She was hailed by fans as she made her debut in the historic episode

The first episode of the new series of Doctor Who starring newcomer Jodie Whittaker drew the programme’s biggest launch viewing figures in 10 years.

Jodie also managed to tempt more viewers than predecessors Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith and David Tennant did for their debuts.

An average of 8.2 million tuned in to watch the actress as the first female Doctor, with a peak of nine million and an audience share of 40.1%.

This makes the broadcast the most-watched, according to overnight ratings, since the 2008 series opened with 8.4 million.

Peter, whose first series as the Time Lord began in 2014, drew 6.8 million viewers for his debut.

Matt launched with 7.7 million viewers in 2010, while David debuted with eight million for his first episode as the Doctor in 2006.

However, Jodie was shy of reaching Christopher Eccleston’s debut as the Time Lord when the series was revived in 2005.

He was watched by an average of 9.9 million for his premiere.

Jodie’s first outing as the Doctor also nearly doubled the ratings for the BBC1 programme when compared with the first episode of the previous series in 2017, which had an average overnight audience of 4.6 million.

The episode was also a ratings hit compared with the debut of Bodyguard, one of the biggest new dramas of 2018.

The political thriller opened with overnight ratings of 6.7 million when it debuted at the end of August.

The Graham Norton Show – London
Jodie Whittaker (Matt Crossick/PA)

Doctor Who moved from its regular Saturday evening slot to Sunday evenings for this new era, nestled between ratings big-hitters Countryfile and the Strictly Come Dancing results show.

Fans shared their delight at Broadchurch star Jodie’s portrayal of the time-travelling humanoid alien on Sunday, along with new companions played by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill.

One viewer excitedly tweeted: “JODIE WHITTAKER IS KILLING IT AS THE DOCTOR.”

One said: “I love her. I mean, genuinely. I love her. Not because she’s a woman. Because she’s THE DOCTOR,” while another declared: “Jodie is already my favorite Doctor.”

Doctor Who continues on Sunday at 6.55pm on BBC1.