‘Listen’ introduces a new way to pilot the TARDIS. The Doctor exposes a section of the console, revealing a jellylike substance. This is the telepathic interface, allowing Clara to put her fingers into it and form a link with the TARDIS.
This allows the TARDIS to extrapolate her entire timeline, from her birth to death. The fact that will be able to work out her future, information that Clara doesn’t have, indicates that there is more involved in the process than just a telepathic link.
It could be that the TARDIS is getting a better idea about who Clara is and her decision making process. Being very advanced the TARDIS could run simulations involving its own knowledge of Earth’s future history to work out what path Clara’s life might take.
This allows a certain margin of error, as the TARDIS is just making an educated guess. If there are multiple possible timelines this interface would also decide which path is followed. For example Clara is currently romantically interested in Danny Pink. Her current path would seem to lead her to have children with him that would eventually lead to Orson Pink. Events after this might mean that timeline never comes into existence but for the moment the TARDIS can follow that outcome.
Alternatively this could be akin to biodata, where everyone has a complete record of their timeline stored within them. It could be that people do possess this knowledge but on a subconscious level which the telepathic link accesses. This could be how people predict the future or feel that they were ‘meant’ to do certain things.
The Doctor indicates that the telepathic link could display the thoughts of the subject on to the screens. It is therefore possible that a persons past and future could be displayed. Using extrapolation this needn’t be from the subjects POV, allowing the image to be more akin to film recording, showing the subject and the everything around them. If a subject does see their own future this could change their actions.
The next step is for the Doctor to remove safeguards and navigation. This is to allow the telepathic interface to make the decisions about where and when the TARDIS goes. Potentially this can take the TARDIS into dangerous or forbidden locations.
The TARDIS sounds different while flying in this manner. Likely the TARDIS is carrying out a lot of procedures automatically while navigating and following the safeguards. The flight is smooth and quick but potentially the TARDIS could get into difficult situations it would otherwise avoid.
On the first flight Clara gets distracted, her thoughts of Danny leading them to land to a West Country Children’s Home in Gloucester in the mid-90’s. Clara has never been to this building nor does she know that Danny Pink grew up there.
It would appear that not only can the TARDIS follow her own timeline but anyone whose timeline intersects with her. Potentially this could be used to follow the timeline of anyone who has ever met the subject or will do in the future.
While not able to pilot the TARDIS into her own past she did locate the event they were looking for, the monster under the bed. Again there is no way for her to known this and it isn’t clear how the TARDIS could extrapolate an event without having contact with Danny.
It is possible that the TARDIS is constantly scanning those in the vicinity when it lands. It could therefore get a sense of Danny’s history when the time ship landed in Coal Hill school. It might also be peeking ahead, to when it has access to Orson Pink, and using his timeline to find this event.
Another theory is that the monster under the bed is red herring since in one interpretation there never was anything there. The real reason it brings the Doctor and Clara here is because the encounter is necessary to put the idea in Rupert Pink’s mind to become Dan the soldier man so that he can eventually meet Clara.
Just as the TARDIS doesn’t always take the Doctor where he wants to go but rather where he needs to be this is another example of the vessel ignoring the pilot and doing what is best for them.
The next flight using the telepathic circuits is carried out by the Doctor when he is alone. He explains that Clara left a trace which brought him to Orson. This is even more impressive, since history would have no record of what happened to him (unless he revealed his fate when he’d been returned to his old time). In addition Clara isn’t present and a mere trace leads the Doctor to the end of time.
There are two possible reasons for this. It could be that the TARDIS is still fixated on Danny Pink’s timeline due to Clara’s distraction. It has extrapolated his future and his descendants. Secondly it is Clara’s timeline and the TARDIS knows that Orson is her great grand child.
In both scenarios it goes beyond the rules that were previously established. The TARDIS should have only calculated her timeline from birth to death, not anything beyond that. Either the Doctor was wrong or a 100 years into the future Clara is still alive, thus Orson falls within her own timeline (but then he doesn’t seem to know her).
It could be that meeting Orson is what changes Clara to form a relationship with Danny. Indeed she seems pretty sure that he is related to her, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In the final flight Clara manages to take the Doctor into his own past. It would appear that it is the safeguards that prevent the TARDIS from flying into Gallifrey’s past. Did the Doctor know this or could this have been a way for him to change the outcome of the Time War?
This flight is a lot more difficulty, possibly because of the destination or because the Doctor was unconscious (or both). Clara might have got luck and there was a greater chance that the TARDIS could have been destroyed going into its own past.
The telepathic interface means that non-Time Lords can fly the TARDIS, as long as they follow timelines. This could be akin to ‘Quantum Leap’ where the PCs explore different eras within their own lives. Occasionally they might encounter important moments in their life.
This method could also be used to explore the past and future of NPCs. This could be useful for investigations, where the NPCs isn’t talking or can’t remember. Rather than forcing the bad guy to tell them where he planted a bomb or who helped him escape a prison planet the PCs can use the telepathic interface to go see for themselves.