Steven Moffat's opener, 'The Impossible Astronaut', which saw The Doctor killed, averaged 6.52m (36.7%) in the early slot of 6pm.
Despite being down 1.2m viewers on last year's launch, the hot weather means many more are likely to catch up on BBC iPlayer in the next week.
Immediately after Doctor Who, My Sarah Jane - a tribute to the late Elisabeth Sladen - attracted 707k (4.1%) to the CBBC Channel, after which 511k (2.9%) flocked to BBC Three for Doctor Who Confidential at 7pm.
Moreover, Britain's Got More Talent climbed to 1.07m (5%) at 9pm for ITV2 (+1: 170k), a healthy rise of around 200k on its opener.
Back on the terrestrial channels, hits were in short supply, as bizarre Jason Bradbury vehicle Don't Scare The Hare started with a lacklustre 1.93m (15%) at 5.30pm, while only 1.18m (7.9%) tuned in for the epic March of the Dinosaurs on ITV1 between 5pm and 7pm.
Both live in the 7pm hour, So You Think You Can Dance got the better of Sing If You Can, with 3.56m (19.8%) for BBC One to 3.29m (18.2%) for ITV1 (+1: 144k).
However, after The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins quizzed 3.61m (16.8%) at 8pm, the BBC One talent contest picked up just 2.98m (13.8%) as the first two dancers left the show.
Elsewhere, Channel 4's Million Pound Drop (10pm) slid to 1.55m (+1: 168k), another gripping CSI: NY (10.15pm) delivered 1.49m (8.6%) to Channel 5 and an extended Have I Got News For You on BBC Two amused 1.6m (7.8%) at 9.45pm.
Overall, ITV1 triumphed in primetime with 22.3% (+1: 1.4%) to BBC One's 19.2%. BBC Two claimed third place with 6%, followed by Channel 5 with 5.4%, and Channel 4 with 5.2% (+1: 0.6%).
BBC Three held a commendable share of 4.2% after a screening of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom notched up 1.15m (5.7%) - the day's largest multichannel audience - between 9pm and 11pm.