This review contains spoilers.
Although it was never one of the "big" children's cartoon adventure series of the 1980s (nothing like '(He-Man and the) Masters of the Universe', 'Thundercats' or 'The Real Ghostbusters', all of which also had toylines / movies / other lines of merchandise to back them up), 'Ulysses 31' was none-the-less a very popular cartoon series when shown here in the United Kingdom, and was run though on BBC One several times in the mid to late 1980s.
I am a huge fan of Greek mythology, and that paired with being a huge vintage TV fan anyway, meant that U31 always stuck in my mind. So when I found, a couple of years ago, that it was finally available on DVD, I snapped it up.
DVD-wise, I was very disappointed to find that it contains the shortened, U.S. syndicated versions of the opening and closing credits, and not the much lengthier ones originally shown in the U.K. and many countries (I still have fond memories of Phillip Schofield in "The Broom Cupboard" on Children's BBC, writing out the lyrics, by hand, and sending them out to people who wrote in, until finally, on one episode, he sang along live – this clip can be found on YouTube). But aside from the shortened credits, as far as I can tell, the episodes play at their full length, and it is great to be able to relive this wonderful series once again (I am a huge vintage TV collecting nerd, but actually didn't have any surviving U31 recordings to go back to).
The concept, reworing (obviously) from the mythical Ulysses into a futuristic space setting, is really quite creative, and I love many of the designs seen in the series. Design and animation-wise, things are really very sharp, especially considering the era and the technology in which it was done by (and I'd far rather this than the sterile CGI-tweaked stuff we get today). In fact, it is only the actual quality of film that the show was stored on, that stops things looking even shaper.
Anyway, this Pilot episode itself (I say "Pilot" – there was in fact a previous, unaired 1980 Pilot, following the same story, but with different designs and elements). It sets the scene for the following series very well.
I would, however, personally not agree with the fellow reviewer, who considers this to possibly be the second best episode of the show's 26 episode run. I haven't seen many of the episodes for MANY years now (I'll trawl through them on DVD as I review them), but I do recall even better episodes following (not that this Pilot isn't very good).
If I have any gripes for this episode, it is that at a couple of points, I wasn't *too sure* what was going on exactly. But I'll forgive that (and maybe I wasn't paying full attention!).
I really enjoyed watching this first episode again, and the series is still captivating as when I first saw it some 25 or so years ago. Even Nono wasn't too grating (it was obligatory for every series of the time to have a Nono, or Orko, or Snarf, or Slimer type character!).
All-in-all, I do recall better episodes following, but for a first outing, this is a very reasonable opener. I give "Vengeance of the Gods" a very fair 9 out of 10.