In the streaming giant’s retelling of the 1965 classic, Judy Robinson is recast as a teen Black doctor and portrayed by Taylor Russell.
In an effort to make television and movies accessible to a more diverse audience, classic characters from TV and comics have been reimagined as Black and other minorities. In the Netflix reboot of Lost In Space, Russell’s recasting not only adds to the story but gives young women of color a new role model. Taylor Russell (formerly of TNT show Falling Skies), takes young Judy into new territory as a fearless teen genius who was taking the MCATs while most girls were prepping for prom.
The original Judy Robinson played by Marta Kristen back in the 1960’s was more of a free spirit than her modern counterpart. Kristen’s Judy was above average intelligence but wanted to strike her own path in music or the art feeling she didn’t share the same genius IQ of her famous scientist parents. With a bit of gender swapping this time Dr. Robinson is a played by a woman named Maureen. Despite having a Navy SEAL for a husband she is the fearless leader of this family. The updated cast finds Russell as the crew’s doctor at the age of 18, ready to jump headfirst into danger, literally. She is the product of a bi-racial relationship of Maureen Robinson and an unnamed first husband. John Robinson adopts her, and she regards him as the only father she’s ever known.
Not everyone is always a fan when their favorite character for lack of better words, looks like somebody else. DC and Marvel Comics respectively have had great success in switching up characters to reflect a growing and diverse audience. Also with the success of Black Panther, Black Lightning, Luke Cage, and recasting of core characters in the Thor cinematic series, major studios are seeing the value and dollar signs in featuring minority characters. What makes this modern version of Judy Robinson stand out is the amount of emotional depth Russell brings to the character.
She is easily one of the break out stars of the series that also boasts seasoned character actor Parker Posey as the new Dr. Smith. Switching out the cringe-worthy original dynamic of the male Dr. Smith and a young Will Robinson, Posey’s version is way more sinister. Despite the duplicitous and violent nature of Dr. Smith, Russell uses her superior wits to foil her villainous plans. This is saying a lot because the modern Dr. Smith isn’t just plotting on one family stranded on the edge of the galaxy. She is manipulating everyone in this new colony and Judy isn’t here for it.
Coming into her own, she leaves the fragility of childhood and enters into womanhood. Moving from being a medical student who is was always under the supervision of a full doctor; she now finds herself responsible for welfare and outcomes of the patients in her care. We watch her struggle being the eldest sister while planning her future and leaving the nest. Russell’s character struggles to be responsible for the welfare of siblings Will and Penny Robinson while dealing with the consequences of her own actions. She volleys between fighting a complicated relationship with her surrogate father while figuring out who she is as a person.
— Lost In Space (@lostinspacetv) April 9, 2018
Rising above the stunted emotional growth of the original Judy Robinson, Russell gives teen girls someone to see themselves in. That delicate balance of 18, where you are so sure of who you are, yet discovering something new about yourself every day. Being ready to leave the nest, while still needing the love of your parents. Watching Russell handle otherworldly threats much the same way we are used to seeing other sci-fi doctors save the day, Lost in Space builds upon the power of women curated by Black Panther and Black Lightning. Young women of color will find themselves watching her bravely grow and come into her own, hopefully, all the way into a season 2. When many sci-fi stories gloss over the existence of Blacks in the future, Lost In Space does an amazing job of showing us images of powerful Black women in that space-age future.