The new BBC One series staring Blackpool-born Jenna Coleman pulled in nearly six million viewers on Sunday night.
The 32-year-old actress and former Arnold School pupil made her return to the BBC since leaving Doctor Who to star in new drama The Cry, as a mother battling post-natal depression whose baby then disappears.
The show The Cry was the most watched programme in its 9pm timeslot on Sunday, drawing in an average of 5.7 million viewers, according to overnight ratings.
The broadcast peaked at 6.3 million viewers and had an audience share of 30.1%.
It scored the second biggest new drama launch of the year so far behind Bodyguard, which launched with 6.7 million, and ahead of McMafia, which debuted with 5.6 million, the BBC said.
Coleman previously played the Doctor’s companion Clara Oswald in BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who, from 2012 until 2015, alongside Matt Smith and then Peter Capaldi.
She then moved to ITV to star in period drama Victoria, playing a young version of Queen Victoria, and is expected to return for a third series in early 2019.
The Cry airs at 9pm on Sunday on BBC One.