Emmerdale’s 40th anniversary Live episode was watched by an average 9.2 million viewers, and critics have described it as ‘gripping’ and ‘flawless’.

BBC News Online said viewing figures peaked at 9.7m at the end of the episode, just before 8pm, and it had a 42 per cent share of the total watching audience.

The next closest programme was The One Show with an average of four million viewers.

The Mirror TV critic Mark Jeffries said: “An impressive acting showcase which wouldn’t look out of place on the big screen or the serious stage.

“Yes, it was over-the-top, but Emmerdale Live gripped me from start to finish.”

The Telegraph’s Rachel Ward said: “I was waiting anxiously for the first sign of disaster. But there was nothing.

“Luckily for [director, Tony] Prescott, the 70-strong crew and the 61 cast members, it was flawless.

“It was all very over-the-top with some of the minor characters giving stagey performances, but Tom Lister [Carl King] and Lucy Pargeter [Chas Dingle] impressed, helping to slowly build up the tension to the death scene”

Much of Emmerdale Live was shot outdoors in the purpose-built village in Yorkshire with cast and crew dashing between locations as the action evolved. The live episode involved 27 cameras – all controlled and edited in the same giant scanner truck – 350 extras and 110 hours of rehearsal.

Not every critic was happy with the episode, however. Radio Times’ David Brown said: “You sit down with the family to watch a special birthday episode of a pre-watershed soap and what do you get? Attempted rape in a campervan and death by polystyrene brick.”