It's so rare for Doctor Who, even though it's a science fiction programme, to jump headlong into space opera territory, and even rarer for such a genre to be explored in the predominantly Earthbound Jon Pertwee era, but then along comes Frontier in Space. Spaceships, aliens, more spaceships, frontiers (in space), empires, politics - all of these are introduced in this first episode.
The sense of scale is palpable. Not one but two fully fledged empires, those of Earth and Draconia, are presented, and, in typical Malcolm Hulke fashion, neither are truly good or evil, warlike or peaceful. Thankfully, outrageous fashion hasn't died out on Earth, or, at the very least, the President is keen to convey a sense of high fashion amongst her staff. The Draconians are amazing creations, perhaps the most convincing alien race, both culturally and physically, that Doctor Who ever created - new series not excluded. Jon Pertwee spent decades regaling convention attendees about how much he enjoyed the Draconians, but the attention is warranted.
What's most interesting about this episode (setting a theme for the story to come) is how powerless The Doctor and Jo are in this episode, yet their presence is often the catalyst for relations between Earth and Draconia to deteriorate. They are also captured and recaptured at an alarming rate, another recurring theme throughout this story. In Episode One, The Doctor and Jo are captured, imprisoned, escape, only to be captured again before they even get through the open door of their cell, escape again once the Ogrons leave them for dead, then are captured at the very end of the episode.
Such a ludicrous scenario seems laughable, but oddly works here in what was a supremely enjoyable episode, well on its way to becoming epic.