The programme divided viewers, but was the second biggest new drama launch of the year, according to overnight ratings

Jenna Coleman pulled in nearly six million viewers – and landed the second biggest new drama launch of the year – as she returned to the BBC for the first time after leaving Doctor Who.

Her new drama 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.

The Cry sees Jenna, 32, play a woman struggling with motherhood who is then rocked by the disappearance of her baby.

Jenna 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.

Viewers were torn over The Cry’s first episode, with some complaining on Twitter that the way it switched between timelines was confusing, while others commended Jenna’s acting and the gripping subject matter.

One person wrote: “I can’t get into this it keeps jumping from one thing to another, why do they do that, why can’t it start at the beginning and carry on from there, instead of keep going back and forth.”

Another said: “When this is finished can someone edit it all into chronological order so I can make more sense of it.”

But another praised the programme, writing: “So many questions.. such quality.. brilliant writing , clever story , great acting .. all good.”

“I was literally at the edge of my seat,” another viewer said.

The Cry airs at 9pm on Sunday on BBC1.