Clara makes it clear to the Doctor in ‘Into the Dalek’ that she is not his full time companion. She is a teacher now and her job is a big commitment. In contrast her travels with the Time Lord are now something she does in her spare time.
I’ve discussed companions travel arrangements here but there is much to discuss about what a companion does when they aren’t adventuring.
Occupations can add depth to a characters life. It can change the format of an adventure, allowing you to give characters something to do before they’re brought together to face the current threat.
The focus on a characters occupation can also be varied. One adventure it might provide a parallel plot, another it might simply provide a flashback scene and in another it might not be mentioned at all.
Since ‘Day of the Doctor’ Clara has been a school teacher and we see an increasing amount of her life at the school in subsequent episodes. This allows PCs to spend time apart from each other. In ‘Into the Dalek’ the Doctor is able to setup the adventure by encountering Rusty and the rebels while Clara is at school, meeting Danny Pink.
Doing this establishes that the characters have lives outside of each other. For example the Doctor could have had several adventures after leaving Glasgow and encountering the rebels, only now deciding to pick up Clara. Meanwhile Clara is kept busy with her job and doesn’t appear to waiting for the Doctor.
The danger would be that PCs wouldn’t unite by the end of the adventure. This is fine if the players are happy to explore their own individual plot threads but it can make people feel isolated and defy the point of gaming together.
Ideally their individual experiences should enrich adventures that bring them together. Situations they’ve had on their own can help them overcome the challenges they face together. For example Clara’s experiences of dealing with an unruly class help her stand up to the droids in ‘Deep Breath’.
Balancing work life can be an extra challenge. ‘The Power of Three’ showed that Rory was struggling to maintain his job as a nurse due to his frequent unexplained disappearances. The 12th Doctor at least appears able to return Clara within a few minutes of her leaving but there are over problems that PCs could face.
A teacher is required to complete a lot of paper work when they aren’t teaching. Clara might be able to make it back in time for class but can she find the time to mark papers or prepare a lesson plan? These documents are just another thing that she has to worry about being damaged or lost during her adventures in the TARDIS.
Physical injuries suffered during adventures would need to be explained. PCs would have to be careful that fatigue didn’t set in, which could make their job performance suffer. People might also begin to notice that the time travellers are aging at an accelerated rate (as months and years pass while only a few hours go by for others). At the very least the time traveller might seem forgetful as they are unable to recall conversations that were only a day ago but could be much longer ago for the PC.
This could restrict the type of job that a PC can hold down. Amy apparently went through several jobs when not traveling with the Doctor, such as being a model or travel writer. Finding the right fit for a time traveller isn’t easy.
Something flexible is probably best. Something where the PC doesn’t work to a schedule or spend much time being monitored. Any freelance occupation would work and have the potential of putting them in varied situations.
More restrictive jobs, such as working in an office, military or any occupation with strict deadlines can be more of a challenge. UNIT could allow one of their soldiers to go off with a Time Lord (if nothing else they will bring back some valuable intel) but there could be trouble if they don’t turn up for guard duty on time.
Time Lord PCs shouldn’t be excluded from having jobs either. They might surprise the PCs by working in a department store or some other mundane occupation. This could be an attempt to see how the other half live or keep a low profile.
The enemies the PCs face could also have a normal occupation that they use to support themselves between planning the conquest of Earth. If the PCs come after them they could find themselves disrupting their enemies work place and threatening to expose them. Would the PCs respect their normal life (maybe thinking about how they keep their own life separated) or push on regardless?
A PCs commitment to their job can create extra drama in an adventure. They might have to choose between their obligations and a desire to go on an adventure. If they stay in work their friends could be at risk and if they go they could loose their job.
Their double life can add tension and humour, as they hide their true nature from their work colleagues. Can the PCs convince their boss there is nothing going on? Can they prevent the weirdness of the universe intruding into their work place?
The PCs could take advantage of their access to a time machine to help them in their job. They can give themselves extra time to meet deadlines or fix problems before they happen. Will the Time Lord approve of their actions and might they cause a bigger problem with their time meddling?
A work place allows the introduction of NPCs to make up the supporting cast. These put a face to the innocent people imperilled when the world is threatened. They could also encourage the PC to establish a social life outside of their interactions with the other PCs.
Eventually they might be forced to make a choice between their two lives, just as Amy and Rory had to do in ‘The Power of Three’. Eventually something has to give and making that choice can be very difficult.