Before I tear apart “Listen” for its flaws (which are many), I do want to discuss what it did right. First off, the cinematography. The episode opens with one of the best shots in the show's run. From the exterior of the TARDIS, the camera pans left, showing the console room inside and then cranes up to reveal the Doctor sitting atop the TARDIS, which is floating above a planet. Besides for it looking amazing, I am completely in awe of the technical skills needed to orchestrate this and combine all the elements in this shot. In addition to this and several other amazing shots (such as the Doctor standing in the open doorway of the TARDIS as it sits underwater), the episode was filmed in a way that built suspense and kept the audience waiting to find out what happened next. Unfortunately, the story does not really end up going anywhere, and it just becomes anticlimactic.
The story between Clara and Danny on their awkward first date was uncomfortably enjoyable. If there had been a constant plot throughout the episode, it should have been this. It felt like Moffat harkening back to his days writing for “Coupling,” when he focused on characters and their relationships instead of constantly turning everything on its head. Their date is interrupted by a fellow time traveler named Orson Pink (who happens to look exactly like Danny), and it is inferred that he is their great-grandson because, apparently, mysterious time traveling progeny from the future has not already been exhausted by River Song. But seriously, the episode would have been much more entertaining if it had just focused on their date and the Doctor kept interrupting as an abrasive third wheel. His banter with Clara is great, and if he insults his closest friend this much, I look forward to seeing how he treats her new boyfriend.
While this has been in several episodes and is not specific to “Listen,” I do think it is great that the Twelfth Doctor now has a giant chalkboard in the TARDIS. He has been using it as a way to visually process his thoughts and formulating some sort of Gallifreyan equations. It is reminiscent of the Second Doctor toying with his recorder to help himself think.
Now, onto the flaws. Right at the beginning of the episode, the Doctor theorizes that if evolution could create creatures who have perfect hunting and creatures who have perfect defense, then there must be creatures who have perfect hiding. (That statement is already a bit of a leap, but okay, for the sake of discourse, I will just let that one pass.) This sets him on his quest to find the perfect hiders—despite the fact that he has already spent the last several seasons (or from his perspective, centuries) dealing with the Silence Confessional Priests, who pretty much fit the bill exactly.
In the end, his quest is just a mirage that is a red herring for a bad dream he had as a child. Using a non-existent monster in order to allow for a character to examine himself and facilitate development is a great idea . . . as long as the character's story actually progresses. In this instance, the Doctor does not actually learn the truth about himself and his past, which, therefore, makes the entire episode moot. Clara leaves the toy soldier with the young iteration of the Doctor as a token, so he will always remember, but then she prevents him from discovering the truth.
The mere fact that the “monster” is nothing more than the Doctor's nightmare from 2,000 years ago brings around its own set of problems. Since there is no creature, the only correlation between the events in the episode is Clara, yet the focus keeps trying to shift to the Doctor. Seemingly random elements in the story turn out to actually be random, and they feel haphazardly thrown together. On top of that, all the times that they are attacked (or something is mysteriously written on the chalkboard), nothing is really happening and there are no acceptable explanations. Sure, there are mundane explanations given; however, all of them fall apart, and they do not actually work.
As for the major implications of this episode, an event happens and its ramifications completely spit in the face of canon. Clara meets the Doctor when he was a child in the barn from “The Day of the Doctor” on Gallifrey, which is time locked. Yes, Clara has been on Gallifrey before; however, the first time was when she was trapped in his timestream and the second time the Moment let them through the barrier. This time, the TARDIS just stumbles upon it for no apparent reason. All this time, the Doctor could have actually gone back in time to visit Gallifrey and he just chose not to.
Keeping with what appears to be the theme of Series 8, referencing old episodes, “Listen” certainly brings a lot of previous adventures to mind. It was as if Moffat took “Day of the Moon,” “Utopia,” and “Midnight” and mashed them together into some strange hybrid.