The special 60-minute edition of the corporation's most popular show averaged 13.7 million (57%) at 8pm on Friday (18 February), rising to a peak of 14.4 million (59%) at 8.50pm. Since the start of last year the show has averaged 11.3 million (50%).
During the slot, it unsurprisingly dominated viewing, with the next most popular show being a repeat of ITV1's A Touch of Frost at 8.30pm with 4.7 million (21%). Coronation Streetin the earlier slot of 7.30pm averaged 12 million (52.3%).
EastEnderslast got an audience of that size in early February 2004. When Leslie Grantham's character returned to Albert Square in September 2003 the show attracted an audience of 16.2 million (62%).
The show has been under pressure recently, losing around a 10th of its audience since 2003 when its average audience was 12.5 million.
Meanwhile, average viewing for ITV1's Emmerdalehas risen over the same period from 9.2 million to 9.6 million.