn't affect how they're seen in their society. It just allows for greater growth. The idea in the story is of gender fluidity and same-sex relation and just general openness when it comes to acceptance.
I also like the subtext of Seven of Nine being gay [in Voyager], and similar things. When you watch it the first time, you don't think about it, but then when you go back and you watch and observe and you pay more attention, you're like "I see [it]." The same thing with Bashir and Garak — when you go back and you watch it, and you see their interactions and you see how they clearly care about each other. There's just something there and it's comforting. It makes you feel seen a little bit, even if it's not explicitly stated.
Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for your collection that you designed for the store?
RD: I wanted things that felt kind of universal for anyone in the LGBTQ spectrum. Whether you are gay or trans or an ally, I wanted you to feel like you could wear it and still feel represented. And the “Ambassadors of Queer” piece that I did with all the characters lined up, when I was working on that one, I wanted to figure out a way how to show the representation that Star Trek provides, without saying "this is a gay character and this is a straight character." I wanted it to be more of “these are the characters that give us a story. They allow us to feel like we can see ourselves.” So these are the characters that I saw represented our community. I tried to stick with that.
It's funny because all the pieces that I use, even on the website itself in general, I tend to stick with similar color palettes and color stories because I feel like it helps to translate everything well. With this one, I wanted it to be colorful and I wanted it to be rainbow, but I didn't want it to just be a pride rainbow. So I did colors that were off from what the normal rainbow would be. That way it could still be inclusive with trans people, queer people, and straight people. That's kind of where I started out with it, as far as inspiration goes. The inspiration was inclusivity — how to make people feel included.
What are your top five favorite Star Trek episodes?
RD: In no particular order... I think “Data's Day” from TNG is one of my favorites, because it does showcase all the things that go on, even when it's not part of the main story. There's all these other smaller stories happening, but you don't really think about outside of “oh no, the ship's about to explode. We must stop these Romulans.” So I like “Data's Day.” I like the two episode arc “Year of Hell” from Voyager. It's one of my favorites. I like the conflict in it and the idea that we can just reset everything. One big explosion, all good. Let's see what else. There are so many.
See, I can ask this question, but I couldn't answer it myself.
RD: It's really hard because there are so many. It all kinds of blurs together at a certain point, because it just seems like it's the story you love. The whole thing.
I like any of the episodes on Voyager with Fair Haven in it. I don't know why. They're always in the holodeck in this Irish town. It’s so random, but it's so great. You know what I love? It's one of the Short Treks actually — “Q&A.” I absolutely loved it, because there were moments when they were so serious, and then the end was just that funny little quip. They were like “nope, shut it down, we will never talk about this.” It's kind of poignant that sometimes we have to not show all of who we are to really go the places we want to go. It's just sometimes a fact of life, and if you're lucky, you don't have to do that.
What does it mean to you to create art for StarTrek.com and the official Star Trek store?
RD: I like that I get to put my stamp on Trek and show my visual point of view as an artist. I like that I get to create art based on other people's stories. Whether it's a personal story about how they reconnected with their parent or their dad because an episode helped them to realize their relationship, or whether it's a list about the best ships in the fleet, or recipes for Rosh Hashana. It allows me to show my point of view, but still help somebody else tell their story with a visual, all through the lens of Star Trek. I feel like [Star Trek] is kind of a great connector for a lot of people and a lot of things. Being a fan, there's a bit of fanboy in me who really loves the fact that every day I get to wake up and do work on Star Trek things.
I get to live out a little bit of an obsession some days. So it's nice. It's fulfilling. And I think I'm happiest when I’m working now. It's a funny thing because, and I've said this to people recently, I was never a person who thought they would find a job they loved. Somehow I have that this meets the requirements for what I want for my life, being able to do this work, but it also is fulfilling.
This interview has been edited and condensed.