Imperio de cristal (Crystal Empire) is a 1994 Mexican telenovela, based on the series I, Claudius. It stars Rebecca Jones as Sofia Vidal, a woman whose life changes after attending a party at the Lombardos' mansion with her husband Uriel and her daughter Katia, César, the headship of the Lombardo family and company (the powerful crystal entrepreneurs), finds out that Sofia is the daughter of his impossible love, Elena, who died tragically in an accident, when Sofia was still a child.César, without Sofia knowing it, decides to protect her because of Elena's memory, which he cherishes still. César is married in second nuptials to Livia Arizmendi, a former actress who dreams on recovering her career. Sofia's appearance seriously worries Livia, considering her an intruder who could displace her, just as Elena would have done in the past. Livia, who hides a terrible secret that involves Sofia, plots against her, trying to separate her from the family. Sofia slowly gets involved with the lives of the Lombardo family.
Based on an Advice Book – The whole plot is based on I, Claudius. The patriarchs are César and Livia (Augustus and Livia). César (Augustus) favors Sofia (Julia) while Livia wants Augusto (Tiberius), her own son from a previous marriage, to become the heir. Both Livias plan cruel schemes in order to make it happen.
The forced marriage between Augusto and Sofia is similar to the one between Tiberius and Julia.
Octavio is based on Postumus. While one is Claudio's older brother and the other is Claudius's close friend, both were the family heirs, so the Livia in their respective series killed them with poisoned figs.
Augusto owns a doberman named Caligula.
Claudio is loosely based on Claudius. Both are considered fools by their respective families, but they have some close friends. And both are silent spectators of the events of the series and they are forced to pretend to be fools in order to save their lives. The difference is that while Claudius was born lame and with a palsy that made him twitch and stutter, Claudio was abused and traumatized by Augusto, causing him to act like a Man Child. However, unlike Claudius, Claudio manages to achieve his happy end (his family realize how important he is to their lives, specially his twin Narda, and he gets a glass-designer job in the family business).
In the end Julio kills Augusto (similar to when Caligula kills Tiberius) and both become the rulers in their respective families. However, unlike Caligula, who turns out to be an even worse ruler than Tiberius, Julio achieves a happy ending and he is able to live with Sofia and his now united family by his side.
Beneath the Mask – Narda. She really loves Bruno, but she refuses to show it. Luckily they receive their happy ending with both of them married and with baby twins that vaguely resemble Narda and Claudio.
Also, her relationship with Claudio, her twin. At first she is ashamed of him, due to him being a Man Child, but she later accept him and they get along like they used to do in the past.
After Claudio is brutally beaten by Augusto, he suffers a mental breakdown, refusing contact with everyone but Julio (and later some others). Also, never mention Octavio in front of him.
Don’t touch me or I’ll break!
Beware the Nice Ones – The one who ends up ruining Augusto’s plans is Claudio, his naïve and traumatized brother. Justified, because Octavio, at the moment of his death, persuaded Claudio to act like he was retarded and crazy so Augusto would never be suspicious of him. He does. And succeeds.
Big Screwed-Up Family – Let me see... César, a traumatized man who mourns the death of his impossible love; Livia, a former actress who dreams of recovering her career and will kill everyone for it; Augusto, who will do everything in order to receive his father's inheritance; Narda and Claudio, one neglected and the other traumatized and scarred for life. Check, check and check.
Julio is the only one who is fairly normal and he is considered the black sheep for that.
Break the Cutie/Corruption of a Minor – Claudio was abused physically and mentally by Augusto all his life. He later broke down after Augusto pushed him causing the boy to fall on a glass table; the trauma was so great that he was sent to a mental asylum in which he spent all his childhood and teenage years. The worst part is that everyone in his family knew the abuse but they preferred to ignore it because sending Claudio away was initially easier than coping with Augusto.
In the end, when all his family apologize to him for neglecting him, he is just too nice and forgives them all without a second thought, despite all those traumas.
Cool Aunt – Andrea, César's sister, is this to everyone but Augusto.
The Chessmaster – The entire plot of Imperio de cristal is shown to be a set of multiple gambits by Augusto, from Octavio's death to abusing and traumatizing Claudio, making Narda pregnant, and his plan to marry Sofia and kill César and Julio.
Children Are Innocent – The day her mother, Elena, died, Sofia met Livia (the person who killed her mother) and they had a brief conversation until both her mother and Livia left in the car that caused an accident and Elena’s death. The innocent girl had no idea what was going on.
In Claudio’s case, it will be Adult Children Are Innocent. He witnessed Octavio’s death, but instead of understanding that Augusto caused his death, he blamed himself.
Sharply averted with Augusto, who abused young Claudio for pleasure.
Deus ex Machina – Antonia, Livia’s mother, was the one who knew all the time that Livia killed Elena, but Livia put her in an asylum and convinced her that they were all hallucinations. She eventually reveals the truth after Sofia dresses up as Elena and, pretending to be her, forces Livia to tell the truth.
Also Claudio. He knew everything that happened in the house and Augusto’s plans, but he was too naïve to understand. At least in the end he got the bravery and maturity to reveal the truth… in a childish way: by playing with puppets who reveal who is the culprit of Octavio’s death.
Disney Death – When César and his family are in a yacht, Augusto poisons and throws César into the sea. He is left for dead until he reappears at the moment when Claudio and Julio reveal to the family that Augusto killed Octavio. Apparently he was rescued by his sister's ex-boyfriend.
Disproportionate Retribution: Augusto is fond of this. Like beating his baby brother into a glass table just because he accidentally broke his things. Or poisoning his eldest brother to death because he got the promotion he wanted.
The Ditz – Claudio is this to the extreme. Not even Marco Antonio and Katia, the children of the house, take him seriously.
Driven to Suicide – Livia. But she is ultimately saved by Claudio, who is ironically the son she neglected the most.
Earn Your Happy Ending: The truth about Octavio's death is revealed and Julio Cesar survives Augusto's murdering attempt. The family apologizes to Claudio for ignoring the abuse he endured those years and he even gets a job in the family business. Narda is Happily Married to her boyfriend and Sofia and Julio marry as well. Augusto dies, sending Livia into the Despair Event Horizon. The series ends up with the Lombardo Family happily celebrating the birthday of Sofia and Julio's baby.
Obfuscating Stupidity – After Octavio’s death, Claudio acts like he is really retarded so Augusto will never be suspicious of him.
After all, Imperio de cristal is based on I, Claudius, so this is a reference to the moment in which Claudius receives a piece of advice from an aged scholar:
Play the fool and let people think you're an unimportant idiot. Then, they won't try to kill you.
Parental Abandonment – After Elena’s death, César was unable to show affection for his children, until the end of the series.
Polar Opposite Twins - Narda and Claudio are supposed to be twins, but Narda is slender and a bratty flirty girl, while Claudio is plain, shy, meek, and extremely naïve. However, Claudio claims that when they were younger, they looked so alike that they were completely identical and they even acted in sync with each other.
Recurring Dreams – In her childhood, Sofia had nightmares about her mother's death. As an adult, she dreams of herself dying in front of an oblivious Katia.
Tangled Family Tree – Octavio is the son of César and his first divorced wife. Augusto is the son of Livia and Phillipe, an actor whom she had an affair with. While Julio, Narda and Claudio are the kids of Livia and César.
The Nineties: Was produced and initially aired during the era considered by telenovela addicts to be The Renaissance Age of Telenovelas.
The Unfavorite – Poor Narda and Claudio. But this is only to their mother, because their father seems to love them equally, but he is unable to show them love because of the trauma induced by Elena’s death.
Trauma-Induced Amnesia – Livia. After Augusto dies, realizing that she is unable to be the famous actress she once was and that her family has shunned her, with the exception of Nice Guy Claudio, she ends up forever wheelchair-bound and mentally damaged, not understanding the absence of Augusto. It's pointed out by Antonia that this might have been for the best as she gets to live the reminder of her life in (false) happiness.
Unwitting Pawn – Claudio, at the moment of Octavio’s death. Augusto convinced him to feed Octavio the poisoned figs, and when Octavio dies, well, he blamed himself, not knowing that he was manipulated by Augusto the whole time.