Part Four: Nova Rek
Casting for the second Companion was now on. It was decided by JNT that the Companion should be male, and should be older than the last two male Companions Turlough and Adric (he was anxious to avoid too many comparisons with Turlough, who was recently departed from the series and had begun his tenure in an antagonistic role working for the Black Guardian, trying to kill the Doctor). Again, time was against them in making this last minute addition to the regular cast, but a stroke of inspiration (which has in the past been claimed by Colin Baker himself) caused JNT to cast someone already lined up for a guest role in season 22: Paul Darrow, originally due to play the villainous henchman Maylin Tekker in Timelash.
Darrow, most famous for playing the anti-hero Avon in Blakes 7, was thrilled at the prospect of upgrading his status from ‘guest-artist’ to ‘regular,’ but was even more thrilled when JNT explained the new character’s concept to him.
The character of Nova Rek has often been criticised for its lack of originality and its suspicious similarity to Darrow’s favourite old role, but this has to be understood within the context of when and how it was created. Rek was very much a last-minute addition to the script of Attack of the Cybermen (originally the character of Lytton, first seen in season 21’s Resurrection of the Daleks, was due to return, but Rek was written into his place) and the rehearsal schedule was a problem for Darrow for the first four serials of the season due to his last-minute commission. It therefore made sense to allow Darrow to fall back on the method and mannerisms of a character he had grown accustomed to playing over the course of four years.
Darrow was to play Rek for four seasons over four years, equalling his time as Avon in Blakes 7.